Kuwait group aims to raise funds for Libyan opposition

The Social Reform Society is trying to overcome government controls to raise money for Libya.

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KUWAIT CITY // A Kuwaiti group with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood is trying to overcome government controls to raise money for Libya's opposition, a leading figure in the movement has said.

"We are waiting for the government to tell us we can collect," said Abdullah al Ateeqi, the secretary general of the Social Reform Society (SRC), on Wednesday. The society is a Kuwaiti charity linked to the Islamic Constitutional Movement (ICM), a political group with ideological roots in the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

"In the future we will raise money," Mr al Ateeqi said.

He said the SRC advertised in local newspapers last week to encourage Kuwaitis to support the Libyan opposition "in any way they can", but his organisation was not accepting donations yet.

Nasser al Ammar, the director of the ministry of social affairs and labour's charity and donation organisations department, said no Kuwait charities have received permission to raise money for the Libyan crisis.

"They can't do anything now," Mr al Ammar said. "We need time to study [the proposal] with the ministry of foreign affairs."

Charity collections in Kuwait have been tightly controlled since foreign governments accused some charities of having links with terrorists. In 2008, the United States designated the local Salafi charity, the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society, as an organisation that supports al Qa'eda. The society denies the charge.

Concerns over how cash donations are used have led the ministry of social affairs and labour to impose restrictions on charities during Ramadan.

The restrictions have not stopped Kuwaiti organisations from giving humanitarian support. The Kuwaiti Red Crescent Society has announced that it would donate US$1 million (Dh3.67 million) in response to a plea from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

The United Nations has said that up to one million foreign workers and others in Libya will need emergency aid because of the fighting and asked for $160 million to deal with the crisis.

Until now, the SRC has given the Libyan opposition moral, rather than material, support. In the statement on Wednesday, it condemned the "unjust and oppressive" regime for attacking the Libyan people with tanks and aircraft.

"The Organisation of the Islamic Conference and the Arab League should provide the necessary aid including food and medicine," the group's official statement said.

Several prominent Kuwaitis, including members and affiliates of the ICM, displayed their support for the Libyan opposition at a seminar on the outskirts of the city on Wednesday night.

The head of the ICM's media office, Osama al Shaheen, said that unlike in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya has mostly been living in exile because of Muammar Qaddafi's relentless persecution of political opposition during his 41-year rule. Some of them are now fighting with the opposition.

Mr al Shaheen said if the ICM can raise money for Libya, it will be used for humanitarian aid and food.

Falah bin Ghayam, a former parliamentary candidate who is "very close" to the ICM, said the seminar at his residence was not to held to raise money for Libya, but to encourage other organisations such as the Red Crescent to do so.

The speakers included ICM activists, liberals, and civil society leaders. Mr al Ghayam said the seminar was the first public show of solidarity with the Libyan opposition in Kuwait.

Sulaiman al Hammasi, a Libyan academic who has been living in exile for the past 30 years, said the ICM are sympathising with the opposition movements in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya "because they want these people to live in a free country".