x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Students' shock at death of Kuwaiti classmate in Sharjah

Mubarak Meshaal al Mubarak died in hospital on February 26 from internal bleeding suffered during three days of torture, allegedly carried out by the two fellow students who knew him best.

Anfal Fadel Al Taleb, vice president for student affairs of the National Union of Kuwaiti Students' Emirati branch, says some of Mubarak’s classmates noticed him looking unwell. Sarah Dea / The National
Anfal Fadel Al Taleb, vice president for student affairs of the National Union of Kuwaiti Students' Emirati branch, says some of Mubarak’s classmates noticed him looking unwell. Sarah Dea / The National

KUWAIT CITY //Mubarak Meshaal Al Mubarak had only been enrolled at Sharjah University for two weeks before he died.

It was hardly long enough for the 18-year-old Kuwaiti communications student to make new friends or to find a routine to his new life in the UAE. But still something seemed wrong, and several students began to fear for him.

"Some of the people in the university noticed him looking unwell and bruises were seen over his body," recounts Anfal Fadel Al Taleb, vice president for student affairs of the National Union of Kuwaiti Students' Emirati branch. "Mubarak denied any problems."

He died in hospital on February 26 from internal bleeding suffered during three days of torture, allegedly carried out by the two fellow students who knew him best. One of those accused was his roommate, who was also a childhood friend.

Police say they seized a six-minute video of the torture, found on a mobile phone belonging to one of the suspects, who are being held in Sharjah on charges of assault. They are aged 18 and 19, and one is a member of the Kuwaiti royal family. Another student is wanted for questioning.

Mubarak's death has sparked soul searching in Kuwait.

"It was shocking," said Fahad Mosaed Al Abduljader, president of the Kuwaiti chapter of the student union.

"Kuwaiti society is very communal, with a strong sense of kinship; this is very unexpected for us ... there are burning questions about why and how this happened."

News of Mr Mubarak's death spread through Twitter and Facebook. By the time Kuwaiti newspapers and television stations reported the news, they were catching up to what was already public knowledge.

Amid a flurry of frantic rumours, the victim's family grew concerned.

"The family called their son but there was no answer," said Fayez Al Dhafeeri, a Kuwaiti lawyer who travelled to Sharjah at the request of the student union. "Then the family started to call his roommate."

He did not take the calls.

Over the coming days, the student union liaised with Sharjah prosecutors, the family, and the Kuwaiti Embassy, helping receive Mubarak's family and then repatriate his body.

Shocked, many peers simply did not know what to think - Mubarak and his roommate had been close friends back in Kuwait.

They had even seen the latter drop Mubarak at class on days when the torture was said to be going on, said Mr Dhafeeri.

The roommate had also been the one who took Mubarak to hospital, where he collapsed and died.

Adding to the disbelief was the fact that few students in Sharjah were close to the victim.

"Not much is known about Mubarak," said Ms Al Taleb.

In Kuwait, too, many feel there is silence about the case and who Mubarak was. Family members declined to speak while mourning and before the investigation was complete.

Many in Kuwait are focusing on how to reconcile the incident and prevent it from happening again.

"The facts of what happened are putting the concept of what Kuwait is at risk," said Ahmad Al Sumait, who is the executive leader of all chapters of the Kuwaiti student union.

"Usually, Kuwaiti students abroad are known to have a strong bond, they are even insular among themselves. For this to happen casts fog on that."

edickinson@thenational.ae