Middle East

Kuwaiti police beat, arrest protesters: witnesses

Kuwaiti riot police take position before dispersing stateless Arabs, known as bidoons, protesting to demand citizenship and other basic rights in Jahra, 50 kms (31 miles) northwest of Kuwait City, on December 16, 2011. AFP PHOTO/YASSER AL-ZAYYAT

KUWAIT: Kuwait's riot police beat up some protesters and arrested 25 during a demonstration Friday by stateless Arabs demanding Kuwaiti nationality rights, witnesses and an observer with a human rights group said.

A 14-year-old boy was among those beaten up and apprehended, the observer with the Kuwait Human Rights Society, who witnessed part of the protest, told Reuters.

Protests by the stateless Arabs, known as Bidoons, are usually on a small scale and in marginalised neighbourhoods outside the capital, Kuwait City.

On Friday, about 200 stateless Bidoons gathered outside their ramshackle houses in al-Jahra province, northwest of Kuwait City. Some held up Kuwait's national flag and placards calling for citizenship rights, witnesses said.

The police chased them down alleys in their poor neighbourhoods and into their homes, beating some of them, the witnesses reported.

"Their gathering was peaceful, but unfortunately the security forces didn't give them a chance and started beating them with bats," the rights observer said. "A 14-year-old boy was beaten and arrested while he was still bleeding."

The police could not be reached for comment.

"I am very upset about the government's response. It was disproportionate, there was no reason to break into the homes of the protesters," said the observer, who asked not to be named.

The number of Kuwaiti Bidoons is unknown but estimates range from 93,000 to 180,000 inside the country and possibly 100,000 outside. The World Bank put Kuwait's population, including foreign workers, at more than 2.7 million in 2010.

Kuwait has the most advanced democratic tradition in the Gulf region, where Western-backed dynasties have given their people little right to political representation. But in February, Kuwait police clashed with hundreds of Bidoons.

On Wednesday, the Gulf Arab state's emir swore in a new cabinet after anti-corruption protests prompted the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah.





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