Kuwait City: On Tuesday, a Kuwaiti woman, Farah Akbar, was gruesomely killed by a man who she had previously filed two cases against for kidnapping and attempted murder.
The perpetrator, Fahad Subhi Mohammed, crashed into Akbar’s car, kidnapped her and her daughters (who were in the car with her) and stabbed Akbar in front of her daughter in the chest. He then drove her body to the hospital and fled.
Video footage showed Akbar’s family members crying outside the hospital, screaming out, “This is what we get! We told you that he was going to kill her. And now he killed my sister.”
In a statement, the Ministry of Interior, stated that Mohammed confessed to the killing and was arrested. Akbar’s lawyer, Abdulmohsen Al Qattan, publicly stated that the killer is not and never was married to the Akbar and warned against circulating incorrect news.
Dana Akbar, the victim’s sister, shared a video on social media explaining that she filed two cases against the perpetrator on two separate occasions, and both times he was released on bail. She added that she warned the prosecutor multiple times that the man is a serious threat to her family.
“Despite the fact that her sister went from one police station to another to file a complaint, nobody took her seriously. They let him walk. What excuse are they going to give now?” Dr. Shayma Shamo, founder of Lan Askat, a platform giving a voice to all victims of gender-based violence, told Gulf News.
Akbar’s killing sparked outrage on social media with many questioning how the killer was freed after he was charged with an attempted murder case. The hashtag ‘I am the next victim’ was trending on Twitter with many claiming the lack of protection against harassment and complaints about violence has created an unsafe space for women in Kuwait.
“What happened to Farah can happen to any of us. Her case, like many other killings, goes to show that the state has failed us as women,” Shamo said.
While Akbar’s death is a tragic loss, unfortunately she is one of many women who have lost their lives because of harassment that goes unpunished.
Shamo receives numerous messages daily from women who have been harassed or who have received death threats. She explained that many have tried to report the perpetrator but the reply is always ‘we can not do anything’.
“These killings keep happening because of a combination of factors from institutional failure to the stigma around a woman walking into a police station to seek help as police stations are male-dominated spaces,” Abrar Al Shammari, a Kuwaiti activist and researcher, told Gulf News.
Also, many women have been killed at the hands of their own family members.
In December, Shaikha Al Ajmi, a guard at Kuwait’s parliament, was killed by her brother. A few months earlier in September, Fatima Al Ajmi, a pregnant woman, was shot dead by her brother inside the ICU. In 2019, Hajer Al Assi was shot by her brother who ended up receiving a 10-year sentence. In December 2018, Ghalia Al Dhaferi was stabbed by her brother and thrown in the desert, in order to frame her death as an accident to protect her brother.
On August 19, 2020, Kuwait’s parliament approved a domestic violence law, which set legal procedures to protect the well-being of the family. Although the law went into effect a month after it was passed in parliament, many have stated that having a law is one thing and implementing it is another.
Article 22 of the family protection law stipulates that the state must take measures to protect victims of domestic violence.
“There is a counter argument that states that family issues are private and should not be handled by the state. But the state has a responsibility to protect individual lives, which are part of the family unit,” Al Shammari pointed out.
In addition, the law stipulates that a shelter needs to be established. Until now, there is no functioning state shelter to protect against domestic violence victims.
Breaking the cycle
Other than activating the shelter, Al Shammari believes that raising awareness and addressing the issue is necessary to break the taboo around harassment and violence. She added there is a need for more women in the police force and women should also be present at places of reporting, such as police stations, to lessen the stigma around seeking help.
Shamo is using her platform to raise awareness about the issue of violence and harassment because “first and foremost we need a deep cultural shift in the way we treat victims and the way we react to their stories. We need to stop normalising violence and say ‘this is not acceptable’”.
Despite all the possible solutions to break the vicious cycle of women being murdered, Al Shammari stated, “There is a strong system in place that allows for these killings to happen and does not hold people accountable.”