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Education in the Arabian Peninsula during the first half of the Twentieth Century

From Muscat to the Maghreb: Pan-Arab Networks, Anti-colonial Groups, and Kuwait’s Arab Scholarships (1953–1961)

Talal Al-Rashoud

Résumés

Cet article explore le développement du programme de bourses d'études koweïtiennes pour les étudiants arabes depuis sa création en 1953 jusqu'à l'indépendance du pays en 1961, période durant laquelle l'influence nationaliste arabe dominait le département de l'éducation koweïtienne. Les "bourses arabes", comme on les appelait, ont permis à des étudiants de pays arabes souffrant de sous-développement et/ou de la répression coloniale d'étudier dans des écoles koweïtiennes aux niveaux primaire, intermédiaire et secondaire. La plupart venaient du Golfe, du Maghreb et du sud de l'Arabie, mais un petit nombre d'entre eux venait d'Afrique de l'Est et de Palestine.
L’article vise à montrer que le programme de bourses d'études arabes du Koweït était largement motivé par des idéaux panarabes et façonné par des réseaux interpersonnels reliant les éducateurs et les fonctionnaires koweïtiens aux militants nationalistes arabes de toute la région. Le ministère a accordé des bourses à des gouvernements comme à des groupes anticoloniaux. Ces organisations ont profité de la présence de leurs étudiants au Koweït pour se lancer dans d'autres activités, contribuant ainsi à l'émergence du pays en tant que centre régional d'activisme politique.

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Acknowledgments: I would like to thank the following individuals for their contributions to this paper: Louis Allday, Khalid AlDeyain, Abdulrahman Alebrahim, Juliette Honvault, Ra’id Al-Jamali, Ahmed Macki, Salim Macki, Sami Macki, Christiana Parreira, Nathalie Peutz, Nasser AlSaqri, Wafa AlSayed, Khaled AlShaddad, Lindsey Stephenson, Daniel Tavana, and my two anonymous reviewers.

  • 1 See for example: Ahmed, 2018; Tsourapas, 2016; Kalisman, 2015.

1Any mention of scholarships in the context of Kuwaiti history no doubt brings to mind the numerous local youth who studied abroad at government expense following the influx of oil wealth. Few realize, however, that at the same time that many Kuwaiti schoolboys first set eyes on the wonders of Cairo and London, scholarship students from as far afield as Morocco and Somalia traversed the dusty streets of the British-protected shaykhdom of Kuwait. The study of inter-Arab educational ties naturally centers on the region’s cultural and political heartland of Egypt and the Fertile Crescent as a destination for scholarships and a source of assistance for peripheral states.1 However, the case of Kuwait in the 1950s and 1960s highlights educational connections between peripheral areas of the Arab world that also played a significant role in the region’s cultural and political development.

2This paper examines the history of Kuwait’s scholarship program for Arab primary, intermediate, and secondary school students from its inception in 1953 to the country’s independence in 1961, a period when Arab nationalist influence dominated the Kuwaiti Education Department. It argues that as well as being motivated by Pan-Arab ideals, Kuwait’s ‘Arab Scholarships’ in part depended on interpersonal networks linking Kuwaiti educators and officials to nationalist activists throughout the region. The department granted scholarships not only to governments, but also to various anti-colonial political groups. These organizations were able to build upon the presence of their student missions in the wealthy and relatively liberal Gulf state, branching out into other activities.

  • 2 These are the unpublished Minutes of the Educational Council (henceforth MEC), and educational rep (...)

3Drawing on little-used local documents,2 British archives, Arabic periodicals, memoirs, and interviews, the paper begins by charting Kuwait’s transition from a recipient to a provider of educational assistance in the early 1950s. It then examines the circumstances behind the foundation of Kuwait’s Arab Scholarship program between 1951 and 1953, demonstrating that ties to anti-colonial groups were central to its emergence from the outset. The paper subsequently charts the development of the program until 1961, detailing its structure and scope, expansion to new areas, and the factors that made Kuwait an attractive destination for Arab students. Most hailed from three areas suffering from underdevelopment and/or colonial repression: the Arabian Gulf, the Maghreb, and Southern Arabia. Smaller numbers of pupils were also hosted from East Africa and Palestine.

4Finally, the Educational Department’s ties to two particular anti-colonial groups are elucidated in order to explore further the Arab nationalist networks underpinning the Arab Scholarships, and highlight their role in Kuwait’s emergence as a regional hub for political activism in the 1950s. These were Algeria’s National Liberation Front and the Omani Union. Other organizations, including the Association of Algerian Muslim ‘Ulama’, the Office of the Arab Maghreb in Damascus, and the Aden-based South Arabian League, are also discussed throughout the paper.

From Recipient to Provider of Educational Assistance

  • 3 Al‑Rashoud, 2016, p. 63–78.
  • 4 IOR/R/15/5/195: de Gaury to PR, 23/4/1936; al‑Nūrī, n.d., p. 74–75.
  • 5 Zahlan, 1981, p. 1–12; Crystal, 1990, p. 41–55; Al‑Rashoud, 2016, p. 100–136.

5From the establishment of its first modern, merchant-funded schools in the 1910s and 20s, Kuwait sought to emulate the more developed Arab countries in the field of education.3 This inclination intensified following the establishment of the Educational Council in 1936, an elected government body that took charge of Kuwait’s modern schools.4 The council was formed at the request of the shaykhdom’s influential merchants, who had traditionally played a prominent role in governance alongside the ruling family. During the 1930s, factors including economic decline and modern ideological influences drove them to pressure the ruler, Shaykh Aḥmad al-Jābir al-Ṣabaḥ (1921–1950), for democratic reform. At the same time, they actively campaigned on behalf of the Palestinian cause, and forged strong ties with Arab nationalist activists throughout the region.5

  • 6 IOR/R/15/5/195: Secretariat, Jerusalem to PA, 30/10/1936.
  • 7 IOR/R/15/1/545: PA to PR, 4/2/1939; IOR/R/15/5/195: PA to Fowle, 16/1/1939; PA to Fowle, 11/10/193 (...)

6The Educational Council’s merchant members drew on their expanding regional networks to obtain educational assistance from fellow Arabs. At a time before oil wealth, such assistance was vital to developing the shaykhdom’s rudimentary educational infrastructure. In 1936, Palestine’s Supreme Muslim Council deputed four Palestinian teachers to take charge of Kuwait’s educational system.6 Moreover, in the late 1930s, Kuwait’s educational authorities obtained scholarships from the Iraqi and Egyptian governments for a small number of students.7

  • 8 IOR/R/15/5/196: Wakelin’s Report, November 1942.
  • 9 Porath, 1986, p. 179, 189, 196, 258.
  • 10 IOR/R/15/5/197: Wakelin to Hilali Pasha, 22/11/1943; IOR/R/15/5/196: Wakelin to Highwood, 3/12/194 (...)
  • 11 Al‑Bi‘tha [‘The Mission’] (3/1950), p. 93; (12/1949), p. 290; (1/1949), p. 47. This magazine was c (...)
  • 12 Al‑Bi‘tha (9/1947), p. 174.

7After a dispute over pay led to the departure of the Palestinian teachers in 1942,8 the Educational Council requested teachers and further scholarships from the Egyptian government. Cairo was then conducting a campaign of cultural diplomacy in the Arab world, and was providing similar support to other states.9 Egypt’s Ministry of Education readily dispatched an official Educational Mission comprised of four teachers, subsidizing half their salaries. Moreover, it sponsored ten or eleven Kuwaiti students to complete their secondary education in Egypt.10 Over the coming years, the number of teachers and scholarships that Egypt provided to Kuwait steadily increased. By the academic year 1949–1950, there were 55 teachers seconded from Cairo. Furthermore, in the second half of the 1940s, there were around fifty Kuwaiti students on scholarship in Egypt in any given year.11 In 1947, it was reported that their number was the largest of any Arab country relative to its population.12

  • 13 Al‑Bi‘tha (12/1946), p. 4–5; IOR/R/15/5/198: Hussey to Hay, 29/7/1946.
  • 14 Al‑Rashoud, 2016, p. 177.
  • 15 Political Diaries, Vol. 18, p. 421.

8The beginning of oil exports in 1946 led Kuwait’s Education Department to gradually assume financial responsibility for the teachers and scholarships it received from Egypt. It had already opened a dormitory in Cairo in 1945 called Bayt al-Kuwayt (Kuwait House), which provided scholarship students with room and board.13 From 1946, the department apparently financed all new scholarships to Egypt.14 By the academic year 1949–1950, the Egyptian government ceased to subsidize the salaries of teachers it seconded to Kuwait.15

  • 16 Crystal, 1990, p. 64–65.
  • 17 Al‑Taqrīr al‑Sanawī, 1961–1962, p. 17.
  • 18 BW/114/6: Annual Report, 1957–1958.

9While increasing oil revenue thus weaned Kuwait off external educational assistance by the end of the 1940s, several developments in the early 1950s enabled it to become a provider of such assistance in its own right. First and foremost, the state’s income increased dramatically after the new ruler Shaykh ‘Abdallāh al-Sālim al-Ṣabāḥ (1950–1965) renegotiated the concession agreement with the Kuwait Oil Company in 1951.16 The Educational Department received a significant cut of state funds, and its budget rose exponentially throughout the 1950s.17 In 1958, a British Council official observed: ‘the Kuwait Department of Education by itself spends three times as much as the whole government revenue of Bahrain.’18

  • 19 Al‑Bi‘tha (9/1947), p. 170–173.
  • 20 Al‑Rashoud, 2016, p. 217–218.
  • 21 Al‑Imān (9/1953), p. 479; al‑Miqdādī, 1952, p. 21–22.

10A second crucial factor was the rapid development and expansion of education in Kuwait in the 1940s under Egyptian guidance. In 1947, an ambitious development plan necessitated the quadrupling of the Educational Department’s budget.19 The department’s expanding capabilities led it to strive to offer a complete course of secondary study in Kuwait. Hitherto, it had sent all students wishing to complete secondary school to Egypt. Over the course of the academic years 1950–1951 and 1951–1952, it introduced the fifth and final year of secondary study, which qualified students to pursue higher education. At the time, few states in the Arabian Peninsula offered this certification.20 The department crowned this achievement by building a vast, state-of-the-art secondary school campus in the area of Shuwaykh, intended to be the largest boarding school in the Arab world. It opened its doors in the fall of 1953.21

  • 22 Al‑Rashoud, 2016, p. 65–74.
  • 23 IOR/R/15/5/196: Vallance to Galloway, 1/10/1940; Al‑Shihāb, 1984, p. 146.
  • 24 IOR/R/15/5/197: Wakelin to PR, 2/12/1943; on the nature of this curriculum see: Salmoni, 2005, p.  (...)
  • 25 Al‑Rashoud, 2016,p p. 180–191.

11The final factor behind Kuwait’s emergence as a provider of educational assistance was the rise of an ambitious administration within the Educational Department with a strong Arab nationalist orientation. The roots of Arab nationalist influence within Kuwaiti education extend to the first modern schools, which employed ideologically motivated Arab teachers.22 This influence intensified with the arrival of the first Palestinian teachers, who implemented the Pan-Arabist Iraqi curriculum.23 The arrival of the Egyptian Educational Mission led to its replacement by the Westernized and Pharaonicist Egyptian curriculum in 1943, a measure supported by the British.24 Nevertheless, Arab nationalist ideas continued to be disseminated in Kuwaiti schools by individual Egyptian and Kuwaiti educators, and a new wave of Palestinian teachers who arrived after 1948.25

  • 26 FO 371/82151: Gethin to Hay, 11/4/1950; Al‑Ṣāli, 1968, p. 99–100.
  • 27 Al‑Bi‘tha (8/1950), p. 228. For al‑Miqdādī’s background see: Choueiri, 2000, p. 33–55; Kahati, 199 (...)
  • 28 Al‑Bi‘tha (12/1951), p. 395.
  • 29 Al‑Rashoud, 2016, p. 221–224.
  • 30 Ibid., p. 244–250, 253–257.

