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Sunday, September 26, 1999 Published at 12:17 GMT 13:17 UK

World: Middle East

Kuwait arrests 150 prostitutes

Kuwait's government is cracking down on 'immoral behaviour'

By Middle East Correspondent Frank Gardner

Nearly 150 Asian and Arab prostitutes have been arrested in Kuwait as part of a widespread crackdown.

Reports in the Kuwaiti press said the prostitutes - detained since the beginning of September - are to be deported to their home countries.

The police have raided any private apartments suspected of harbouring "immoral behaviour".

They are also stopping and questioning women seen returning from parties late at night.

Last week, 34 prostitutes - including seven transvestites - were detained at private bachelor apartments south of the capital, Kuwait City, according to the local newspaper, Al-Rai Al-Aam.

The paper quoted security sources as saying all would be deported.

Supporters and critics

Kuwait's powerful Islamist movement has welcomed the crackdown as part of its drive to ban what it sees as all forms of immoral behaviour.

This includes public performances by singers and dancers, as well as alcohol-free beer, which the Islamists succeeded in getting taken off the shop shelves following the Gulf War.

But some Kuwaitis say that such campaigns for moral perfection can backfire.

With nowhere to go for entertainment, an increasing number of young Kuwaitis are turning to hard drugs, mostly smuggled in from Iran.

One Kuwaiti political commentator, Shamlan al-Essa, said that forcing Kuwaiti women to sign a pledge of good conduct and deporting expatriate women contravenes both civil and Islamic laws.

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