30 wounded in Kuwait protests on Friday

AFP, Saturday 19 Feb 2011

Clashes between protesting stateless "Bedoun" Arabs and Kuwait's security forces have left 30 wounded and led to more than 50 arrests

Thirty people were wounded in Friday's clashes in Kuwait between security forces and stateless Arabs demanding citizenship, security sources said on Saturday.

The protest in Jahra, northwest of Kuwait City, was the first in the oil-producing Gulf Arab state since a wave of unrest began sweeping across the Middle East in December.

Fifty people were arrested after the demonstration, the security sources said. A similar protest in the village of Salibiya also drew 80 protesters on Friday, they said.

The sources said seven of the wounded in Jahra were from the security forces, who dispersed the demonstration using smoke bombs and water cannon after protesters refused warnings to leave. The Interior Ministry said protesters threw stones.

Those with more serious wounds were treated at Kuwait City's Sabah Hospital, the sources said.

The stateless Arabs, long-time residents of Kuwait known as bedoun from the Arabic "bedoun jinsiyya" (without nationality), were demanding citizenship, free education, free healthcare and jobs, benefits available to Kuwaiti nationals.

Many of Kuwait's stateless are descendents of desert nomads denied citizenship under strict nationality laws in the small Gulf state, where citizenship entitles holders to generous welfare benefits.

The turmoil in the region and worries about its possible effects on Middle East oil producers has pushed up oil prices. Brent crude hit a 28-month high of $104 a barrel on Thursday.

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