12In 1950, the Egyptian Educational Mission departed Kuwait after an administrative dispute,26 setting the stage for an Arab nationalist resurgence. Nationalist members of Kuwait’s Educational Council engaged a new Director of Education: the Palestinian Darwīsh al-Miqdādī, a prominent Pan-Arabist intellectual, activist, and educator.27 Al-Miqdādī employed a primarily Palestinian staff,28 and restored Arab nationalist instruction to the curriculum.29 After only two years, however, a movement emerged demanding a greater role for native Kuwaitis within the Educational Department. This resulted in the appointment of a Kuwaiti, ‘Abd al-‘Azīz Ḥusayn, as Director of Education in the fall of 1952, while al-Miqdādī was demoted to the post of Assistant Director.30

  • 31 Al‑Bi‘tha (7/1949), p. 212; IOR/R/15/5/196: Ruler to Hickinbotham, 17/8/1943.
  • 32 Al‑Rashoud, 2016, p. 198–199.

13Given the circumstances behind his appointment, it is surprising that Arab nationalist influence reached its peak within the Educational Department under Ḥusayn. As shall be seen, he was central to developing Kuwait’s Arab Scholarships. Before becoming director, Ḥusayn had lived in Egypt for over a decade, first as a scholarship student (1939–1945),31 and subsequently as supervisor of Bayt al-Kuwayt (1945–1950). Under his direction, the latter institution became much more than a mere dormitory. Ḥusayn took advantage of his wide-ranging connections in Cairo to organize a vibrant cultural program for Kuwaiti scholarship students. Moreover, he made Bayt al-Kuwayt into an unofficial Kuwaiti consulate, providing information on Kuwait to Egyptians, assisting private Kuwaiti visitors, and conducting business for various Kuwait government departments.32 This enabled Ḥusayn and the Educational Department to broaden their networks in Egypt, then the main cultural and political center of the Arab world.

  • 33 BW/114/7: Highwood to Jardine, 27/10/1953.
  • 34 E.g.: FO/371/140082: Halford to Lloyd, 11/6/1959; FO/371/140081: Halford to Middleton, 11/2/1959; (...)
  • 35 BW/114/6: Annual Report, 1955–1956.

14Not long after Ḥusayn became Director of Education, a British report described him as ‘impregnated with Egyptian ideas’.33 Despite engaging in Arab nationalist activism as a schoolboy, his Pan-Arabist tendencies do not seem to have been overly pronounced before his appointment. Subsequently, however, he became affected by the new revolutionary mood in Cairo, and from the mid-1950s the British regarded him as a staunch Nasserist.34 One British report held that Ḥusayn ‘may not only be idealistically “Arab-Nationalist” but more deeply involved with Egypt’, citing his facilitation of contact between Egyptian educational staff and Arab nationalist opposition leaders in Bahrain.35 The director’s regional connections and political ideals influenced the Educational Department’s outward-looking, Pan-Arab policies.

  • 36 FO/371/98458: Keight to PR, 27/10/1952.
  • 37 Al‑Rashoud, 2016, p. 264–274.

15In addition to Ḥusayn’s personal proclivity, the Educational Department’s Arab nationalist character was reinforced by the continued presence of al-Miqdādī and other Palestinian educators, and the return of Egypt’s Educational Mission to Kuwait in 1952 with a new revolutionary orientation.36 From 1953, the department put its Pan-Arab principles into practice by incorporating Arab nationalist ideology into the first locally authored textbooks, which were used alongside the Egyptian curriculum. By 1955–1956, this policy culminated in the adoption of Kuwait’s first national curriculum for the primary and intermediate levels, which made the fostering of Arab national awareness a primary goal of education.37

  • 38 Ibid., p. 291–299.
  • 39 Ibid., p. 227–236.
  • 40 Al‑Mdairis, 1987, p. 150–167.
  • 41 Ibid., p. 190; al‑Khaṭīb, 2007, p. 163.

16The Educational Department enjoyed a remarkable degree of independence in implementing its nationalist agenda. Thus, when a popular opposition movement emerged in Kuwait in response to the 1956 Suez Crisis, the department broke with general government policy and supported the movement’s strikes, boycotts, and rallies.38 This would not have been possible without the leadership of Ḥusayn and the other young, educated Kuwaitis at the department’s helm. They represented the intelligentsia or ‘muthaqqafūn’, a newly ascendant social group comprised of those who had received a modern education. Most served in the state bureaucracy, where they wielded considerable influence over certain institutions, especially the Educational Department.39 At the same time, the muthaqqafūn pioneered new forms of political activism. At the outset of the 1950s, a range of modern political groups took shape in Kuwait, operating through cultural and sporting clubs. The most prominent of these was the local branch of the transnational Movement of Arab Nationalists (MAN), which had been co-founded in Beirut by a Kuwaiti student, Aḥmad al-Khaṭīb.40 It was the MAN that spearheaded the protest movement of 1956, a development that heralded the muthaqqafūn’s eclipse of the merchant class as the leaders of political opposition in Kuwait.41

  • 42 Al‑Rashoud, 2016, p. 281–288.
  • 43 Burrows, 1990, p. 30.
  • 44 Smith, 1999, p. 4, 41–43, 98–99, 139; Crystal, 1990, p. 68–71.

17Capitalizing on this political momentum, the muthaqqafūn within the Educational Department transformed their institution into a bastion of Arab nationalism within the Kuwaiti state. In this, they relied on the decentralized nature of government in 1950s Kuwait, which can be attributed to several factors.42 Key among these was the relative weakness of British influence over Kuwait’s internal affairs. While Britain’s position elsewhere in the Gulf ‘approximated more to that of a colonial administration’, its relations with Kuwait were closer to ‘normal diplomatic representation’.43 Though Kuwait had signed a similar treaty of protection with Britain as its neighbors, the British generally refrained from interfering in its internal administration. It was only with the immense increase in oil income in the early 1950s that they appointed advisors to state institutions with the aim of asserting greater control. However, powerful and well-entrenched ruling family members thwarted this scheme by refusing to cooperate with the advisors, causing all to resign in frustration by the middle of the decade.44

  • 45 Crystal, 1990, p. 59–65; Compare with the Saudi case as described in Hertog, 2011, p. 3–14.
  • 46 Ibid., p. 68–71.
  • 47 KOC/106845: Situation Notes, 25 March – 8 April, 1957; Situation Report, 25 January – 2 February, (...)
  • 48 KOC/100485: Who’s Who.
  • 49 FO/371/140081: Halford to Lloyd, 11/6/1959.

18These influential ruling family members comprised a second factor that hindered state centralization in 1950s Kuwait. Fractious and competitive, they exercised near-absolute authority over their respective ‘administrative fiefdoms’.45 Throughout the decade, the ruler failed in creating a mechanism for effectively overseeing the administration and finances of the various government departments.46 He came to rely on a group of young, educated shaykhs to counter senior members of his family.47 This interfamilial rivalry led some shaykhs to align themselves with popular forces. Whether tactically or by conviction, certain prominent ruling family members (including the ruler) displayed reformist and Arab nationalist sympathies. Among them was the Educational Department’s President Shaykh ‘Abdallāh al-Jābir al-Ṣabāḥ, who developed close personal ties to Gamal Abdel Nasser and the Egyptian leadership.48 He handled his department with benign neglect, leading the British to lament: ‘his ambitious, Nasserite Director, Abdul Aziz Husain, disregards him completely’.49

  • 50 Al‑Rashoud, 2016, p. 326–332.

19With Kuwait’s independence in 1961, Arab nationalist influence within the Educational Department declined significantly due to various developments. These included increased state centralization that limited the department’s independence, and the transfer of the Educational Department’s most able and committed cadres to other government departments.50 This is taken as an end date for this study.

The Emergence of Kuwait’s Arab Scholarship Program, 1951–1953

  • 51 Al‑Taqrīr al‑Sanawī, 1961–1962, p. 160–170; al‑Taqrīr al‑Sanawī, 1960–1961,p p. 160–168.

20With ample funds, a relatively developed educational system, and an ambitious and ideologically driven educational administration, by the early 1950s Kuwait was ready to offer educational assistance to its less fortunate neighbors. Having only recently received such assistance from Egypt, Kuwait’s Educational Department had a model at hand to emulate, though Kuwait’s oil wealth allowed it to surpass Egypt in some respects. The department developed a robust program of cultural diplomacy, of which scholarships were only one component. Like Egypt, Kuwait not only provided scholarships but also seconded its teachers to other states, where they implemented the curriculum used in Kuwait. However, Kuwait went even further by providing its teachers for free and establishing entire schools abroad. In the period under study, these schools gradually extended to five of the seven Trucial Sates (the future UAE), as well as the port cities of Bombay and Karachi, which hosted large Arab communities.51

  • 52 E.g.: MEC: S8, 20/11/1954; S4, 9/10/1954; S80, 25/1/1954; S79, 11/1/1954; S76, 1/12/1953; S56, 20/ (...)
  • 53 E.g.: MEC: S34, 3/6/1956; S31, 19/2/1956; S14, 5/4/1955; S2, 19/4/1954; S49, 21/10/1952; S1, 3/10/ (...)
  • 54 Political Diaries, Vol. 20, p. 596, 730, 778.

21The Educational Department, moreover, distributed financial aid to various civil society organizations throughout the region, including schools, charities, and cultural and political groups.52 The department’s external assistance was also tied to its growing involvement in Arab regional conferences from the year 1950. These aimed to foster inter-Arab cooperation in fields such as education, culture, social work, and sports, and allowed the department to strengthen its regional networks.53 By 1958, Kuwait began to host such regional conferences itself.54 The various components of this program of cultural diplomacy were interconnected, and references will be made to this broader regional policy while discussing Kuwait’s Arab Scholarships.

  • 55 Al‑Qāsimī, 2009, p. 89; Būrḥayma, 2001, p. 35; Political Diaries, Vol. 19, p. 172.
  • 56 Al‑Qāsimī, 2009, p. 91.
  • 57 Al‑Bi‘tha (5/1952), p. 202.
  • 58 MEC: S46, 23/8/1952; on al‑Zawāwī see: al‑Shihāb, 1994, p. 242.

22The seeds of Kuwait’s policy of regional educational assistance were sown during a visit by Shaykh ‘Abdallāh al-Sālim to the Trucial States in late 1951. During a reception in his honor in Sharjah, the headmaster of the Trucial Coast’s only modern primary school, Aḥmad Būrḥayma, instructed one of his students to deliver a speech requesting that the ruler provide his institution with teachers and books.55 In March 1952, a Kuwaiti educational delegation visited Sharjah to evaluate the standard of education there.56 That month, the President of the Educational Department announced that Trucial States students would be educated in Kuwait from the next academic year, and a special dormitory would be built to house them.57 In August 1952, the Educational Council met to discuss the matter after receiving two letters requesting that Gulf students be educated in Kuwait. The first was from Būrḥayma, and the second from ‘Abd al-Bārī al-Zawāwī, a Kuwaiti merchant of Omani origin. The council officially approved the idea, and decided to visit the Gulf states in need of scholarships to select around five students from each.58

  • 59 MEC: S62, 16/4/1953; Political Diaries, Vol. 19, p. 424.
  • 60 Al‑Ṭā’ī, 2016b, p. 195; al‑Ṭā’ī, 1966, p. 4–5; See also: Ṣawt ‘Umān (5/1961), p. 13; al‑Khālidī, 1 (...)
  • 61 Al‑Rūmī, 1997, p. 221–222.
  • 62 The minutes do not specify which emirates; MEC: S62, 16/4/1953.

23In March of 1953 ‘Abd al-‘Azīz Ḥusayn and the Educational Council member Aḥmad Bishr al-Rūmī carried out the planned trip to the Trucial States, visiting all emirates save Abu Dhabi and Fujairah.59 According to Omani opposition sources, the delegation tried to visit Muscat but was refused entry by Sultan Sa‘īd b. Taymūr, who refused any educational assistance from Kuwait.60 Al-Rūmī’s account of the trip indicates that the delegation did not merely respond to requests for help but actively sought to convince local rulers to accept educational assistance. When visiting Ajman, he states that the emirate’s ruler initially appeared wary. When asked whether he would accept scholarships for four or five local students, the shaykh replied that he would not commit to anything until he saw what the neighboring rulers would do.61 This accords with later evidence that the Educational Department’s leaders were motivated by a sense of mission to assist their Arab brethren. Following the delegation’s return to Kuwait, the Educational Council decided to send teachers and monetary assistance to the Sharjah school, and to accept scholarship students from a number of emirates.62

  • 63 MEC: S59, 24/2/1953.
  • 64 Al‑Ibrāhīmī, 1997, Vol. 5, p. 148–160; Vol. 4, p. 161–180, 342–351.
  • 65 MEC: S59, 24/2/1953; al‑Baṣā’ir (22/3/1953), p. 8.

