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Row over ‘immoral’ women’s yoga retreat erupts in Kuwait

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A women’s yoga retreat in Kuwait was denounced as immoral. AFP

Row over ‘immoral’ women’s yoga retreat erupts in Kuwait

A Kuwaiti women’s yoga retreat that was denounced as “immoral” has been postponed after authorities said it needed a permit, its organiser said, prompting a backlash online and a complaint to parliament.

Yoga instructor Eman al-Husseinan said she had come under fierce media attack over the desert retreat, which was scheduled to take place on Friday.

“When I first organised the event, I did not know about the need for permits, and I was contacted by the interior ministry which clarified the importance of these permits,” she said in an online video posted late Thursday.

“We had already stressed the need for appropriate attire to take part in the sessions, which is modest clothing,” she added.

The one-day retreat was focused on practising yoga and highlighting its health benefits, as well creating a fun environment for women, Husseinan said.

“I was to subject a fierce media attack . . . they projected an image of the event in a manner that was insulting, portraying it to be immoral.

“Such projections are not a reflection of my morals or the morals of any Kuwaiti woman or Kuwaiti society.”

Lawmaker Hamdan al-Azmi had objected strongly to the event, urging its cancellation.

“This is a serious matter, and we urge the interior minister to move swiftly in stopping these practises that are alien to our conservative society,” he tweeted last week.

While some online agreed with the MP, many threw their support behind Husseinan.

“Kuwaiti women have become robbed of their will and rights . . . they are prevented from practising yoga . . . and from exercising their basic rights,” tweeted Kuwaiti writer Aljazi Alsenafi.

Lawyer Areej Hamadeh said that she had filed a complaint to parliament against Azmi.

“The MP has infringed on the constitution and personal freedoms and decided to impose his own guardianship on society under the pretext of its customs and traditions,” she said.

Kuwaiti women, who earned the right to vote in 2005, have long been pushing the boundaries of their society, considered one of the most open in the region.

Last year, they defied conservative norms and a culture of “shame” to speak out against harassment for the first time.

Azmi ruffled feathers last month when he questioned the defence minister about an October decision to allow women to join the army in combat roles.

The defence ministry later imposed new rules on women in the military, saying they have to wear a head covering, need permission from a male guardian to join and are not allowed to carry weapons.

Unlike other Gulf countries, Kuwait’s parliament enjoys legislative power and lawmakers have been known to challenge the government.

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