|Stateless Arabs, known as bidoons, take part in a demonstration to demand citizenship and other basic rights [AFP]|
Kuwaiti riot police have 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 security forces beat 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 (KAHR) said three of its members monitoring the protests were arrested but one was later released.
Riot police chased demonstrators and arrested dozens in the two towns where most of the 105,000 stateless bidoons live, witnesses said.
Ahmed al-Tamimi, head of the Kuwaiti Bidoons Committee, told a news conference that riot police had sealed off the two towns and used police dogs to chase protesters.
He said protests were still continuing into the night, claiming that police has randomly rounded up more than 100 people. He appealed to the prime minister to intervene.
Committee coordinator Nawaf al-Bader said police imposed a virtual curfew on the two towns. He said that so far, dozens of protesters were wounded and that many of them did not go to hospital for fear of being arrested.
Bader said that around 68 stateless had been arrested during Friday’s protest.
A number of Kuwaiti rights activists told the news conference police used excessive and unjustified force against peaceful demonstrators.
The demonstrators gathered on Saturday to protest against the excessive and unnecessary use of force by police against the demonstrators on Friday, bidoon activists said on social networking website Twitter.
The interior ministry had said that 21 security men were wounded in the clashes, five of whom were hospitalised.
Some local media said their journalists 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.
The interior ministry issued three statements earlier this week warning bidoons not to protest or face punishment.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch on Friday urged Kuwait 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 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, 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 bidoons qualify for citizenship.