24In February 1953, not long before the aforementioned trip, the Educational Council received the first recorded request for scholarships from outside the Gulf. It was from the cleric Muḥammad al-Bashīr al-Ibrāhīmī, President of Jam‘īyyat al-‘Ulamā’ al-Muslimīn al-Jazā’irīyyīn (the Association of Algerian Muslim ‘Ulama’ [AAMU]),63 an organization that sought to defend Algeria’s Arab-Islamic identity against French cultural assimilation. It focused on educational and religious activity, including the operation of an independent Arabic-language primary school network, and securing scholarships for its graduates to continue their studies in the Mashriq (or Eastern Arab countries).64 The AAMU sought scholarships for 30 of its pupils in Kuwait, ultimately agreeing with the Educational Council on the dispatch of 15 students annually over the next three academic years.65

  • 66 Al‑Baṣā’ir [‘Insights’] (22/3/1953), p. 8; The AAMU’s organ describes al‑Muṭawwa‘ as the tilmīdh o (...)
  • 67 Alkandari, 2014, p. 69, 73, 77; Al‑Zumai, 1988, p. 69–71.
  • 68 Al‑Baṣā’ir (22/3/1953), p. 8; al‑Bi‘tha (3/1953), p. 98–99, 116; al‑Rūmī, 1997, 172.

25The AAMU’s request provides the earliest indication of the influence of transnational political networks on Kuwait’s emerging scholarship program. A former pupil of al-Ibrāhīmī, the prominent Kuwaiti merchant ‘Abd al-‘Azīz al-Muṭawwa, played a crucial intermediary role between the AAMU and the Educational Department.66 He had extensive interests in Egypt, where he spent much of his time. He also headed the Kuwaiti branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which he founded in the mid-1940s, and sat on the Brotherhood’s Guidance Council in Cairo.67 It was likely through al-Muṭawwa that the AAMU first established its ties to Kuwait, well before it requested scholarships. Another prominent AAMU figure, al-Fuḍayl al-Wartilānī, had by then already visited the shaykhdom several times, lecturing at the Kuwaiti Muslim Brotherhood’s Jam‘īyyat al-Irshād al-Islāmī (Islamic Guidance Society).68

  • 69 Al‑Ibrāhīmī, 1997, Vol. 2, p. 26.
  • 70 Al‑Baṣā’ir (29/5/1953), p. 1; (15/5/1953), p. 1; al‑Bi‘tha (4/1953), 225, 229.
  • 71 For other examples see: al‑Baṣā’ir (25/6/1954), p. 8; (25/9/1953), p. 8.

26The presence of an AAMU office in Cairo from 1950 allowed its members to interact with influential Kuwaitis visiting Egypt.69 For instance, a month after al-Ibrāhīmī’s correspondence with Kuwait’s Educational Department, its president Shaykh ‘Abdallāh al-Jābir visited Cairo. Al-Muṭawwa, al-Ibrāhīmī, and al-Wartilānī were prominent among those who received and entertained him.70 This interaction, along with others facilitated by al-Muṭawwa, no doubt allowed the AAMU to strengthen its ties to Kuwait’s educational authorities.71

  • 72 Al‑Baṣā’ir (5/6/1953), p. 8; (22/5/1953), p. 8; (10/5/1953), p. 5; al‑Imān (5/1953), p. 361; al‑Rā (...)
  • 73 Al‑Zumai, 1988, p. 86.
  • 74 Al‑Bi‘tha (2/1954), p. 131; al‑Imān (1/1954), p. 166–167; al‑Baṣā’ir (22/1/1954), p. 1; (10/7/1953 (...)

27In May 1953, al-Ibrāhīmī visited Kuwait as a guest of the government. He travelled via Baghdad, where al-Muṭawwa hosted him at a house that he owned. In Kuwait, al-Ibrāhīmī held talks with the Educational Department, and also spoke about Algeria at several venues. These included both the Islamic Guidance Society and the MAN-dominated al-Ahlī Sports Club,72 demonstrating the AAMU’s cross-ideological appeal at a time when the Islamist-nationalist divide in Kuwait was not overly pronounced.73 Further visits by AAMU leaders to Kuwait would follow, during which they not only checked on their students, but also fundraised and lectured on the Algerian cause.74

  • 75 See for example: al‑Baṣā’ir (5/11/1954), p. 4; (22/10/1954), p. 5.
  • 76 Alkandari, 2014, p. 77–78; al‑Muṭawwa‘, 2013, n.p.; al‑Fajr (10/3/1958), p. 7.
  • 77 Al‑Zumai, 1988, p. 89–90.

28The AAMU, with its ties to Kuwait’s Muslim Brotherhood, reveals an Islamist dimension to the networks that forged the Arab Scholarship program, yet this dimension soon became subsumed within a Nasserist framework. As relations between the Brotherhood and the Egyptian government broke down in 1954, the AAMU distanced itself from the former and courted the latter.75 This allowed it to continue functioning in Cairo, and probably facilitated its dealings with Kuwait’s increasingly Nasserist Educational Department. Al-Muṭawwa’ also resigned as head of Kuwait’s Brotherhood in late 1953 after clashing with militant members over their position towards Abdel Nasser. He continued to reside primarily in Egypt and to maintain cordial ties with the authorities.76 In the following years, the Brotherhood declined dramatically in Kuwait in the face of the rising Nasserist tide,77 hindering further Islamist influence over the Arab Scholarships.

  • 78 Al‑Ruwaysī, 1995, p. 19, 63–65, 142–144; Ṣaḥīfat al‑Mu’tamar [‘Newspaper of the Conference’] (23/1 (...)

29Not long after the AAMU obtained Kuwaiti scholarships, a second North African organization followed suit. The Tunisian Yūsuf al-Ruwaysī, head of the Damascus-based Maktab al-Maghrib al-‘Arabī (Office of the Arab Maghreb [OAM]), visited Kuwait in April 1953. Formerly a leader of the Neo Destour Party, al-Ruwaysī collaborated with the Axis powers during the Second World War with the goal of liberating the Maghreb from colonial rule. He subsequently settled in Syria. A committed Arab nationalist, he established the OAM with the goal of deepening ties between Maghreb and Mashriq. The organization distributed information and solicited assistance on behalf of independence movements in North African countries, and also obtained scholarships for students from these states. It was active not only in Syria but also in surrounding states.78

  • 79 Al‑Ruwaysī, 1995, p. 272.
  • 80 Al‑Imān (4/1953), p. 286; al‑Rā’id (4/1953), p. 99.
  • 81 MEC: S62, 16/4/1953.
  • 82 Al‑Imān (4/1953), p. 287.
  • 83 ḥusayn, 1986, p. 24; MEC: S22, 10/10/1955.

30Al-Ruwaysī’s ties to Kuwait apparently predated his visit; a photograph in his memoirs shows him sitting next to ‘Abd al-‘Azīz Ḥusayn at an Arab-League-sponsored conference in Damascus in 1952.79 Ḥusayn’s growing Arab nationalist sympathies probably motivated him to assist the OAM. While in Kuwait, al-Ruwaysī lectured on the Maghreb’s anti-colonial struggles at several clubs,80 and obtained £1000 from the Educational Council in support of his organization.81 That same month, the Kuwaiti press reported that the Educational Department would welcome scholarship students from Morocco and Tunisia.82 Only al-Ruwaysī could have organized these scholarships, the first of many that he secured for pupils from these states.83

  • 84 Al‑Imān (3/1954), p.342; (2/1954), p.268; MEC: S12, 13/3/1955.
  • 85 Al‑Imān (4/1954), p. 521; (9/1953), p. 442; (4/1953), p. 230, 244; al‑Rā’id (5/1953), p. 127.
  • 86 Al‑Khaṭīb, 2007, p. 133–134.

31Over the coming years al-Ruwaysī visited Kuwait periodically to lecture and fundraise, obtaining further donations from the Educational Council and even the Kuwaiti ruler.84 He also supplied the local press with articles and news on the Maghreb.85 In addition to the Educational Department, al-Ruwaysī developed close ties to MAN-operated institutions, including the al-Ahlī Sports Club, al-Nādī al-Thaqāfī al-Qawmī (National Cultural Club), and the latter’s magazine al-Imān (‘The Faith’). The MAN leader Aḥmad al-Khaṭīb recalls that due to al-Ruwaysī’s influence, the MAN-controlled Committee of Kuwaiti Clubs organized a major fundraising campaign in 1955 in support of the popular uprising then underway in Morocco.86 As with the AAMU, the OAM thus established its relationship with Kuwait primarily on the basis of scholarships, but then built upon this foundation to engage in other forms of activity.

  • 87 Al‑Bi‘tha (11–12/1953), p. 610; al‑Rā’id (11/1953), p. 415–416.

32With the acceptance of students from the Gulf and the Maghreb, the Educational Department’s scholarship program for Arab students came into effect in the fall of 1953. Fifteen Algerian and five Moroccan students enrolled at the new Shuwaykh Secondary School, residing in its boarding facility. The Tunisian students mentioned in earlier reports apparently arrived late or did not arrive that term. A further ten primary school students from the Trucial States moved into a specially constructed dormitory, called Bayt al-Khalīj al-‘Arabī (Arabian Gulf House).87 This name clearly echoed the Educational Department’s Bayt al-Kuwayt in Cairo, indicating the extent to which the department drew on its experience with Egypt to construct its own program of educational assistance.

The Development of Kuwait’s Arab Scholarship Program, 1953–1961

Structure and Scope

  • 88 The decision only mentions the secondary level and it is unclear if it was applied to the primary (...)
  • 89 Al‑Taqrīr al‑Sanawī, 1961–1962, p. 158.
  • 90 MEC: S39, 10/10/1956; S31, 19/2/1956; S25, 16/11/1955.

33In the years after 1953, the structure of Kuwait’s Arab Scholarship program crystallized. In September 1954, the Educational Department began to formalize its procedures for scholarship applications, decreeing that it would only accept them from official bodies.88 A later educational report clarifies this provision, stating that applications are only accepted from governments and ‘jamīyyāt (associations) described as ‘recognized’ and ‘waanīyya (national or patriotic).89 The inclusion of associations allowed the department to continue dealing with anti-colonial groups. It is unclear how the department decided if such groups were ‘recognized’. Some, such as the AAMU and OAM, were licensed by the states in which they operated. Others, notably the Omani Union (to be discussed below), were opposition groups that apparently lacked any official status. What is clear, however, is that all of these groups were anti-colonial and tended towards Arab nationalism. Following the introduction of these procedures in 1954, scholarship requests from individuals (e.g. merchants) were rejected.90

  • 91 Al‑Taqrīr al‑Sanawī, 1960–1961, p. 158; al‑Taqrīr al‑Sanawī, 1956–1957, p. 145–146.
  • 92 Al‑Taqrīr al‑Sanawī, 1956–1957, p. 61.
  • 93 Ibid., p. 124; No statistics exist for Dubai from 1956–1957, but those from 1958–1959 show that th (...)
  • 94 Al‑Taqrīr al‑Sanawī, 1961–1962, p. 158–159; al‑Taqrīr Al‑Sanawī, 1960–1961, p. 158–159; al‑Taqrīr (...)

34A second development in the scholarship program’s structure was that from the academic year 1956–1957, scholarships were only provided from the intermediate level. Applicants were expected to have primary level certification.91 During that year, the intermediate level was first incorporated into Kuwait’s educational ladder, which was previously divided into only two levels: primary and secondary.92 The ending of scholarships on the primary level may have been tied to the development of the Kuwaiti-sponsored schools in the Trucial States. By 1956–1957, the schools of Sharjah, Ra’s al-Khaimah, and Dubai were providing primary level certification, but had yet to complete the intermediate level.93 This meant that Trucial States students could finish their primary education at home, but still needed to complete the intermediate level in Kuwait. Throughout the period under study, the vast majority of intermediate scholarship students hailed from the Arabian Peninsula, while those from the Maghreb were confined to the secondary level. Scholarships were also provided to Kuwait’s technical school and religious academy.94

  • 95 Ibid.
  • 96 Al‑Taqrīr al‑Sanawī, 1960–1961, p. 158.

35A third development in the scholarship program was the widening of its scope to include more states, albeit within the strict confines of the Arab world. The program came to be called ‘the Arab Scholarships’, and the Educational Department’s literature emphasizes that the scholarships are directed towards Kuwait’s ‘Arab sister states’ and ‘other parts of the Arab homeland’.95 A second criterion for the distribution of scholarships was deprivation. The department’s report for 1960–1961 specifies that scholarships are extended ‘to Arab countries needing cultural and/or material assistance. The department thus accepts students from states in which education is limited or non-existent’.96

  • 97 ḥusayn, 1986, p. 24.
  • 98 It is unclear whether these groups’ Islamist orientation influenced this decision; MEC: S26, 4/12/ (...)

