Kuwait keeps promise: Riot police disperse stateless demonstrators

Peaceful expression gets violent response

KUWAIT CITY - Kuwaiti riot police on Saturday used tear gas and batons to disperse hundreds of stateless demonstrators for the second day in a row and arrested dozens, witnesses and a rights group said.
A day after riot police beat stateless protesters demanding citizenship in Jahra, northwest of Kuwait City, demonstrations expanded on Saturday to include Sulaibiya, west of the capital.
The independent Kuwait Association of Human Rights said three of its members monitoring the protests were arrested but one of them was later released.
Riot police chased demonstrators and arrested dozens of them in the two towns where most of the 105,000 stateless, locally known as bidoons, live, witnesses said.
The demonstrators gathered in the afternoon to protest the excessive and unnecessary use of force used by police against the demonstrators on Friday, bidoon activists said on social networking website Twitter.
Several protesters were wounded and as many as 50 arrested in Friday's police crackdown. The interior ministry said 21 security men were wounded in the clashes, five of whom were hospitalised.
Some local media claimed their journalists and cameramen were beaten by police on Saturday.
The leftist Progressive Movement condemned in a statement what it called the "unjustified use of force" against bidoon protesters and called for a peaceful solution to their decades-old problem.
Kuwait's interior ministry issued three statements earlier this week warning bidoons not to protest or face punishment.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch urged Kuwait on Friday to scrap the decision banning stateless people from demonstrating.
"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 citizenship in order to gain access to the services and generous benefits provided 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 HRW report.
Fifty-two bidoons are on trial for protesting and another 32 are under investigation.
The government says only 34,000 of bidoons qualify for citizenship.