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A puncture shop on the first floor

Ali Ahmed Al-Baghli

THE title of this article was published in Al-Watan newspaper in the late 1980s. At that time, the editor-in-chief was my late Professor Mohammed Musaed Al-Saleh.

I recently received a call from a good friend of mine; we have been friends since our school days in Sadeeq Primary School in the late 1950s and 1960s. After the school years, I interacted with him as a bank employee when I started working as a prosecutor, then as an assistant to the legal consular at the Kuwait National Petroleum Company, and then as an attorney.

This friend of mine opened a construction contracting company, and I vividly remember its offices were located at the end of Tunis Street towards Jabriya area. Through his company, I had built my first house in Mishref.

My friend once called to invite me to his house in Jabriya area as I recall. We sat together and chatted on various subjects. During our chat, he interjected to ask me why I hadn’t inquired about the objective behind the invitation, given that we had a mutual friend whom he did not invite. I told him, “I was waiting for you to open the conversation.”

Given that I am interested in public affairs and being a columnist in an important newspaper at that time, my friend warned me that I was about to become baffled and shocked by what he was about to tell me. I told him not to worry.

He told me he had a store in one of the industrial plots that had been transformed into rental plots for nonindustrial activities. He discovered that one of his neighbors had rented an office on the first floor in the same plot … Everything seemed normal to this point.

The not-so-normal part about this story is that the license of that office on the first floor of the plot was registered as a “puncture shop” – a place where you go to repair your car’s punctured tyre or add air pressure to your flat tyres.

I was indeed baffled by this information, and we laughed hysterically imagining how the owner of a car with a punctured tyre would go up to the first floor in order to get his tyre fixed. Would he use the elevator or the stairs?!

The story ends here; and I will reveal the name of the storyteller at the end of this article.

Nevertheless, this story came to my mind at this time when we continue to endure the suffocating COVID-19 crisis. It seems as if we Kuwaitis had just discovered that we represent a quarter of the population in our beloved country for which we have no alternative.

Within our community are the visa traders (human traffickers) – whether among the ordinary citizens or influential ones – and the government employees who conspired with them and helped to flood this country with thousands and thousands of expatriates just to make some money, and then abandoned these expatriates on the street to wander around and violate the laws.

Nonetheless, the point behind writing this article is to inform our esteemed readers that the human trafficking (visa trading) business has existed in this country for decades and with direct or indirect knowledge of the government. The one who enabled the licensing of the “puncture repair shop” on the first floor, or his father is the kingpin of human trafficking today.

My dear brothers and sisters, this wrong situation did not emerge suddenly or come out of the blue. It has been around for decades and has now grown and matured to become a ghoul who threatens our lives and smears our reputation locally and internationally.

The storyteller of the puncture shop on the first floor is a friend and great colleague of mine – Ahmed Al-Sarraf. This happened before he took up the pen to enrich us with his daily articles.

By Ali Ahmed Al-Baghli

Former Minister of Oil

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