36Kuwait’s educational authorities also may have conceived of the scholarships as a way of helping states waging anti-colonial struggles, a motivation that would have been difficult to declare openly while Kuwait was under British protection. This is suggested by a later statement by ‘Abd al-‘Azīz Ḥusayn: ‘Throughout the 1950s, the Educational Department hosted many students who came to it secretly from Arab countries still toiling under the heavy yoke of Western colonialism, or waging patriotic revolutions for the sake of independence.’97 The Educational Department apparently resisted extending its scholarships to Arab countries that were not colonized and materially or educationally disadvantaged. For instance, in 1955 the Educational Council refused a joint scholarship request from two Lebanese Islamist groups: Jam‘īyyat ‘Ubbād al-Ramān (The Worshipers of the Merciful Society) and izb al-Hay’a al-Waanīyya (Party of the Patriotic Committee).98

  • 99 This table relies on the Educational Department’s annual reports (see footnote 94) and preserves t (...)

Table 1: Scholarships by State and Region99

Table 1: Scholarships by State and Region99
  • 100 Detailed statistics could not be located for 1953–1954 and 1954–1955.

37Table 1 details the distribution of the Arab Scholarships across states and regions beginning from the academic year 1955–1956.100 The lion’s share of scholarships went to three regions: the Maghreb, the Arabian Gulf, and Southern Arabia. Within these regions, Algeria, the Trucial States, Oman, and the Aden Protectorate were by far the best represented. All states that received scholarships were afflicted with under-development and/or colonial repression, and many were experiencing anti-colonial struggles, namely: Algeria, Tunisia, Oman, the Aden Protectorate, and Palestine.

38It is not always clear from the available sources precisely when scholarships to particular states began, and what entity, whether state or group, requested them. The Educational Council’s minutes omit a great deal of information in this regard, and sometimes fail to mention scholarships reported in other sources. Little to nothing is known of the circumstances behind the scholarships provided to Bahrain, Dhofar, North Yemen, Palestine/Jordan, and Saudis from the Neutral Zone between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Table 2 provides a summary of the entities known to have requested scholarships.

Table 2: Entities Receiving Scholarships

Table 2: Entities Receiving Scholarships

Geographical Expansion

  • 101 MEC: S76, 1/12/1953.
  • 102 Freitag, 2003, p. 496–497.
  • 103 The first request for scholarships from the SAL occurs in the Educational Council’s minutes in 195 (...)

39The Arab Scholarships began to branch out from the Gulf and the Maghreb early on, apparently beginning with the Aden Protectorate, the federation of British-protected monarchies that would later become South Yemen. In 1953, the Educational Council received a letter from a group in Cairo called al-Rābia al-‘Arabīyya (the Arab Association), requesting scholarships for students from the Eastern region of Ḥaḍramaut to study in Egypt. The council responded that it would not sponsor the students’ study in Egypt, but would accept them in Kuwait.101 No information could be found on this group, and it is possible that its name is a corruption of Rābiat al-Janūb al-‘Arabī (the South Arabian League [SAL]). This Arab nationalist anti-colonial group was based in Aden, but also had strong ties to Ḥaḍramaut.102 The SAL did receive Kuwaiti scholarships, but it is not clear when this began.103

  • 104 See footnote 94. The Educational Department’s statistics do not differentiate between the various (...)
  • 105 MEC: S34, 3/6/1956; S15, 12/6/1955.
  • 106 Rabi, 2015, n.p.
  • 107 Freitag, 2003, p. 295, 444–449, 496–497.
  • 108 The Educational Council’s minutes reveal that it refused applications from the SBA in 1955 and 196 (...)

40Until 1959–1960, scholarships were only provided to the territories of Ḥaḍramaut and Laḥj within the Aden Protectorate, but then expanded to include Aden, the ‘Awlaqī states, Ḍāli‘, and the Mahra. The former two territories continued to receive the highest proportion of scholarships, however.104 Alongside the aforementioned groups, the Educational Department granted scholarships to governments within the protectorate, including the Sultanate of Laḥj and the Kathīrī Sultanate in Ḥaḍramaut.105 It is probably no coincidence that the former government was known for its Arab nationalist tendencies and had close relations with the SAL.106 A cultural and charitable organization in Ḥaḍramaut, Jam‘īyyat al-Ukhūwwa wa-l-Mu‘āwana (the Society of Brotherhood and Assistance [SBA]), also requested Kuwaiti scholarships, apparently for graduates of a primary school that it operated. The society had political tendencies and ties to the SAL.107 Although SBA students received scholarships, at least some of them were obtained through the intercession of the Kathīrī Sultanate, and it is unclear if the society ever dealt directly with the Educational Department.108

  • 109 MEC: S77, 12/12/1953.
  • 110 MEC: S1, 11/9/1954.
  • 111 MEC: S22, 10/10/1955.

41As the decade progressed, Kuwait’s Arab Scholarships also began to include students from East Africa. In 1953, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood requested that the Educational Department accept students from Somalia. The Educational Council’s minutes indicate that it refused the request but do not provide a reason.109 In 1954, there arrived a second request to grant scholarships to Somali students, this time from the Arab League. The council again declined, explaining that it was focusing on educating students from the Gulf.110 The Arab League submitted yet another request the following year on behalf of students from ‘Somalia and Arab countries not represented in the Arab League’. This time, the council decided to study the matter further.111

  • 112 Al‑Taqrīr al‑Sanawī, 1958–1959, p. 189.
  • 113 Al‑Taqrīr al‑Sanawī, 1959–1960, p. 310.

42Though the council’s minutes do not reveal its final decision, the Educational Department’s annual report for 1958–1959 lists seven Somali scholarship students for the first time.112 They were probably accepted the previous year but placed under the category ‘other’ in the department’s report. The Arab League’s apparent involvement in obtaining these scholarships sets them apart from those granted to governments and associations. The department’s report for 1959–1960 also lists one scholarship student from Zanzibar.113 The Arab League also may have facilitated this student’s placement given its reference to ‘Arab countries not represented in the Arab League’ apart from Somalia.

  • 114 Al‑Taqrīr al‑Sanawī, 1961–1962, p. 158–159.
  • 115 Al‑Wartilānī, 2009, p. 195.

43The range of states covered by the Arab Scholarships thus expanded rapidly, as did the number of students, which rose from around thirty in 1953–1954 to 200 in 1961–1962.114 In 1954, the AAMU reported that of its sixty scholarship students in the Mashriq, twenty were in Egypt, fifteen in Iraq, fifteen in Kuwait, and ten in Syria.115 Kuwait’s share of students was thus remarkably high at the time given its small size, recent educational development, and situation at the periphery of the Arab world. The country’s oil wealth explains its ability to provide these scholarships, but it is also necessary to account for their broad appeal.

The Appeal of Kuwait’s Scholarships

  • 116 Al‑Bi‘tha (6/1953), p. 359; al‑Rā’id (10/1952), p. 88; al‑Miqdādī, 1952, p. 60.
  • 117 Al‑Ṣaqrī, 2017, p. 265, 270; Nūr, 2011, p. 51, 136; Abdullah, 1978, p. 147.
  • 118 Nūr, 2011, p. 48–50.

44Four main factors explain the popularity of Kuwait’s Arab Scholarships with governments, associations, and students across the region. First, by the time the program began, Kuwait had obtained recognition of its secondary school certificate from the Egyptian and Iraqi governments, and the American University of Beirut.116 Graduates could thus easily pursue university study in the region’s educational centers. Scholarship students from the Trucial States, Oman, and Algeria who graduated in the 1950s and early 1960s are known to have gone on to study at universities in Egypt, Syria, and even the US.117 Regional recognition of graduates’ degrees also probably facilitated their employment. One former Algerian scholarship student who studied in Kuwait in the late 1950s recalls that Shuwaykh Secondary School was highly regarded regionally, and Algerians who graduated from it were expected to occupy prominent positions.118

  • 119 Al‑Taqrīr al‑Sanawī, 1960–1961, p. 158; al‑Taqrīr al‑Sanawī, 1956–1957, p. 145.
  • 120 Al‑Madanī, 1982, p. 478–479; MEC: S15, 12/6/1955; S16, 3/5/1955; al‑Baṣā’ir (8/10/1954), p. 4.
  • 121 Al‑Ibrāhīmī, 1997, Vol. 5, p. 159.

45The second factor that made the scholarships attractive was the generous benefits provided to students. Like their Kuwaiti classmates, they received free meals, uniforms, and books. As scholarship students, their accommodation and pocket money were also covered, and they could travel to their home countries every summer at the department’s expense.119 The department provided funds for Maghrebi students to summer in Damascus, where the Algerian pupils met with visiting AAMU officials, and their Tunisian and Moroccan classmates were presumably cared for by the OAM.120 In mid-1955, al-Ibrāhīmī assessed the quality of the provisions afforded to AAMU scholarship students in the various Arab countries. He ranked Kuwait second, below Saudi Arabia and above Iraq, and complained that the Egyptian and Syrian governments did not adequately provide for scholarship students.121

  • 122 Qabbānī and ‘Aqrāwī, 1955, p. 100–101.
  • 123 Al‑Rashoud, 2016, p. 272–274.
  • 124 Ibid., p. 269.

46The strongly Arab-Islamic character of Kuwait’s curriculum provided a third factor that no doubt attracted the various Arab nationalist and Islamist associations that requested scholarships. In 1955, the Educational Department appointed two Arab experts with nationalist leanings to make recommendations for the development of Kuwaiti education. Their report praised the fact that Arabic language and Islamic studies were given more weight in Kuwait than in Egypt, and recommended that this emphasis on ‘subjects favorable to the national spirit’ continue.122 This report formed the basis of Kuwait’s first national curriculum for the primary and intermediate levels, which, as stated earlier, adopted the fostering of Arab national awareness as a primary goal. While Kuwait maintained the Egyptian curriculum at the secondary level, modifications were apparently made to strengthen the inculcation of Arab nationalist ideology.123 By comparison, Egypt’s curriculum did not take on an explicitly Arab nationalist orientation until after the United Arab Republic was formed in 1958.124

  • 125 Al‑Wartilānī, 2009, p. 97; Ruedy, 2005, p. 102–105; Perkins, 2004, p. 62–68; al‑Ibrāhīmī, 1997, Vo (...)
  • 126 Abū al‑Jubayn, 2002, p. 163.
  • 127 Al‑Ibrāhīmī, 1997, Vol. 4, p. 244.

47The Kuwaiti curriculum’s focus on Arabic and Islamic studies would have been particularly attractive to students from the Maghreb, where modern education for indigenes was not only generally limited but also often Gallicized. This was particularly the case in Algeria, where the colonial authorities severely restricted Arabic-language schools.125 At the same time, Kuwait’s Educational Department accommodated Maghrebi students by teaching them French as a second language instead of English.126 In addition to the curriculum, the student body’s diversity also reinforced the Pan-Arab character of Kuwaiti education. Al-Ibrāhīmī praised this aspect, stating that through Kuwait’s Arab Scholarships, ‘cousins from the far Maghreb to the far Mashriq meet on the basis of knowledge and brotherhood, and their thoughts – separated by geographical distance and colonial machinations – can converge’.127

  • 128 Takriti, 2016,p.  49–60; Brand, 1991, p. 26, 107–111, 122–124; Al‑Mdairis, 1987, p. 312–316.

48The final factor that made Kuwait an appealing destination for Arab scholarship students, particularly those sent by anti-colonial groups, was its status as a regional hub for activism. This was made possible by the country’s wealth, large and diverse migrant population, relative political openness, and the Arab nationalist tendencies within both state and society. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, these factors allowed Kuwait to become the birthplace of such movements as Fatah and the Dhofari revolutionaries.128 As the AAMU and OAM illustrate, Kuwait provided an arena in which political groups could spread their messages, fundraise, and connect with activists and benefactors, both from Kuwait and the wider region.

  • 129 Al‑Imān (1/1954), p. 100.
  • 130 Political Diaries, Vol. 20,p p. 251–254.
  • 131 Al‑Fajr (4/11/1958), p. 6.

