|Regions with significant populations|
|Kuwaiti Persian, Kuwaiti Arabic|
|Predominantly Shi'a Islam;|
minority Sunni Islam
|Related ethnic groups|
|Ajam of Bahrain, Ajam of Iraq|
Ajam of Kuwait or Ayam of Kuwait are Kuwaiti citizens of Iranian origin, who migrated to Kuwait over the past 300 years. Historically, Persian ports provided most of Kuwait's economic needs. Marafi Behbahani was one of the first merchants to settle in Kuwait in the 18th century.
The majority of Shia Kuwaiti citizens are of Iranian ancestry. Some Kuwaitis of Iranian origin are Sunni Muslims such as the Al-Kandari and Al-Awadhi families of Larestani ancestry. Iranian Balochi families first immigrated to Kuwait in the 19th century. Some Kuwaitis of Iranian Balochi origin are Sunni. Although historically the term Ajam included both Sunni and Shia in Kuwait, nowadays in modern-day Kuwait, the term Ajam almost exclusively refers to Shia only; which is partly due to political sensitivities following the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
Most Ajam (both Sunni and Shia) resided in the Sharq historical district in the old Kuwait City, thereby forming a linguistic enclave which preserved the language for generations until the discovery of oil. They communicated in Persian between each other, and did not frequently mingle with Arabic speakers who resided in other districts of Kuwait City until after the industrialisation of Kuwait City which scattered people who lived in the districts of Kuwait City to the suburbs. The linguistic enclave was not present any longer therefore the Ajam had to learn Kuwaiti Arabic to survive in the new environment.
In the pre-oil era, Ajam introduced many new things to Kuwait. For instance, the first hotel in Kuwait in the later years of pre-oil era was built by Yusuf Behbehani; the first telephone in Kuwait was brought by M. Marafie; the first radio agency in Kuwait was established by M. Marafie in 1935; and the first refrigerator in Kuwait was imported by M. Marafie in 1934. Murad Behbehani was the first person to officially introduce television to Kuwait. He was the founder of Kuwait Television (KTV) before the company was nationalized by the government.
The majority of Kuwaitis from Failaka Island are of Iranian ancestry. They originally migrated to Failaka from the Iranian coast, mainly Kharg Island and Bandar Lengeh. These people are commonly known as the Huwala in the GCC states. They are predominantly Sunni Muslims and speak Arabic fluently, although prior to the discovery of oil they also spoke Persian fluently. The most important Huwala settlement in Failaka Island pertained to 40 families who migrated from the Iranian island Kharg to Failaka in the years 1841-1842. The most recent settlement occurred in the early 1930s after the imposition of the unveiling law by Reza Shah. A minority of Failaka Island's Kuwaiti families are Shia Persians, they were noted as having their own hussainiyas and the older generations were frequent Arabic speakers, unlike the Kuwaiti Shia of Persian origin in mainland Kuwait City at the time.
Historically, the Ajam in Kuwait spoke the Kuwaiti Persian language fluently. The Persian sub-dialects of Larestani, Khonji, Bastaki and Gerashi have influenced the vocabulary of Kuwaiti Arabic. The Ajam of Kuwait originate from different Iranian ethnic groups including Lurs, Iranian Arab, Azerbaijani, and Kurd. There are also Kuwaiti Ajam of Sayyid origin especially those from the Al-Musawi family.
Unlike the Shi'a of Saudi Arabia or Bahrain, the Kuwaiti Shi'a mostly are of Persian descent.
According to Al-Hatim, 1961, Ibid, the Persian-Kuwaitis, have brought many new things to the society, i.e. the first hotel in Kuwait in the later years of preoil era was built by Y. Behbehani; the first telephone in Kuwait was brought by M. Marafie; the first radio agency was established by M. Ma'arafi in 1935; the first refrigerator in Kuwait was brought by M. Ma'arafi in 1934, see pp. 249, 282, 346, etc.
Similarly to television, the Behbahani family, particularly the merchant Murad Behbehani, is acknowledged by historical sources as the first to have officially brought television into the city (Al-Mudhaf, 2015). Murad was the son of the prominent merchant Yousef Behbehani, who opened the first hotel in the city of Kuwait in 1947, and imported weapons and cigarettes (Al-Habeeb, 2012; Al-Hatim, 1980). In the testimony below, Mubarak Al-Mubarak (75) remembers how the Behbehani house was a frequent destination for the neighborhood kids.
It is generally known that Kuwaiti television (KTV) started as the private initiative of the Kuwaiti merchant Murad Behbehani in 1957, before being quickly governmentalized on November 15, 1961 (Al-Mudhaf, 2015; Dajani, 2007).
The Social Composition of Failakans