Rights group slams Kuwait's Bidoon protest order

Human Rights Watch says order to stop further demonstrations should be revoked
Stateless Arabs, known as bidoon, protest to demand citizenship and other rights in Jahra, 50 km northwest of Kuwait City, on January 6. (Getty Images)
By Andy Sambidge
Fri 13 Jan 2012 12:24 PM

A Kuwait government order to Bidoon residents not to organise any further demonstrations denies their rights and should be revoked, Human Rights Watch said on Friday.

The Interior Ministry issued a statement on Wednesday saying that it will “absolutely not allow the brothers who are illegal residents to organise any rallies, gatherings, sit-ins or demonstrations”.

The Gulf state’s stateless – or Bidoon as they are known locally – had previously been permitted to demonstrate in a bid to persuade the government to grant them citizenship every Friday since December 16.

“This is a shameful effort to curb the rights to peaceful expression and assembly of Kuwait’s Bidun,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

“These universal rights belong to everyone, regardless of whether they are considered citizens or are fighting to gain citizenship.”

More than 106,000 people are considered illegal residents by the Kuwait government and have been denied citizenship for decades even though many are longtime residents.

Kuwait’s Interior Ministry in December used water cannons and tear gas to disperse hundreds of stateless Arabs who staged a protest against not being permitted to gain access to services and benefits provided to nationals. Authorities later allowed them to demonstrate peacefully.

The Gulf state, which has so far avoided the spillover of the Arab Spring pro-democracy revolts, is estimated to have up to 180,000 Bidoon inside the country and possibly 100,000 outside.

Kuwait has long claimed the Bidoon have destroyed their original passports to claim Kuwaiti citizenship, which would allow them to claim the Gulf state’s generous welfare benefits.

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