The threat of potential attacks looming across the country, coupled with the extensive threats posted by various sources throughout social media, Kuwait’s population has become more reserved in its judgments to go out, as is usually the case. Numerous embassies have warned to follow the directives of local authorities and sent messages to expatriate residents to stay away from large congregations, namely shopping malls like the Avenues, which have been directly threatened by terrorists on Twitter and Facebook, and the public’s reaction to heed the warning is evident in the quiet streets and deserted shopping centers.
Abdulaziz Al Homaidi, Deputy Mall Director of the Avenues, sought to ease fears and anxieties by stating that, “The Avenues has all the security precautions needed — CCTVs, personnel. We are working around the clock to make the Avenues safe. We did not have any threats previously. We have very good communication with our visitors, investors and the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Health.”
He dismissed chatter on social media urging people to avoid the Avenues and stated that the threat is exaggerated. “It is a family place. People were here at the weekend, as usual, doing what they usually do — walking, shopping, groceries.” He did concede that there was a significant drop in footfall on Friday, following the terrorist attack which he pointed out was not exclusive to the Avenues but witnessed in most public areas in Kuwait.
However by late Saturday evening, things had picked up at the mall. Elaborating on the mall’s engagement with the Ministry of Interior, he shared, “We have a police point here and they work three shifts. The traffic department, when needed, are quick in their response. Additionally, we have walking patrols, and Segways and Golf Cars provided by the mall management to the security and the Ministry of Health and the Police.”
He informed that no extra security personnel have been added since the terrorist attack on Friday. “Our operation is as is. It goes up and down depending on footfall, when it is needed, the Security Manager looks after the deployment.” He assured that all of the Avenues is covered in CCTV cameras.
With regard to specialised sensors, he informed that the new law which the government is implementing will make it mandatory. “But that this has to go through a long process for the equipment and the personnel — the personnel need to be educated in that area and have to know and understand how to operate these machines. Temporarily we have the hand swipe detectors,” he informed.
He also highlighted that store managers and staff were routinely updated on security protocols such as assembly points, help desk and security numbers in case of emergencies.
Stores within the Avenues had been told that ‘business as usual’ would remain the case until further notice. However, there are mixed emotions among the clerks of the stores. A woman’s clothing store salesperson had noted that half the number of customers had visited the store within the past few days, citing “we always have thousands of customers on a weekend and during a sale.
On Friday it was less because of the threat, whereas the numbers had dwindled to the mere hundreds. The salesperson herself feared for her own life after having “seen threats against the Avenues on Facebook, and we are scared” but had been given information on how to proceed should any form of incident occur. “The sales normally are very high, but have become now low with the lessening footfall because the customers are scared. It’s not more than 400 people coming in a day,” cited the salesperson.
Conversely, a large department store in the mall had seen regular footfall throughout the weekend, with only a minor dip in numbers attributed to the fact that “it is Ramadan and there is always less coming during the hours of fasting” according to the store manager, who claims the fluctuations are common during this period of the year.
The store manager believed the shock of the attack had impacted people in the country “but there is still footfall” and a steady stream of customers. Although the malls are experiencing less traffic than usual, customers are still flocking to the sales without fear.
One customer said she had no doubt about the safety of the mall because “the news said that they caught everyone involved and all Kuwaitis are unified in one” since the attack, which contributed to the general atmosphere of security. The coming days will see Kuwait return to business as usual, with authorities on alert to ensure the safety of all residents.