Kuwait police fire tear gas to break up stateless demo

AFP , Tuesday 2 Oct 2012

Kuwaiti riot police use tear gas to disperse hundreds of stateless (bidoons) demonstrators demanding citizenship; three wounded, 10 arrested as security forces lay siege on bidoon suburb

Kuwaiti riot police on Tuesday used tear gas and smoke bombs to disperse hundreds of stateless demonstrators who were demanding citizenship and other rights, witnesses and activists said.

The stateless, known in Kuwait as bidoons, converged on the Freedom Square in Jahra area, 50 kilometres (31 miles) west of the capital Kuwait City to observe the International Non-Violence Day.

Witnesses and activists said at least three people, including a policeman, were slightly wounded and 10 stateless were arrested as security forces laid a siege on Taima suburb in Jahra which houses tens of thousands of bidoons.

Encouraged by Arab Spring protests, stateless people estimated at more than 105,000 have been regularly demonstrating since February 2011 to press Kuwaiti authorities to resolve their decades-old problem, especially their claim to citizenship.

The government of the oil-rich Gulf state has made many promises in the past but failed to implement most of them as stateless still claim they are deprived of most basic rights including the right to jobs and medical care.

Around 200 stateless were arrested in the previous protests and are still on trial for illegal assembly, assaulting police and resisting arrest.

The new protest comes a week after three international human rights groups sent an unprecedented letter to Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah urging him to end alleged abuse against stateless people.

The letter by Refugees International, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International highlighted the plight of bidoons and called for a solution.

"The bidoons are not treated equally before the courts and continue to be denied protection conveyed through nationality and residency, and have been subjected to repeated abuse and discrimination," the letter said.

It said that police has used excessive force against peaceful bidoon protesters who were demanding rights and citizenship, and detained dozens who have claimed abuse during detention.

Kuwait has long alleged that bidoons, and in some cases their ancestors, destroyed their original passports to claim the right to citizenship in order to gain access to the state-provided services and benefits.

In a bid to force the bidoons to produce their original nationality papers, Kuwait has refused to issue essential documents to most of them, including birth, marriage and death certificates.

The government says only 34,000 of bidoons qualify for citizenship.

Short link: