Tilting Toward Repression

Frederic M. Wehrey

in Sectarian Politics in the Gulf

Published by Columbia University Press

Published in print December 2013 | ISBN: 9780231165129
Published online November 2015 | e-ISBN: 9780231536103 | DOI:
Tilting Toward Repression

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This chapter examines how the Kuwaiti regime dealt with a more concerted opposition from tribal Sunnis, starting in 2005, while at the same time having to respond to Shi'a activism. Kuwait used calibrated reforms to placate Shi'a dissent, even as it tried to avoid provoking Sunni Islamist sensibilities. In Kuwait, this game of sectarian balancing had higher stakes, particularly since elements of the royal family were confronted with a more concerted opposition from the Sunni tribes. During this period, the Sunnis effectively withdrew from their previous alliance with the royalty, supplanting the liberals as the Al Sabah's main adversary. For these oppositionists, anti-Shi'ism and sectarianism became a “card” to discredit the royalty, specifically the more liberal-leaning prime minister, and a tactic to win over the hadhar Sunnis. The regime was thus forced into the delicate role of mediating between this current and the Shi'a, whom it increasingly came to rely upon as allies.

Keywords: activism; Kuwait; Shi'a; dissent; Sunni; sectarian balancing; Al Sabah; opposition; sectarianism

Chapter.  6032 words. 

Subjects: Asian History

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