Women’s rights in the Gulf suffered a severe blow Monday, as Kuwait’s first female minister was forced to resign. Mubarak’s resignation puts her in unfortunate company – with a thief and a Salafi – and is particularly sad because she bares very little responsibility for problems within her ministry. The Kuwaitis would do better finding some Bulgarians to blame.
KUWAIT CITY: Health Minister Maasuma al-Mubarak, Kuwait’s first female Cabinet member, has resigned following a deadly hospital fire, preempting plans by Islamist MPs to call her to account in Parliament. The government of the oil-rich Gulf emirate announced on Saturday that Mubarak’s resignation, tendered on Friday night, had been accepted.
Hours earlier, two Sunni Islamist lawmakers tabled a request to grill her over Thursday’s blaze, which killed two patients and injured 19 others, as well as over alleged financial abuses in her ministry and deteriorating health services.
Mubarak made history when she became the first female minister in the conservative Arab state in June 2005, taking the planning and administrative development portfolio, one month after Parliament passed a bill granting women political rights.
The US-educated liberal and leading women’s-rights activist, who wears the Muslim hijab or headscarf, has since also served as communications minister and was given the health portfolio in the Cabinet formed last March.
Mubarak, in her late 50s, also became the first woman MP when she joined the government, because Cabinet ministers automatically become members of Parliament in Kuwait.
Her departure leaves only one woman in the Cabinet. Information Minister Abdullah al-Muhailbi will now take charge of the Health Ministry, Saturday’s government announcement said.
In her letter of resignation submitted to Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah, Mubarak accepted “political and moral” responsibility for the hospital fire which is currently being investigated, the leading daily Al-Qabas reported. But she also said that she had come under fire from some MPs from the moment she took over the troubled Health Ministry “for reasons which are no secret to you.”
Mubarak, a member of Kuwait’s Shiite minority, was apparently referring to the opposition of Sunni Islamist MPs to her appointment to high office because of her combined Shiite and liberal credentials.
The move to grill Mubarak in Parliament gained momentum in the hours leading up to her resignation, with tribal lawmakers and a nationalist group joining the Islamist MPs who tabled the request.
The Health Ministry has been rocked by accusations over misuse of public funds, charges which preceded Mubarak’s appointment to the post.
The public prosecution is currently probing allegations that some patients sent for treatment abroad at government expense did not meet the criteria for overseas treatment and that Kuwaiti medical offices set up in major Western cities to look after such patients had misappropriated millions of dollars. [misappropriations in a ministry…surely not!]
Mubarak on Saturday met with Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah, who is officiating in place of Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah as he recovers from urinary-tract surgery in the United States. [Here is the proof that patients are unneccesarily sent abroad for medical treatment!]
The resignation of a minister must be approved by the ruler or his deputy.
Mubarak is the third Cabinet minister to resign since the government was formed in March. Oil Minister Sheikh Ali Jarrah al-Sabah and Communications Minister Sharida al-Meosherji quit in June. – AFP