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Living hand to mouth in Kuwait

Kuwaiti woman who married non-Kuwaiti now stuck in financial nightmare

KUWAIT: Umm Abdullah at her home in Khaitan. She uses her meagre retirement to fund her grandchildren’s education and lives in a tiny, one room flat where she is having trouble paying rent. She is one of many Kuwaiti women who married non-Kuwaiti men and now face financial hardship. — Photos by Joseph Shagra

In an affluent country like Kuwait with a cradle-to-grave welfare system for its citizens, it’s hard to imagine there are destitute Kuwaitis living in abject poverty. Such is the case of a Kuwaiti mother of five children, who was married to an Arab national who died in 2009. Her financial constraints even forced her to offer her kidney for sale, but this extreme step didn’t work out in the end.

Um Abdullah, a 60-year-old retired Kuwaiti, is now facing eviction from her flat after not paying the rent for the past three months. She was also evicted from her previous apartment for the same reason last year, and had to live in her car for two weeks with her daughter. A Good Samaritan then paid the rent for her, because of which she managed to stay afloat, until she had to pay the school fees of her grandchildren, which dragged her into debt again.

“I was paying KD 250 in rent for a flat in Rehab area, where I lived for seven years. The landlord then decided to renew the contract and increased the rent to KD 400. He issued an eviction order against me, so I had to pay rent at the court. But I lost the case and had to retroactively pay KD 150 for every month from the time he demanded the increase, which I couldn’t do. The police arrived and broke down the door, forcing us to leave the house, and didn’t allow us to take any of our belongings except our clothes. My son stayed at his friend’s place, while my daughter and I lived in the car,” Um Abdullah recalled.
The difficult situation led her to decide to try and sell her kidney. “I found a recipient and went to the hospital to finalize the procedures, but the doctor rejected the transplant due to my advanced age. There are five arrest orders against me for not paying debts, and I’m afraid to even step out,” she told Kuwait Times.

Um Abdullah has four sons and one daughter. “One of my sons passed away from heart disease in Egypt. As he was not a Kuwaiti, he moved to Egypt and got married there, before he fell sick and died. His daughter lives with me as her mother has disowned her. I borrowed money to pay for my son’s medical treatment for a month and a half, as he was in a coma. With the help of wasta, my granddaughter got her residency, but I had to pay the fines for the past year and half when she didn’t have an iqama,” said Um Abdullah.

“Another of my sons is married and has five children. He lives in an apartment and earns KD 300 per month. Another son was sentenced to prison for five years, and after a year and half, he received an Amiri pardon, but was deported,” she lamented. “My youngest son was studying at an applied education college, but after his brother died and we were kicked out of our house, he failed in his exams and was expelled. My daughter got a scholarship for post-graduation and student aid too. She applied for a job at all ministries and schools after she graduated from Kuwait University with a degree in English literature,” Um Abdullah added.

Um Abdullah’s parents died many years ago. Her siblings are very old and retired and can’t pay for her upkeep as they have limited resources too. “When I moved to this flat, people donated some furniture, and this is how I live,” she said.
Um Abdullah dreams to visit the grave of her son who died without seeing her. She also dreams to go for hajj, as she has never performed the pilgrimage in her life. “I don’t want donations from people. But if someone wants to help me, they can pay off my debts so that I am free from the arrest orders and can travel, or they can pay the rent of this flat before I am kicked out,” she asked matter-of-factly.

By Nawara Fattahova

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