49The existence of scholarship students in Kuwait allowed the leaders of these groups to visit Kuwait periodically and strengthen their ties with various actors in the country. At times, the scholarship students themselves served as ambassadors of their countries’ political causes. For example, in 1954, a Moroccan scholarship student published an article detailing his country’s struggle against French colonialism in the MAN’s al-Imān.129 A more striking example occurred in October 1956, when Kuwait’s Arab nationalist clubs joined the Educational Department in holding a public meeting in support of the Algerian Revolution at the Shuwaykh Secondary School. Among the event’s speakers were two Algerian scholarship students who attacked France and appealed for Arab support. The meeting concluded ‘with the Algerian National Anthem sung by sixteen Algerian students in Boy Scouts’ Uniform’.130 Algerian students again sang revolutionary anthems at a similar event hosted by the Teachers’ Club in 1958.131

  • 132 Al‑Fajr (16/12/1958), p. 10.
  • 133 Nūr, 2011, p. 49–50, 63, 96.

50In October 1958, the Committee of Algerian Students in Kuwait was formed. According to a statement it published in the MAN organ al-Fajr (‘The Dawn’), its goals included spreading awareness of the Algerian cause and ‘contacting all cultural organizations in Kuwait and cooperating with them on the basis of nationalist goals’.132 The committee was tied to the broader Algerian student movement in the Mashriq, centered on Cairo, and Algeria’s National Liberation Front.133 The latter organization was then strengthening its presence in Kuwait, relying primarily on Algerian students and graduates as shall be seen below.

Networks, Activism, and the Arab Scholarships: The Cases of the FLN and OU

51The close relationship between Kuwait’s status as a provider of scholarships and a regional activist hub is apparent in the example of two groups: the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN), and al-Ittiād al-‘Umānī (the Omani Union [OU]). Both relied on pre-existing Pan-Arab networks to facilitate their ties to Kuwait’s Educational Department, and capitalized on the presence of their scholarship students in Kuwait to branch out into other activity. They expanded and strengthened their networks in Kuwait and beyond, using the country as a regional base for organization and outreach. Their cadres found employment within Kuwaiti state institutions, and engaged in a range of activities including media advocacy, fundraising, and various cultural and educational pursuits.

The National Liberation Front

  • 134 Tachau, 1994, p. 5.
  • 135 Reudy, 2005, p. 156–160.
  • 136 Al‑Madanī, 1982, p. 286–287, 344, 441–442.
  • 137 Ibid., p. 19–26, 46, 62.
  • 138 Ibid., p. 463–466.

52In 1956, Algeria’s colonial administration dissolved the AAMU,134 leaving its scholarship students abroad unsupervised by any Algerian body. The FLN, formed shortly before the start of the Algerian Revolution in November 1954,135 gradually stepped into the AAMU’s shoes. In March 1957, the FLN’s Cairo office appointed a cultural attaché, who took charge of all Algerian scholarships in the Mashriq several months later. This was Aḥmad Tawfīq al-Madanī, 136 a former AAMU official who joined the FLN and fostered ties between the two groups.137 Al-Madanī’s AAMU background no doubt allowed the FLN to tap more easily into the defunct association’s extensive network in the Mashriq. In 1958, he became the first Education Minister in the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic, a government in exile proclaimed by the FLN.138

  • 139 Nūr, 2008, p. 27.
  • 140 Zarrūq, 2015, p. 46–47, 56.

53While the Algerian students in the Mashriq benefitted from the FLN’s oversight, the latter also apparently derived great political advantage from the students. This is clear in the narrative of ‘Abd al-Qādir Nūr, who as an Algerian student in Cairo in the mid-1950s was tasked by the FLN with organizing his peers. He states: ‘the FLN was at first not well known in the Mashriq, and it did not become known until after the Algerian students in Egyptian and Arab schools and universities collectively joined it’.139 Mūsāwī Zarrūq, a former AAMU scholarship student in Iraq who subsequently became a teacher, illustrates this well. He recalls that the FLN representative in Baghdad could not speak fuṣḥa Arabic well, and had no knowledge of the complexities of Iraqi society. The representative therefore appointed him as his assistant, relying on him to deliver speeches and raise awareness of the revolution among Iraqis.140 Longstanding Algerian scholarship students in the Mashriq thus had the cultural capital and networks that the nascent FLN lacked.

  • 141 Al‑Madanī, 1982, p. 184–185; Political Diaries, Vol. 20, p. 138.

54In Kuwait, the FLN’s assumption of control over the Algerian scholarship students apparently facilitated its dealings with the government. The FLN’s first visit to the country occurred in the summer of 1956, before it took on its educational role. Al-Madanī recalls it being unsuccessful: ‘The time was not yet ripe for Kuwait. We could not do anything there.’141 The reasons behind this failure are unclear, though it is noteworthy that the visit occurred before the Suez Crisis, which greatly intensified Arab nationalist feeling in Kuwait.

  • 142 Zarrūq, 2015,p p. 46–47.
  • 143 Sa, 2017, n.p.
  • 144 Al‑Mdairis, 1987, p. 152–153.

55The FLN subsequently appears to have strengthened its ties to Kuwait through the educational field. Zarrūq recalls that the Front sent seven of his fellow AAMU alumni who graduated from Iraqi schools to work in Kuwait as teachers in the fall of 1956.142 In 1957, ‘Uthmān Sa‘dī, an FLN cadre and former scholarship student who had recently graduated from Cairo University, also became a teacher in Kuwait. It is highly probable that the AAMU had arranged his scholarship in Egypt, as the group was the main provider of such scholarships before its dissolution. Sa‘dī narrates that an unnamed Kuwaiti friend offered him the teaching position with the understanding that he would promote the Algerian cause in Kuwait.143 This could have been a member of the MAN-affiliated Kuwaiti student movement in Egypt.144

  • 145 Sa, 2017, n.p.; al‑Saddā, 2012, p. 21; al‑Madanī, 1982, p. 359.
  • 146 FO/371/14008: Internal Situation in Kuwait, Riches, 6/2/1959; KOC/106961: GM to MD, 11/5/1957.
  • 147 FO/371/162937: Richmond to Earl of Home, 5/1/1962; FO/371/148912: Richmond to Earl of Home, 18/10/ (...)
  • 148 Sa, 2017, n.p.; Ṣaḥīfat al‑Mu’tamar (24/12/1958), p. 3.

56Once in Kuwait, Sa‘dī helped found the Algeria Committee, which held regular fundraising drives on behalf of the Algerian Revolution. It was established primarily by the MAN, and had the young Shaykh Ṣabāḥ al-Aḥmad al-Ṣabāḥ as its honorary president.145 Regarded by the British as having Nasserist sympathies, Shaykh Ṣabāḥ headed the departments of Social Affairs and of Press and Publishing,146 offshoots of the Educational Department that shared its progressive orientation.147 Following its establishment in 1958, the ‘Algerian Republic’ proclaimed Sa‘dī as its official representative in Kuwait, a function he fulfilled alongside working as a teacher.148 The FLN’s representation in the country thus remained closely tied to the educational field.

  • 149 Al‑Madanī, 1982, p. 358–359, 479, 491; Al‑Madanī does not mention discussing scholarships in his s (...)
  • 150 Ibid., p. 426–427, 478–479, 491.

57After becoming the FLN’s cultural attaché in Cairo, al-Madanī again visited Kuwait in late 1957, meeting with the ruler and the Algeria Committee and also apparently discussing the issue of scholarships. He states that this was a turning point after which ties between the FLN and Kuwait strengthened greatly.149 This appears to have been primarily due to the Algeria Committee’s establishment and the intensification of nationalist activism in Kuwait after 1956. However, that the FLN now supervised Algerian scholarship students and had representation in the country also probably played a central role. After becoming the ‘Algerian Republic’s Education Minister’, al-Madanī visited Kuwait again in April 1959 and secured the acceptance of 40 Algerian students to the Arab Scholarship Program.150

  • 151 Al‑Fajr (23/9/1958), p. 1.
  • 152 Al‑Fajr (4/11/1958), p. 6.
  • 153 The segment first appeared in the following issue: al‑Sha‘b (27/2/1958), p. 3.
  • 154 Nūr, 2008, p. 52.
  • 155 Al‑Muwaẓẓaf (6/1962), p. 3; (2/1962), p. 50; (11/1961), p. 21.

58The FLN by no means confined itself to educational activities in Kuwait, expanding into other areas in cooperation with both state institutions and societal groups. The activities of its representative Sa‘dī illustrate the various fronts on which the group operated. Chief among them was his work with the Algeria Committee, which in 1958 raised around USD 2 million in donations for the FLN.151 Sa‘dī also spread awareness of the Algerian cause by speaking at public meetings152 and via the media. In early 1958, he started overseeing a regular ‘Algeria Corner’ in the independent Arab nationalist weekly al-Sha‘b (‘The People’).153 That same year, he also began supervising a weekly, three-hour segment dedicated to Algeria on Kuwait state radio, which spread the FLN’s message throughout the Gulf.154 Furthermore, as editorial secretary of al-Muwaẓẓaf (‘The Civil Servant’) between 1961 and 1962, Sa‘dī inserted articles on Algeria into the magazine, which was published by Kuwait’s Civil Service Commission.155

  • 156 Mu’tamar al‑Udabā’, 1958, p. 222–257, 519–520.
  • 157 Ibid.,p p. 539, 541, 545, 557.
  • 158 Ibid.,p p. 654, 659–660.

59Besides his media presence, Sa‘dī also headed the delegation of the ‘Algerian Republic’ at Mu’tamar al-Udabā’ al-‘Arab (the Arab Writers’ Conference), an annual regional conference held in Kuwait in December 1958. He helped make the event a platform for the Algerian cause through his speeches,156 and probably influenced resolutions condemning French policy in Algeria and recommending that Arab states open their schools to Algerian students.157 The Educational Department, which presided over the conference, invited other groups close to it to participate in the event. These were the SAL (representing South Arabia), OU (representing Muscat and Oman), and OAM (al-Ruwaysī was specially invited to represent Tunisia alongside the official delegation).158

60This close and multifaceted cooperation between Kuwait and the FLN was built upon pre-existing networks forged initially by the AAMU around Kuwait’s Arab Scholarship program. These networks were subsequently developed by former Algerian scholarship students who possessed the necessary cultural capital and ties to local political actors. The FLN’s assumption of control over Algerian scholarship students in Kuwait also provided an official avenue through which it could engage with the Kuwaiti government. Moreover, these students continued to support the Front by advocating on behalf of the Algerian cause.

The Omani Union

  • 159 Darwīsh, 1990,p p. 14–16, 20–27.
  • 160 Ibid., p. 8, 52, 68–71.

61Kuwait’s Arab Scholarships had an even greater influence on the fortunes of a second anti-colonial group, the Omani Union (OU), leading it to adopt Kuwait as a primary center of operation. In early 1952, a group of educated Omani émigrés founded this opposition party in Karachi. Initially, its main goals were to ‘spread patriotic awareness’ among the Omani diaspora, and obtain scholarships for Omani students in Arab countries. The latter goal appears to have been its main focus early on.159 As the decade progressed, the OU became aligned with the armed uprising of the Imamate of Oman against Sultan Sa‘īd b. Taymūr (1932–1970) and his British backers, which was supported by Egypt and Saudi Arabia. OU members became diplomatic representatives of the Imamate in Cairo and Damascus.160

  • 161 Ibid., p. 21; al‑ṣaqrī, 2017, p. 166–173, 198; Skeet, 1985, p. 199–200.
  • 162 E.g. Ṣawt ‘Umān (8/1962), p. 24; (9/1961), p. 16; (6/1961), p. 8, 12; (5/1961), p. 6, 13, 18; (3/1 (...)

62The OU’s focus on education stems from Oman’s peculiar plight under Sultan Sa‘īd b. Taymūr. Extremely parsimonious and wary of modern political influences, he refused to open more than two primary schools in the entire country, belatedly establishing a third in 1959. Moreover, he generally forbade his subjects from travelling abroad to study, preventing those who did so from securing jobs in Oman or returning to the country altogether.161 The OU’s mouthpiece awt ‘Umān – ‘Voice of Oman’ (1958–1964), published in Cairo, continually highlights the lack of modern education as central to Oman’s underdevelopment and subjugation to tyranny and colonialism. Furthermore, it considers educated Omanis to be the only group capable of liberating and reforming their country.162 For the OU, education was thus central to political struggle.

