Former Kuwaiti MP decries 'insults and slander' on social media after election loss

Safa Al Hashem courted controversy as an MP over her anti-expat stance

epa08869294 Kuwaiti MP Safaa Al-Hashim attends a parliament session at the Kuwait's national assembly in Kuwait City, Kuwait, on 07 October 2020 (issued 07 December 2020). Al-Hashim, Kuwaits only female MP lost her seat in the 2020 Kuwaiti general election held on 05 December 2020.  EPA/Noufal Ibrahim
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

A day after Kuwait's only female MP lost her seat in national elections, Safa Al Hashem threatened legal action against detractors on social media.

Ms Al Hashem is a divisive figure in the vibrant Kuwaiti political scene, and had served in three national assemblies before losing in the December 5 poll. In a tweet on Monday, she lambasted social media users for sending her abuse online and said she had decided to take legal action.

"My longstanding principle has been not to respond or file charges against the tweeters, but after the numerous insults and slander directed at myself and my family, I assigned a group of lawyers to monitor all the abuse directed at me on social media channels, including those who retweeted and who kept these messages, and have raised these cases to the court," she wrote.

Ms Al Hashem takes a tough line on immigration and repeatedly called on the government to send expatriates back to their home countries.

Last April, Ms Al Hashem tweeted her outrage at the number of expats in government positions, saying: "I said it before and I'm repeating it now: the internal invasion of expats in all the state apparatuses requires a revamping of the administrative structure."

Some of the messages criticise her policy stances, but others make threats, and use gendered language to insult her.

One tweet told the 56-year old to "get back in the kitchen" and another used lewd language to refer to her.

Still more told the veteran MP and businesswoman to "go to hell", among other insults.

A study by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue found women politicians in the US received 12 per cent more abuse on Facebook than male politicians. A 2017 UN report found 73 per cent of women have endured cyber violence.

Before entering politics, Ms Al Hashem was a successful businesswoman and founded a consulting company. She said she would donate any proceeds from the legal battles against online commenters to "needy families".

In this year's election, 29 female candidates ran for office, but none secured a seat. Kuwaiti voters returned just 19 of the 44 sitting members who sought re-election in Saturday's vote.