By Henry Windsor
May 29, 2019
Allegations made against Marsha Lazareva suggest that sexism and racism may have played a role in her incarceration.
To quote Amnesty International, 2018 was a “particularly brutal year” for human rights activists, journalists and dissidents in the Gulf. The killing of Jamal Khashoggi in particular called attention to Saudi Arabia’s human rights record at home and in Yemen, but all Gulf states continue to restrict freedom of expression, association and assembly. Recent summits involving Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, which includes Kuwait, have been noticeable for the absence of human rights on the agenda.
A trend that began last year has so far continued unabated. Marsha Lazareva is, arguably, the most successful businesswoman in the Middle East. For the past 13 years, as the CEO and vice president of KGL Investment, she has developed and managed private equity funds in Kuwait, creating hundreds of jobs in the process. But was it in the spite of all this, or because of it, that she was sentenced to 10 years’ hard labor last year for misappropriating funds and thrown in jail?
Her case has become one of global humanitarian interest. Since Lazareva’s arrest and incarceration in May 2018, high-profile officials and human rights groups have called vociferously for her immediate release. According to legal experts, the charges on which she was convicted were baseless. And what’s worse, there are murmurings that her detention and conviction were motivated by sexism, racism and envy.