Kuwaiti supermarket chains boycott Iranian goods

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Kuwaiti minister of foreign affairs, Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled al-Sabah (C), speaks during the higher joint committee meeting at Kuwait's Foreign Ministry in Kuwait City on 3 June 2013. (Photo: AFP - Yasser al-Zayyat)

Published Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Several Kuwaiti supermarket chains have begun boycotting products from Iran due to the country’s support of the Syrian government, the companies’ statements said Wednesday.

At least nine cooperative consumer societies out of 50 in the oil-rich Gulf state published announcements in local media on Wednesday, saying they have taken Iranian products off their shelves in protest of Tehran's backing of President Bashar al-Assad.

Cooperative societies control a majority of the retail consumer market in Kuwait.

One of the announcements said that the next step in the campaign would be to dismiss Iranian laborers working at the societies and cancel their residency permits.

One Iranian entrepreneur based in Kuwait greeted the news with a mix of anger and skepticism.

“Arab boycotts don’t last long, especially Gulf ones. This [boycott] seems like a weak response” the businessman told Al-Akhbar, adding that “it is obviously anti-Iranian and no so much about Syria. There’s just no consistency.”

“[These companies] are antagonizing people that have nothing to do with this. Iranians have been deep in the merchant class for generations,” he added.

Around 50,000 Iranians work in Kuwait, mostly in low-paid jobs. Iranian exports to Kuwait are not huge and mainly comprise fish and food products.

The Kuwaiti government has launched a deportation campaign against foreign laborers in the kingdom.

In April of this year, Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Thekra al-Rasheedi said the emirate plans to deport around 100,000 expatriates every year for the next decade to reduce the number of foreigners living in the Gulf state by one million.

Meanwhile, dozens of activists demonstrated outside the Lebanese embassy late Tuesday in protest at the military intervention of Hezbollah fighters on the side of Syrian army against rebels.

A majority of Kuwaitis have been angered by the Syrian government onslaught on rebels and the support Assad has received from Iran and Hezbollah.

Around a dozen well-known Kuwaiti clerics have launched an online campaign to raise funds enough to arm 12,000 fighters and send them to Syria. Each fighter is estimated to cost $2,500.

The Gulf Cooperation Council states said on Monday that they will take measures against members of Hezbollah.

The measures will affect their "residency permits, and financial and commercial transactions," said a GCC statement, citing a ministerial council decision.

The GCC includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)


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