  • 163 Al‑Ṣaqrī, 2017, p. 171–172, 200–201; Skeet, 1985, p. 184, 199–201.
  • 164 MEC: S40, 25/11/1956.
  • 165 FO/371/126998: Chauncy to FO, 10/7/1957; Chauncy to PR, 2/4/1957; FO minute, M.H.N. 9/4; Burrows t (...)

63As stated earlier, the Sultan refused Kuwaiti educational assistance in 1953. There is evidence that his suspicion of Kuwait was largely due to the influence of modern political ideas and movements in the country.163 Strangely, the Sultan’s government did submit a request for Kuwaiti scholarships in late 1956, but nothing appears to have come of it.164 In April 1957, the Director of Education ‘Abd al-‘Azīz Ḥusayn proposed visiting Muscat, perhaps in connection with this request. However, he ultimately decided not to amid opposition from British officials. This was due to their perception of Ḥusayn as ‘almost wholly subject to Egyptian influence’, along with concerns over the politicization of students at the schools administered by Kuwait in the Trucial States.165

  • 166 MEC: S39, 10/10/1956; S25, 16/11/1955; S50, 28/10/1952; Sālim b. Ḥasan Makkī, personal interview w (...)
  • 167 There was apparently a degree of overlap between the efforts of al‑Zawāwī and the OU in requesting (...)

64Omani students could thus only obtain Kuwaiti scholarships through unofficial channels, such as the aforementioned Kuwaiti-Omani merchant al-Zawāwī. However, the Educational Department stopped accepting his scholarship requests in 1954 after deciding that only governments and ‘patriotic associations’ could apply.166 The OU, which the department apparently recognized as a ‘patriotic association’, provided an alternative channel.167 Ḥusayn Ḥaydar Darwīsh, a leader of the group, states that he first contacted Kuwait’s Educational Department regarding this matter in 1952. He recalls:

  • 168 Darwīsh, 1990, p. 22.

I knocked on many doors in numerous Arab states. Most of these states refused to accept [the students], while others stipulated that an official request had to be submitted on their behalf by the Omani government. Only Kuwait’s Educational Department understood our tragic situation and sympathized with us. It accepted my nomination of the students and considered it an official request without insisting on the Omani government’s approval.168

  • 169 Ibid., p. 24; The Educational Council’s minutes mention these students but do not identify the par (...)

65Darwīsh does not specify when the OU first received these scholarships. The first direct evidence of this is a telegram from ‘Abd al-‘Azīz Ḥusayn that appears in his book. Dated to 5/11/1955, it confirms the acceptance of five students.169

  • 170 On his OU membership see Darwīsh, 1990, p. 37.
  • 171 The start date for his study in Iraq is variously given as 1935, 1936, and 1939; al‑Ṣaqrī, 2017, p (...)
  • 172 Al‑Ṭā’ī, 2016a, p. 113.
  • 173 ‘Aṣla, 2008, p. 13; Milayjī, 1982, p. 269–271; MEC: S46, 14/12/1949; S16, 8/3/1949.

66The existence of longstanding Arab nationalist networks linking OU activists to Kuwaiti educators may explain the Educational Department’s openness to cooperating with the group. Chief among these activists was the Arab nationalist writer and poet ‘Abdallāh al-Ṭā’ī.170 As a youth, he received one of the few government scholarships during Sa‘īd b. Taymūr’s reign, and was sent to study in Baghdad sometime in the second half of the 1930s.171 There, he befriended Kuwaiti students influenced by the Arab nationalist activism then gripping Iraq, meeting with them at a Kuwaiti merchant’s home. Aḥmad al-Saqqāf, a student from Laḥj in the Aden Protectorate, also attended these gatherings and came to know al-Ṭā’ī.172 Al-Saqqāf went on to become a zealous Arab nationalist activist and poet, and in 1944 he moved to Kuwait to work as a teacher, integrating into Kuwaiti society and becoming a citizen.173

  • 174 Al‑Kindī, 2004, p. 31–32; al‑Shihāb, 1984, p. 452–456.
  • 175 Al‑Kuwayt [‘Kuwait’] (12/1950), p. 3.
  • 176 Al‑Kindī, 2004, p. 180; al‑Imān (6/1953), p. 378.

67Al-Ṭā’ī, meanwhile, was forced to leave Iraq for Bahrain in 1940 after the Omani authorities became concerned that their students were being politicized. In Manama, al-Ṭā’ī again studied with and befriended Kuwaiti students. He left Bahrain upon graduating but returned there to work in 1950.174 Around the same time, he began writing for the various magazines then emerging in nearby Kuwait. His earliest contribution encountered is an article on Arab nationalism published in 1950.175 The editor of one of these publications, al-Imān, was none other than his old friend al-Saqqāf. A book on al-Ṭā’ī contains a letter that he received from al-Saqqāf in May 1953. It discusses an article by al-Ṭā’ī that would be published in al-Imān, and a biographical article that the Omani writer was preparing on al-Saqqāf.176

  • 177 Al‑Imān (4/1953), p. 288; al‑Saddāḥ, 2012, p. 14–15.
  • 178 MEC: S1, 3/10/1950. ‘Uqāb was the brother of the MAN‑founder Aḥmad al‑Khaṭīb.
  • 179 Al‑Shihāb, 1984, p. 275, 285–286.
  • 180 Darwīsh, 1990, p. 23.
  • 181 Al‑Mdairis, 1987, p. 182.

68By that time, al-Saqqāf was a leader of Kuwait’s National Cultural Club, which published al-Imān.177 He was also among a group of Kuwaiti teachers appointed as headmasters in 1950. Since expatriate Arabs heavily dominated such positions at the time, al-Saqqāf’s standing within the Educational Department was prominent. His letter to al-Ṭā’ī proves that the two men were in contact around the time that the OU first requested Kuwaiti scholarships. Al-Ṭā’ī also knew another of the newly minted Kuwaiti headmasters, ‘Uqāb al-Khaṭīb,178 with whom he had studied in Bahrain.179 While there is no direct evidence that al-Ṭā’ī used his contacts to obtain Kuwaiti scholarships for the OU, he certainly was well placed to do so. A 1957 letter from the Director of Education to Ḥusayn Ḥaydar Darwīsh strongly suggests that Kuwaiti Arab nationalists were involved in securing scholarships for the OU. Announcing the acceptance of three Omani students to the scholarship program, it is copied to the Graduates’ Club,180 a key MAN front organization.181

  • 182 Darwīsh, 1990, p. 47.
  • 183 Sālim b. Ḥasan Makkī, interview.

69The OU also recruited members of the Omani diaspora in Kuwait, such as Ḥamdān ‘Abdallāh al-Sa‘īd, who moved to the country in 1952 and became a high-ranking official in the country’s postal administration. With the increase in Omani scholarship students in Kuwait, the OU’s leaders began relocating to the country, beginning with Muḥammad Amīn ‘Abdallāh who arrived from Karachi in 1953. Darwīsh explains ‘Abdallāh’s motivation: ‘The activities of the Omani students in Kuwait became prominent during this period… It was necessary for [him] to be close to the events and organize and guide these active elements’.182 Sālim b. Ḥasan Makkī, who studied on scholarship at Shuwaykh Secondary School between 1954 and 1958, recalls participating in the OU’s activities with other Omani students. These included writing for awt ‘Umān and acting as couriers.183

  • 184 Darwīsh, 1990, p. 47, 67.
  • 185 Al‑Fajr (7/10/1958), p. 12; (6/5/1958), p. 1; (15/4/1958), p. 7; (8/4/1958), p. 4; al‑Sha‘b (13/2/ (...)
  • 186 Al‑Fajr (23/12/1958), p. 5; (16/12/1958), p. 1; al‑Sha‘b (20/3/1958), p. 1; (13/2/1958), p. 4.
  • 187 Al‑Sha‘b (27/2/1958), p. 9; (9/1/1958), p. 1; (2/1/1958), p. 7.

70Until his departure to Cairo in 1956, Kuwait served as a base from which ‘Abdallāh oversaw the OU’s activities in the Gulf, and reached out to ‘progressive Arab states’ such as Egypt. He also ‘established extensive contacts among the muthaqqaf class and newspaper editors in Kuwait’.184 The effects of these contacts are apparent in the Kuwaiti press of the period. Both al-Fajr and al-Sha‘b published advertisements for awt ‘Umān.185 They also frequently featured news items on Oman, some of which they attributed to the Imamate’s offices in Cairo and Damascus where OU members worked.186 Al-Sha‘b, moreover, promoted the book Sulān wa-Isti‘mār (Sultan and Colonialism) by the OU activist and dissident ruling family member Fayṣal b. ‘Alī.187

  • 188 Darwīsh, 1990, p. 78–83; Al‑Mdairis, 1987, p. 309–311. On Sulaymān see Ṣawt ‘Umān (7/1958), p. 9.
  • 189 Mu’tamar al‑Udabā’, 1958, p. 659.
  • 190 FO/371/140260: DeCandole to Riches, 5/2/1959.

71The OU also cultivated ties with Kuwait’s Arab nationalist opposition. From 1956, the group represented Oman in the Office for the Liberation of the Arabian Gulf and Southern Peninsula. The Kuwaiti branch of the MAN spearheaded the founding of this Damascus-based organization that aimed to represent and coordinate the various progressive opposition groups in the region. The office had subcommittees in Cairo and Kuwait. Muḥammad Amīn ‘Abdallāh served on the former, while the newly graduated Omani scholarship student ‘Abdallāh Sulaymān served on the latter.188 In 1958, Muḥammad Amīn ‘Abdallāh briefly returned to Kuwait to attend the aforementioned Arab Writers’ Conference, representing ‘Muscat and Oman’ by special invitation in the absence of any participation by the Sultanate.189 It was probably the OU that circulated a report on the Oman question to attendees.190

  • 191 Ṣawt ‘Umān (1/1958), p. 7; Aḥmad b. ‘Abd al‑Nabī Makkī, personal interview with the author, Muscat (...)
  • 192 Al‑Kindī, 2004, p. 42–44.
  • 193 Al‑Ṭā’ī, 1983, p. 5.
  • 194 Al‑Kuwayt al‑Yawm (22/5/1960), p. 30; al‑Kindī, 2004, p. 29. Other OU activists based in Kuwait in (...)

72Following ‘Abdallāh’s departure for Cairo, Kuwait remained the main gathering point of OU leaders, as well as the subscription and distribution center for awt ‘Umān.191 In 1959, al-Ṭā’ī moved from Bahrain to Kuwait, where al-Saqqāf appointed him to work alongside him at the Department of Press and Publications.192 From 1960, al-Ṭā’ī hosted a program on Kuwait national radio in which he spoke on Gulf and Omani history and culture from an Arab nationalist perspective.193 Aḥmad al-Jamālī, one of the OU’s founders, began working for Kuwait’s Educational Department while still in Karachi, teaching at the Kuwaiti-run Arabic school there from 1957. When the department closed the school in mid-1960, al-Jamālī moved to Kuwait.194

  • 195 Jam‘īyyat al‑Janūb, n.d., n.p.
  • 196 Al‑Mdairis, 1987, p. 317–318; al‑Imān (2/1954), p. 269.

73In addition to media advocacy and political networking, the OU’s activists in Kuwait also worked to provide private scholarships to Omani students to supplement those provided by the Educational Department. In 1962, al-Ṭā’ī, al-Jamālī, and al-Sa‘īd participated in founding the Association of the South and Arabian Gulf, which sponsored students from the region to study in Kuwait.195 This officially recognized organization grew out of pre-existing, unlicensed sponsorship of students by the MAN in Kuwait.196 OU members may have also been involved in this earlier activity. Kuwait’s Arab Scholarships thus provided a vital point of access through which the OU established itself in the country and expanded and diversified its activities.

Conclusion

74Kuwait’s Arab Scholarship program testifies to the depth of the country’s connection to the wider Arab world, both in education and politics. It was the product of decades of Arab involvement in Kuwaiti education from the early 20th century. From 1936 until 1950, Kuwait was a recipient of Arab educational assistance, particularly from Egypt. In the early 1950s, it became a provider of such assistance by virtue of an oil boom, educational development, and a rising Arab nationalist current within the Educational Department. Presided over by Kuwaiti muthaqqafūn and Arab expatriates, the department enjoyed significant freedom in implementing its Pan-Arabist agenda due to the decentralization of the Kuwaiti state. This can be attributed to the weakness of British oversight and inter-ruling family divisions.

