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About 24 per cent of the Kuwait population is Shii, from Iran, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Iraq. Shiis constitute the main Kuwaiti minority group.

Historical context

The Kuwaiti Shii sense of identity has been provoked through a number of occasions over recent decades: the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran – contributing to the upsurge in tensions between Shii and Sunni Kuwaitis in the 1980s – the Iran-Iraq war and the conflicts in Iraq since 2003; although the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait largely had the reverse effect of uniting all Kuwaitis. Shiis have their own mosques, centres and court system for family cases in Kuwait, though they suffer disadvantage in terms of religious facilities, Shii religious education, representation in government and public religious practice. The National Assembly has had 5-6 Shiis serving in recent years, out of the 50 elected seats. The representation of Shiis in Cabinet and at Ministerial level is very poor. Sunni-Shii relations have nevertheless been largely harmonious over the decades.

Current issues

Existing Sunni-Shii tensions in Kuwait have been provoked further through terrorism in Iraq and beyond. 7 October 2005 witnessed mob violence by Sunni youth in Kuwait, attacking Shii worshippers, shouting insults and setting fire to a car in Jahra, west of Kuwait city. This has led to some concern about the radicalisation of Sunni youth in Kuwait.

Updated June 2015

Minorities and indigenous peoples in
< Kuwait