Kuwait’s stateless Bidoon group clashed with security forces, who used tear gas to break up multiple protests on the outskirts of the city. The protests were arranged after the Kuwait parliament delayed the discussion of a bill to give more rights to the Bidoons.
Hundreds of protesters gathered and the police reportedly attacked with rubber bullets, arrested about 20 young men and preventing the media from covering the assault. A spokesman for the ministry of interior said the police and special forces disrupted “illegal” protests in three areas of the city.
The local press reported that some members of parliament criticised the police for their tactics and abusing the people's right to assemble; others said the protesters threatened national security.
Hundreds of riot police, dozens of armoured vehicles and helicopters were deployed to Kuwait City's impoverished outlying districts where the protests were held. A third protest was organised in the southern oil city of Ahmadi.
Kuwait has around 100,000 Bidoons. They complain that their status prevents them from obtaining official documents such as birth, marriage and death certificates, and passports, and hinders their employment prospects. Many stateless were born in Kuwait and some families have lived in the country for generations.
Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk
The issue of the rights of the Bidoons is one of Kuwait's most serious long-term problems. Bidoons have generally lived in Kuwait, well before independence and before the demarcation of Kuwait's borders. However, they were not granted citizenship and now over 100,000 Bidoons live in Kuwait. They are stateless, with no passports and very little rights.
Successive Kuwaiti governments have promised to address the issue of Bidooons, but have largely failed. Although a small number were granted citizenship during the past several years, the overwhelming majority remain unnaturalized, although to all intents and purposes "Kuwaiti", except by citizenship.
There have been various periods of unrest when Bidoons protested their state, and although largely quelled by the authorities, the recent protests are the most serious in recent times. This is because they come at the same time of the regional unrest that has plagued various countries in the region. The Bidoon demonstrations are likely to lead to further demonstrations against the government, possibly leading to further unrest. Although unrest instigated by the Bidoons themselves is unlikely to gather the support of the majority of Kuwaitis, who remain oblivoious to their plight, other sections of the society are also expected to increase their demonstrations against the regime. The most likely other group are the Shiites, partly inspired by the clashes in neighbouring Bahrain.
The general assessment is that with the Bidoons now increasing their anti-regime demands and demonstrations, further unrest is more likely. It is not clear how the government may respond to their demands, but a rapid granting of basic rights may lead to diffusing a highly tense situation.