75Kuwait’s Arab Scholarship program emerged in conjunction with various activities forming a broader program of regional cultural diplomacy. These included the opening of schools abroad, financial assistance to Arab civil society organizations, and participation in regional conferences. Appeals for educational assistance from the Trucial States were the primary catalyst behind the scholarship program’s emergence. It was not long, however, before scholarship requests arrived from Maghrebi groups connected to Kuwaitis by pre-existing interpersonal and political networks. The AAMU was closely tied to Kuwait’s Muslim Brotherhood, while al-Ruwaysī of the OAM was connected with the Director of Education. The Arab Scholarships were inaugurated in the fall of 1953 with students from the Trucial States, Algeria, Morocco, and possibly Tunisia.

76Between 1953 and 1961, the Arab Scholarship program developed on several fronts. Firstly, its structure and scope became formalized: it limited itself to underdeveloped and colonized Arab states, and welcomed requests from anti-colonial groups as well as governments. It also expanded beyond the Gulf and the Maghreb to encompass Southern Arabia, East Africa, and Palestine. South Yemeni anti-colonial groups, particularly the SAL, played a prominent role in securing scholarships. Regional recognition of Kuwaiti certificates, generous benefits, and the curriculum’s Arab-Islamic character fueled the scholarships’ popularity with an ever-expanding assemblage of Arab students. Also important in this regard was Kuwait’s promise as an arena for activism, where anti-colonial groups could capitalize on the presence of their educational missions to branch out into other activities.

77Two cases in particular illustrate both the centrality of Pan-Arab networks to the scholarship program, and the opportunities it afforded to Arab activists in Kuwait: the FLN and the OU. These groups built close relationships with Kuwait’s Educational Department through pre-existing political ties to Kuwaiti civil servants and activists. Once their scholarship students became established in the country, both organizations greatly strengthened their connections in Kuwait on both the official and popular levels, engaging in a wide range of activities including media advocacy, fundraising, and various cultural and educational pursuits.

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Notes

1 See for example: Ahmed, 2018; Tsourapas, 2016; Kalisman, 2015.

2 These are the unpublished Minutes of the Educational Council (henceforth MEC), and educational reports published in the 1950s and early 1960s.

3 Al‑Rashoud, 2016, p. 63–78.

4 IOR/R/15/5/195: de Gaury to PR, 23/4/1936; al‑Nūrī, n.d., p. 74–75.

5 Zahlan, 1981, p. 1–12; Crystal, 1990, p. 41–55; Al‑Rashoud, 2016, p. 100–136.

6 IOR/R/15/5/195: Secretariat, Jerusalem to PA, 30/10/1936.

7 IOR/R/15/1/545: PA to PR, 4/2/1939; IOR/R/15/5/195: PA to Fowle, 16/1/1939; PA to Fowle, 11/10/1938.

8 IOR/R/15/5/196: Wakelin’s Report, November 1942.

9 Porath, 1986, p. 179, 189, 196, 258.

10 IOR/R/15/5/197: Wakelin to Hilali Pasha, 22/11/1943; IOR/R/15/5/196: Wakelin to Highwood, 3/12/1943; Wakelin’s Report, November 1942.

11 Al‑Bi‘tha [‘The Mission’] (3/1950), p. 93; (12/1949), p. 290; (1/1949), p. 47. This magazine was compiled and republished by the Center for Research and Studies on Kuwait, and the page numbers cited are from these volumes as opposed to individual issues. The same applies to al‑Imān [‘The Faith’] and al‑Rā’id [‘The Pioneer’].

12 Al‑Bi‘tha (9/1947), p. 174.

13 Al‑Bi‘tha (12/1946), p. 4–5; IOR/R/15/5/198: Hussey to Hay, 29/7/1946.

14 Al‑Rashoud, 2016, p. 177.

15 Political Diaries, Vol. 18, p. 421.

16 Crystal, 1990, p. 64–65.

17 Al‑Taqrīr al‑Sanawī, 1961–1962, p. 17.

18 BW/114/6: Annual Report, 1957–1958.

19 Al‑Bi‘tha (9/1947), p. 170–173.

20 Al‑Rashoud, 2016, p. 217–218.

21 Al‑Imān (9/1953), p. 479; al‑Miqdādī, 1952, p. 21–22.

22 Al‑Rashoud, 2016, p. 65–74.

23 IOR/R/15/5/196: Vallance to Galloway, 1/10/1940; Al‑Shihāb, 1984, p. 146.

24 IOR/R/15/5/197: Wakelin to PR, 2/12/1943; on the nature of this curriculum see: Salmoni, 2005, p. 187–188; Gershoni and Jankowski, 1995, p. 17.

25 Al‑Rashoud, 2016,p p. 180–191.

26 FO 371/82151: Gethin to Hay, 11/4/1950; Al‑Ṣāli, 1968, p. 99–100.

27 Al‑Bi‘tha (8/1950), p. 228. For al‑Miqdādī’s background see: Choueiri, 2000, p. 33–55; Kahati, 1992, p. 145–235; Dawn, 1988.

28 Al‑Bi‘tha (12/1951), p. 395.

29 Al‑Rashoud, 2016, p. 221–224.

30 Ibid., p. 244–250, 253–257.

31 Al‑Bi‘tha (7/1949), p. 212; IOR/R/15/5/196: Ruler to Hickinbotham, 17/8/1943.

32 Al‑Rashoud, 2016, p. 198–199.

33 BW/114/7: Highwood to Jardine, 27/10/1953.

34 E.g.: FO/371/140082: Halford to Lloyd, 11/6/1959; FO/371/140081: Halford to Middleton, 11/2/1959; FO/371/126870: Leading Personalities, 1957; Al‑Rashoud, 2016, p. 156, 256.

35 BW/114/6: Annual Report, 1955–1956.

36 FO/371/98458: Keight to PR, 27/10/1952.

37 Al‑Rashoud, 2016, p. 264–274.

38 Ibid., p. 291–299.

39 Ibid., p. 227–236.

40 Al‑Mdairis, 1987, p. 150–167.

41 Ibid., p. 190; al‑Khaṭīb, 2007, p. 163.

42 Al‑Rashoud, 2016, p. 281–288.

43 Burrows, 1990, p. 30.

44 Smith, 1999, p. 4, 41–43, 98–99, 139; Crystal, 1990, p. 68–71.

45 Crystal, 1990, p. 59–65; Compare with the Saudi case as described in Hertog, 2011, p. 3–14.

46 Ibid., p. 68–71.

47 KOC/106845: Situation Notes, 25 March – 8 April, 1957; Situation Report, 25 January – 2 February, 1957; FO/371/114588: Bell to Fry, 15/8/1955; Political Diaries, Vol. 19, p. 617.

48 KOC/100485: Who’s Who.

49 FO/371/140081: Halford to Lloyd, 11/6/1959.

50 Al‑Rashoud, 2016, p. 326–332.

51 Al‑Taqrīr al‑Sanawī, 1961–1962, p. 160–170; al‑Taqrīr al‑Sanawī, 1960–1961,p p. 160–168.

52 E.g.: MEC: S8, 20/11/1954; S4, 9/10/1954; S80, 25/1/1954; S79, 11/1/1954; S76, 1/12/1953; S56, 20/1/1953; S37, 8/6/1952; S32, 6/5/1952; S12, 14/1/1952; S3, 28/11/1951.

53 E.g.: MEC: S34, 3/6/1956; S31, 19/2/1956; S14, 5/4/1955; S2, 19/4/1954; S49, 21/10/1952; S1, 3/10/1950; al‑Bi‘tha (10/1953), p. 503; (12/1952), p. 51.

54 Political Diaries, Vol. 20, p. 596, 730, 778.

55 Al‑Qāsimī, 2009, p. 89; Būrḥayma, 2001, p. 35; Political Diaries, Vol. 19, p. 172.

56 Al‑Qāsimī, 2009, p. 91.

57 Al‑Bi‘tha (5/1952), p. 202.

58 MEC: S46, 23/8/1952; on al‑Zawāwī see: al‑Shihāb, 1994, p. 242.

59 MEC: S62, 16/4/1953; Political Diaries, Vol. 19, p. 424.

60 Al‑Ṭā’ī, 2016b, p. 195; al‑Ṭā’ī, 1966, p. 4–5; See also: Ṣawt ‘Umān (5/1961), p. 13; al‑Khālidī, 1959, p. 24.

61 Al‑Rūmī, 1997, p. 221–222.

62 The minutes do not specify which emirates; MEC: S62, 16/4/1953.

63 MEC: S59, 24/2/1953.

64 Al‑Ibrāhīmī, 1997, Vol. 5, p. 148–160; Vol. 4, p. 161–180, 342–351.

65 MEC: S59, 24/2/1953; al‑Baṣā’ir (22/3/1953), p. 8.

66 Al‑Baṣā’ir [‘Insights’] (22/3/1953), p. 8; The AAMU’s organ describes al‑Muṭawwa‘ as the tilmīdh of al‑Ibrāhīmī. The latter moved to the Mashriq in March 1952, basing himself in Cairo but moving between various locations including Iraq and Mecca. Al‑Muṭawwa‘ could have engaged in religious study under al‑Ibrāhīmī in any of these places, as he also had business interests and a residence in Iraq, and may have encountered him in Mecca while on pilgrimage; al‑Ibrāhīmī, 1997, Vol. 5, p. 169.

67 Alkandari, 2014, p. 69, 73, 77; Al‑Zumai, 1988, p. 69–71.

68 Al‑Baṣā’ir (22/3/1953), p. 8; al‑Bi‘tha (3/1953), p. 98–99, 116; al‑Rūmī, 1997, 172.

69 Al‑Ibrāhīmī, 1997, Vol. 2, p. 26.

70 Al‑Baṣā’ir (29/5/1953), p. 1; (15/5/1953), p. 1; al‑Bi‘tha (4/1953), 225, 229.

71 For other examples see: al‑Baṣā’ir (25/6/1954), p. 8; (25/9/1953), p. 8.

72 Al‑Baṣā’ir (5/6/1953), p. 8; (22/5/1953), p. 8; (10/5/1953), p. 5; al‑Imān (5/1953), p. 361; al‑Rā’id (5/1953), p. 210.

73 Al‑Zumai, 1988, p. 86.

74 Al‑Bi‘tha (2/1954), p. 131; al‑Imān (1/1954), p. 166–167; al‑Baṣā’ir (22/1/1954), p. 1; (10/7/1953), p. 3.

75 See for example: al‑Baṣā’ir (5/11/1954), p. 4; (22/10/1954), p. 5.

76 Alkandari, 2014, p. 77–78; al‑Muṭawwa‘, 2013, n.p.; al‑Fajr (10/3/1958), p. 7.

77 Al‑Zumai, 1988, p. 89–90.

78 Al‑Ruwaysī, 1995, p. 19, 63–65, 142–144; Ṣaḥīfat al‑Mu’tamar [‘Newspaper of the Conference’] (23/12/1958), p. 3.

79 Al‑Ruwaysī, 1995, p. 272.

80 Al‑Imān (4/1953), p. 286; al‑Rā’id (4/1953), p. 99.

81 MEC: S62, 16/4/1953.

82 Al‑Imān (4/1953), p. 287.

83 ḥusayn, 1986, p. 24; MEC: S22, 10/10/1955.

84 Al‑Imān (3/1954), p.342; (2/1954), p.268; MEC: S12, 13/3/1955.

85 Al‑Imān (4/1954), p. 521; (9/1953), p. 442; (4/1953), p. 230, 244; al‑Rā’id (5/1953), p. 127.

86 Al‑Khaṭīb, 2007, p. 133–134.

87 Al‑Bi‘tha (11–12/1953), p. 610; al‑Rā’id (11/1953), p. 415–416.

88 The decision only mentions the secondary level and it is unclear if it was applied to the primary and intermediate levels at the same time or later; MEC: S2, 25/9/1954.

89 Al‑Taqrīr al‑Sanawī, 1961–1962, p. 158.

90 MEC: S39, 10/10/1956; S31, 19/2/1956; S25, 16/11/1955.

91 Al‑Taqrīr al‑Sanawī, 1960–1961, p. 158; al‑Taqrīr al‑Sanawī, 1956–1957, p. 145–146.

92 Al‑Taqrīr al‑Sanawī, 1956–1957, p. 61.

93 Ibid., p. 124; No statistics exist for Dubai from 1956–1957, but those from 1958–1959 show that there were already students in the third intermediate year; al‑Taqrīr al‑Sanawī, 1958–1959, p. 194.

