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Sat 19 Feb 2011 10:27 AM

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Stateless in Kuwait protest for citizenship rights

Dozens arrested in first protest in oil-producing state, police officers reported hurt in clashes

Stateless in Kuwait protest for citizenship rights
A protester kicks a teargas canister during clashes between Kuwaiti riot policemen and stateless Arabs demanding rights in Jahra City on February 18 (Getty Images)

More than 1,000 stateless Arabs demonstrated in Kuwait on Friday demanding citizenship, and dozens were arrested by police, witnesses said.

The protest in Jahra, northwest of Kuwait City, was the first in the oil-producing Gulf Arab state since a wave of unrest began sweeping across the Middle East in December.

Security forces dispersed the demonstration, using smoke bombs and water cannon after protesters refused warnings to leave.

The Interior Ministry said protesters threw stones after being told their demonstration was illegal and several officers were injured, the state news agency KUNA said.

The stateless Arabs, longtime residents of Kuwait known as bedoun from the Arabic "bedoun jinsiyya" (without nationality), were demanding citizenship, free education, free healthcare and jobs, benefits available to Kuwaiti nationals.

Many of Kuwait's stateless are descendants of desert nomads denied citizenship under strict nationality laws in the small Gulf state, whose citizens are entitled to generous welfare benefits.

The turmoil in the region and worries about its possible effects on Middle East oil producers has pushed up oil prices. Brent crude hit a 28-month high of $104 a barrel on Thursday.

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