Kuwait has revoked the citizenship of five people, including the owner of a television station that sides with the country’s fiery opposition, in a message that dissent in the tiny oil-rich country will not be tolerated.
The cabinet announced on Monday, following its weekly meeting, that the citizenships of Ahmed Jabr al-Shemmeri, owner of Al-Yawm satellite channel and Al-Alam Al-Yawm newspaper, and his family, have been rescinded.
The measure taken against Shemmeri came as part of the Ministry of Interior’s “measures to impose security and stability, as well as insure the rule of law on everyone”, according to a statement published on the state-run news agency KUNA.
The decision was based on a clause in the nationality law that allowed for such an act against people jeopardising the state.
We are against the revoking of citizens' citizenship without them being allowed to practise their rights of resorting to court.
The citizenship was also stripped off former lawmaker Abdullah al-Barghash and his two brothers and sister. Barghash, who was a member of the 2008 and 2012 parliament, is also an active member of the diverse opposition pressing for an elected government.
“We are against the revoking of citizens’ citizenship without them being allowed to practise their rights of resorting to court,” Mohamed al-Homaidi, a lawyer and a human rights’ activist told Al Jazeera.
Shemmeri’s Alam Al-Yawm newspaper was suspended by court twice this year for breaching a prosecutor-imposed media gag on a probe into an alleged coup plot that could implicate members of the ruling al-Sabah family of attempting to overthrow the monarchy’s government.
Both the television channel and newspaper have extensively covered rallies staged by the opposition over the past two years, in which calls for political reforms were made and accusations of massive violations were levelled at top ruling family members as well as former officials of massive violations.
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Shemmeri is among a segment of naturalised citizens, who largely contribute to the nearly 1.3 million Kuwaitis. The total population of Kuwait is around 4 million, of which two-thirds are foreigners.
“Granting the Minister of Interior or the premier the rights to strip citizens of their nationality, based on very elastic accusations unconfirmed by court is a very dangerous weapon. The ramifications of this move are massive for the government,” Homaidi added.
“This is the first time, since before the 1990-1991 war, that a citizenship has been revoked on political basis,” Homaidi explained. “It is extremely alien to our community.”
Following a recent escalation by the opposition, the government last week ordered the review of peoples’ citizenships who it described as threatening the country’s security.
Revoking the citizenship of national opposition is a very low act.
Earlier this month, parts of Kuwait witnessed consecutive days of rallies following the arrest of opposition leader Musallam al-Barrack. The rallies, which drew thousands of demonstrators, saw the use of tear gas and stun grenades by security forces seeking to disperse the crowds, and the arrest of scores of protesters. Many of those detained were released on bail.
“Revoking the citizenship of national opposition is a very low act,” Islamist former lawmaker Waleed al-Tabtabei posted on his Twitter account.
Echoing the same view, Mohamed Hayef, a former Islamist MP said the move “will plunge the country into a serious political phase”.
Kuwait’s opposition, the most potent in the region of monarchies, have witnessed fluctuating periods of activeness since 2006, as it successfully won parliamentary seats in recurring legislative elections brought about by repeated deadlocks with the government that were frequently followed by government resignations and parliaments’ dissolutions.
However, the opposition – which consists of liberals, Islamists, nationalists, leftists and unions – have boycotted the last two votes since 2012, after the ruler, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, made amendments to the election law which they said were aimed at reducing their chances in the polls.
Local media outlets have carried reports that there may be more citizenships revoked in the near future as the government moves ahead with its plans to quell dissent.
Follow Dahlia Kholaif on Twitter: @Dee_Kholaif