Kuwait police break up stateless demo, several wou

Last Updated: Friday, January 13, 2012 - 23:05

Kuwait City: Several people were wounded and
dozens arrested on Friday as Kuwaiti police used tear gas, water
cannons and batons to disperse stateless protesters demanding
citizenship, witnesses and a rights group said.

Hundreds of riot police backed by armoured vehicles
assaulted several hundred protesters who braved a stern
interior ministry warning not to demonstrate as authorities
promised to resolve their decades-old plight.

Police chased the protesters into the streets of
Jahra, northwest of the capital Kuwait City, and arrested many
of them, including a 13-year-old boy, the independent Kuwait
Association of Human Rights said on its Twitter account.

A number of young protesters were seen with their
heads bleeding after they were beaten with batons by riot
police, witnesses said.

Private Al-Watan TV channel said its photographer was
wounded.

Stateless people, officially known as illegal
residents or bidoons, have been demonstrating over the past
several weeks for their rights.

Kuwait`s interior ministry issued three statements
this week warning them not to do so or face punishment.

The Islamic Ommah Party, the leftist Progressive
Movement and former MPs and election candidates blasted what
they called "police repression" and called for a peaceful
solution to the bidoons` problem.

"The repressive treatment of bidoons proves that the
previous government`s approach is still continuing," former
opposition MP Mussallam al-Barrak said in a statement.

Earlier on Friday, Human Rights Watch called on Kuwait
to scrap the decision banning stateless people from
protesting.

"This is a shameful effort to curb the rights to
peaceful expression and assembly of Kuwait`s bidoons," Sarah
Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch`s Middle East director, said
in a statement.

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

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, according to a June report by the New
York-based rights group.

Fifty-two bidoons are on trial for protesting while 32
others are under investigation.

More than 105,000 stateless people have been living in
Kuwait for decades but were denied citizenship. The government
says only 34,000 of them qualify for citizenship.

PTI



First Published: Friday, January 13, 2012 - 23:05

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