94 Al‑Taqrīr al‑Sanawī, 1961–1962, p. 158–159; al‑Taqrīr Al‑Sanawī, 1960–1961, p. 158–159; al‑Taqrīr al‑Sanawī, 1959–1960, p. 310; al‑Taqrīr Al‑Sanawī, 1958–1959, p. 189; al‑Taqrīr Al‑Sanawī, 1957–1958, p. 171; al‑Taqrīr Al‑Sanawī, 1956–1957, p. 145–146; al‑Kuwayt wa‑Nahḍatuha, 1955–1956, p. 20.

95 Ibid.

96 Al‑Taqrīr al‑Sanawī, 1960–1961, p. 158.

97 ḥusayn, 1986, p. 24.

98 It is unclear whether these groups’ Islamist orientation influenced this decision; MEC: S26, 4/12/1955.

99 This table relies on the Educational Department’s annual reports (see footnote 94) and preserves their geographical categorization except for the states of the Aden Protectorate, which are here grouped together for convenience.

100 Detailed statistics could not be located for 1953–1954 and 1954–1955.

101 MEC: S76, 1/12/1953.

102 Freitag, 2003, p. 496–497.

103 The first request for scholarships from the SAL occurs in the Educational Council’s minutes in 1955, but the council’s decision is not indicated. The SAL is again mentioned in 1961, when the Educational Council turned down another request from the group on the grounds that it already had 21 students enrolled in the program; al‑Kuwayt al‑Yawm [‘Kuwait Today’] (29/10/1961), p. 30; (12/3/1961), p. 30; MEC: S18, 5/7/1955.

104 See footnote 94. The Educational Department’s statistics do not differentiate between the various states within the Ḥaḍramaut.

105 MEC: S34, 3/6/1956; S15, 12/6/1955.

106 Rabi, 2015, n.p.

107 Freitag, 2003, p. 295, 444–449, 496–497.

108 The Educational Council’s minutes reveal that it refused applications from the SBA in 1955 and 1961. The second request was made in conjunction with al‑Ḥizb al‑Waṭanī al‑Ittiḥādī (the Patriotic Unionist Party) in Aden. According to Bāḥamīd, in late 1957, the SBA asked the Kathīrī Sultanate to request Kuwaiti scholarships for four of its students. This was because Kuwait’s Educational Council would only accept the request if it was ‘official in nature,’ implying that the council refused to deal directly with the SBA; al‑Kuwayt al‑Yawm (5/11/1961), p. 25; MEC: S28, 27/12/1955; Bāḥamīd, 2009, p. 120.

109 MEC: S77, 12/12/1953.

110 MEC: S1, 11/9/1954.

111 MEC: S22, 10/10/1955.

112 Al‑Taqrīr al‑Sanawī, 1958–1959, p. 189.

113 Al‑Taqrīr al‑Sanawī, 1959–1960, p. 310.

114 Al‑Taqrīr al‑Sanawī, 1961–1962, p. 158–159.

115 Al‑Wartilānī, 2009, p. 195.

116 Al‑Bi‘tha (6/1953), p. 359; al‑Rā’id (10/1952), p. 88; al‑Miqdādī, 1952, p. 60.

117 Al‑Ṣaqrī, 2017, p. 265, 270; Nūr, 2011, p. 51, 136; Abdullah, 1978, p. 147.

118 Nūr, 2011, p. 48–50.

119 Al‑Taqrīr al‑Sanawī, 1960–1961, p. 158; al‑Taqrīr al‑Sanawī, 1956–1957, p. 145.

120 Al‑Madanī, 1982, p. 478–479; MEC: S15, 12/6/1955; S16, 3/5/1955; al‑Baṣā’ir (8/10/1954), p. 4.

121 Al‑Ibrāhīmī, 1997, Vol. 5, p. 159.

122 Qabbānī and ‘Aqrāwī, 1955, p. 100–101.

123 Al‑Rashoud, 2016, p. 272–274.

124 Ibid., p. 269.

125 Al‑Wartilānī, 2009, p. 97; Ruedy, 2005, p. 102–105; Perkins, 2004, p. 62–68; al‑Ibrāhīmī, 1997, Vol. 4, p. 342–351.

126 Abū al‑Jubayn, 2002, p. 163.

127 Al‑Ibrāhīmī, 1997, Vol. 4, p. 244.

128 Takriti, 2016,p.  49–60; Brand, 1991, p. 26, 107–111, 122–124; Al‑Mdairis, 1987, p. 312–316.

129 Al‑Imān (1/1954), p. 100.

130 Political Diaries, Vol. 20,p p. 251–254.

131 Al‑Fajr (4/11/1958), p. 6.

132 Al‑Fajr (16/12/1958), p. 10.

133 Nūr, 2011, p. 49–50, 63, 96.

134 Tachau, 1994, p. 5.

135 Reudy, 2005, p. 156–160.

136 Al‑Madanī, 1982, p. 286–287, 344, 441–442.

137 Ibid., p. 19–26, 46, 62.

138 Ibid., p. 463–466.

139 Nūr, 2008, p. 27.

140 Zarrūq, 2015, p. 46–47, 56.

141 Al‑Madanī, 1982, p. 184–185; Political Diaries, Vol. 20, p. 138.

142 Zarrūq, 2015,p p. 46–47.

143 Sa, 2017, n.p.

144 Al‑Mdairis, 1987, p. 152–153.

145 Sa, 2017, n.p.; al‑Saddā, 2012, p. 21; al‑Madanī, 1982, p. 359.

146 FO/371/14008: Internal Situation in Kuwait, Riches, 6/2/1959; KOC/106961: GM to MD, 11/5/1957.

147 FO/371/162937: Richmond to Earl of Home, 5/1/1962; FO/371/148912: Richmond to Earl of Home, 18/10/1960; FO/371/114588: Pelly to Eden, 31/1/1955; Al‑Rashoud, 2016, p. 218–219.

148 Sa, 2017, n.p.; Ṣaḥīfat al‑Mu’tamar (24/12/1958), p. 3.

149 Al‑Madanī, 1982, p. 358–359, 479, 491; Al‑Madanī does not mention discussing scholarships in his short account of this trip. However, in a later report as Minister of Education, he states that he discussed scholarships on two visits to Kuwait. As far as can be ascertained, he only visited the country twice, in 1957 and 1959.

150 Ibid., p. 426–427, 478–479, 491.

151 Al‑Fajr (23/9/1958), p. 1.

152 Al‑Fajr (4/11/1958), p. 6.

153 The segment first appeared in the following issue: al‑Sha‘b (27/2/1958), p. 3.

154 Nūr, 2008, p. 52.

155 Al‑Muwaẓẓaf (6/1962), p. 3; (2/1962), p. 50; (11/1961), p. 21.

156 Mu’tamar al‑Udabā’, 1958, p. 222–257, 519–520.

157 Ibid.,p p. 539, 541, 545, 557.

158 Ibid.,p p. 654, 659–660.

159 Darwīsh, 1990,p p. 14–16, 20–27.

160 Ibid., p. 8, 52, 68–71.

161 Ibid., p. 21; al‑ṣaqrī, 2017, p. 166–173, 198; Skeet, 1985, p. 199–200.

162 E.g. Ṣawt ‘Umān (8/1962), p. 24; (9/1961), p. 16; (6/1961), p. 8, 12; (5/1961), p. 6, 13, 18; (3/1958), p. 4; (1/1958), p. 3.

163 Al‑Ṣaqrī, 2017, p. 171–172, 200–201; Skeet, 1985, p. 184, 199–201.

164 MEC: S40, 25/11/1956.

165 FO/371/126998: Chauncy to FO, 10/7/1957; Chauncy to PR, 2/4/1957; FO minute, M.H.N. 9/4; Burrows to FO, 1/4/1957.

166 MEC: S39, 10/10/1956; S25, 16/11/1955; S50, 28/10/1952; Sālim b. Ḥasan Makkī, personal interview with the author, Muscat, 4/5/2019.

167 There was apparently a degree of overlap between the efforts of al‑Zawāwī and the OU in requesting scholarships. Sālim Makkī, who obtained his scholarship to Kuwait through al‑Zawāwī in 1954, recalls that it was the OU member Ḥamdān ‘Abdallāh al‑Sa‘īd who connected him to the merchant. Sālim b. Ḥasan Makkī, interview.

168 Darwīsh, 1990, p. 22.

169 Ibid., p. 24; The Educational Council’s minutes mention these students but do not identify the party requesting the scholarships: MEC: S22, 10/10/1955; S21, 15/9/1955.

170 On his OU membership see Darwīsh, 1990, p. 37.

171 The start date for his study in Iraq is variously given as 1935, 1936, and 1939; al‑Ṣaqrī, 2017, p. 198; al‑Kindī, 2004, p. 24–25; al‑Shihāb, 1984, p. 456.

172 Al‑Ṭā’ī, 2016a, p. 113.

173 ‘Aṣla, 2008, p. 13; Milayjī, 1982, p. 269–271; MEC: S46, 14/12/1949; S16, 8/3/1949.

174 Al‑Kindī, 2004, p. 31–32; al‑Shihāb, 1984, p. 452–456.

175 Al‑Kuwayt [‘Kuwait’] (12/1950), p. 3.

176 Al‑Kindī, 2004, p. 180; al‑Imān (6/1953), p. 378.

177 Al‑Imān (4/1953), p. 288; al‑Saddāḥ, 2012, p. 14–15.

178 MEC: S1, 3/10/1950. ‘Uqāb was the brother of the MAN‑founder Aḥmad al‑Khaṭīb.

179 Al‑Shihāb, 1984, p. 275, 285–286.

180 Darwīsh, 1990, p. 23.

181 Al‑Mdairis, 1987, p. 182.

182 Darwīsh, 1990, p. 47.

183 Sālim b. Ḥasan Makkī, interview.

184 Darwīsh, 1990, p. 47, 67.

185 Al‑Fajr (7/10/1958), p. 12; (6/5/1958), p. 1; (15/4/1958), p. 7; (8/4/1958), p. 4; al‑Sha‘b (13/2/1958), p. 4.

186 Al‑Fajr (23/12/1958), p. 5; (16/12/1958), p. 1; al‑Sha‘b (20/3/1958), p. 1; (13/2/1958), p. 4.

187 Al‑Sha‘b (27/2/1958), p. 9; (9/1/1958), p. 1; (2/1/1958), p. 7.

188 Darwīsh, 1990, p. 78–83; Al‑Mdairis, 1987, p. 309–311. On Sulaymān see Ṣawt ‘Umān (7/1958), p. 9.

189 Mu’tamar al‑Udabā’, 1958, p. 659.

190 FO/371/140260: DeCandole to Riches, 5/2/1959.

191 Ṣawt ‘Umān (1/1958), p. 7; Aḥmad b. ‘Abd al‑Nabī Makkī, personal interview with the author, Muscat, 4/5/2019; As president of the Omani Student Association in Cairo, Aḥmad Makkī played a leading role in editing Ṣawt ‘Umān in conjunction with Muḥammad Amīn ‘Abdallāh.

192 Al‑Kindī, 2004, p. 42–44.

193 Al‑Ṭā’ī, 1983, p. 5.

194 Al‑Kuwayt al‑Yawm (22/5/1960), p. 30; al‑Kindī, 2004, p. 29. Other OU activists based in Kuwait in the late 1950s and early 1960s included Karīm Aḥmad al‑Ḥarmī and Maḥmūd al‑Khuṣaybī, who worked at the Public Works and Educational Departments respectively. Aḥmad b. ‘Abd al‑Nabī Makkī, interview; Ṣawt ‘Umān (8/1962), p. 24; (9–10/1959), p. 26; (8/1958), p. 20; Records of Oman 1961–1965, Vol. 5, p. 11–14; ‘Malāmiḥ min Ḥayāt al‑Shā‘ir Maḥmūd al‑Khuṣaybī.’

195 Jam‘īyyat al‑Janūb, n.d., n.p.

196 Al‑Mdairis, 1987, p. 317–318; al‑Imān (2/1954), p. 269.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Table 1: Scholarships by State and Region99
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Titre Table 2: Entities Receiving Scholarships
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Talal Al-Rashoud, « From Muscat to the Maghreb: Pan-Arab Networks, Anti-colonial Groups, and Kuwait’s Arab Scholarships (1953–1961) », Arabian Humanities [En ligne], 12 | 2019, mis en ligne le 12 mars 2020, consulté le 28 mars 2020. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/cy/5004 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/cy.5004

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Talal Al-Rashoud

Assistant Professor of Modern Arab History at Kuwait University

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