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Protest And Police Action In Kuwait

05 November, 2012
Countercurrents.org

Protest and police action went on in Kuwait, a US ally and member of the OPEC. Police used stun grenades against protesters there as thousands of people marched. Dozens of protesters have been arrested. Kuwait City, the originally planned protest area, was sealed off. Meanwhile, Jordan has denied reports of sending its riot police to Kuwait.

From Kuwait City channelnewsasia.com reported [1]:

Riot police used stun grenades and smoke bombs against thousands of demonstrators who defied a protest ban to block a major road south of the capital on November 4, 2012 as the emir met leading opposition figures.

After elite special forces and police completely sealed off the original protest site in Kuwait City, organisers told supporters via Twitter to gather instead at Mishref, 20 kilometers from the capital.

Although most roads leading to the new location were quickly closed off by police, thousands of people still managed to get through and immediately started marching.

They briefly cut off the sixth ring road, the main motorway in the south of Kuwait before calling off the demonstration barely an hour after it began.

Organisers later announced the end of the protest, declaring it a success but without announcing plans for further demonstrations.

“After we have expressed our message of rejecting any play in the constitution, we announce the end of the procession,” said the organisers on their Twitter account named “The Dignity of a Nation.”

The opposition said protesters numbered around 100,000 but observers said there were less. It was the third major protest since October 21.

The opposition called the march to protest against an amendment to an electoral law ordered by the emir last month ahead of a snap December 1 parliamentary election.

Activists said dozens of protesters were arrested during the march, and organisers said several people were taken in long after it finished. There were no reports of injuries.

Former opposition MP Mubarak al-Waalan criticized the use of force against protesters.

Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah late on November 4, 2012 met four opposition figures including two former Islamist MPs in what appeared to be a mediation effort aimed at ending the stalemate.

Former MP Mohammad Hayef said on Twitter that the emir told them he would accept that the constitutional court rule on the disputed amendment to the electoral constituency law which triggered the current stand-off.

It was the first official meeting between the emir and the opposition since the dispute began several weeks ago.

The government had vowed to use force if necessary to prevent the march, saying that demonstrations were illegal without a permit.

Security forces used tear gas to break up two protests by tens of thousands of demonstrators in the past two weeks in which more than 130 protesters and 16 policemen were injured.

Almost all opposition groups have said they will boycott the December 1 poll in protest at what they see as a bid to create a rubber stamp assembly.

The opposition, made up of Islamists, nationalists and liberals, won a February general election but the constitutional court quashed the vote in June and reinstated the previous pro-government parliament which was dissolved last month.

Opposition leaders insist they have no desire to undermine the ruling Al-Sabah family, and on Friday pledged their loyalty to the emir while renewing their demand for the new electoral law to be repealed.

Kuwait Times also reported [2] protest march by thousands of opposition supporters and use of stun grenades, smoke bombs and tear gas by riot police.

The opposition has insisted that the only way to defuse rising tension in the country and stop protests is by withdrawing the amendment and holding the election on the basis of the previous law. Sultan, a former MP, said that the delegation “informed the Emir that the situation in the country is dangerous and proposed that he withdraw the amendment”. The former lawmaker said that he does not know how the youth activists will react when they know there is no intention to withdraw the amendment. Earlier in the day, the Emir received a number of Salafist clerics who also discussed the situation.

Heavy presence of police forced the organisers to change the location to Mishref near the international fairgrounds. The message was sent to supporters of the opposition through their Twitter account.

Despite the long distance, tens of thousands managed to reach the site and started the march. Police quickly closed the main entrances to the new site but protesters who were arriving in droves managed to join the procession. Riot police arrived quickly to the scene and began firing tear gas and stun grenades at the crowd who quickly moved south.

“We will continue. The opposition no longer cares about government statements,” said an activist who declined to be named.

Barely an hour after it started, organisers called off the demonstration, saying that their message for safeguarding the constitution had been expressed. The move came apparently to prevent police from intensifying its confrontation which could have resulted in casualties. While dispersing, organisers reported that riot police continued to fire tear gas at the protesters, thousands of whom moved to the nearby Sabah Al-Salem area.

Meanwhile, the foreign ministers of Jordan and Kuwait categorically denied reports that Jordan had dispatched thousands of riot police to the state to help quell protests. Reports of Jordanian special forces deployed in Kuwait are “utterly baseless”, both the ministers stressed.

A Reuters report from Kuwait City carried by guardian.co.uk [3] on November 4, 2012 said:

Next month’s elections will be the second in Kuwait this year after an opposition bloc made up of Islamists, liberals and tribal leaders won a majority in polls in February.

That parliament was effectively dissolved by a court ruling in June that reinstated a more pro-government assembly, but the old legislature was unable to meet due to a boycott by lawmakers leading to another dissolution and a call by the emir for snap elections to end the deadlock.

The emir then announced changes to the electoral law last month which some opposition politicians say are an attempt to give pro-government candidates an advantage in the polls.

The Kuwait stock index fell to its lowest level since July 2004 on Sunday, according to Reuters data.

The 83-year-old emir has the final say in state affairs and picks the prime minister, who in turn selects the cabinet, with most of the important portfolios held by members of ruling family.

Source:

[1] Channelnewsasia.com, “Kuwait police use stun grenades against protest”, Nov. 5, 2012, http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_world/view/1235285/1/.html

[2] B Izzak, Hanan Al-Saadoun, “Police choke protest with force, firepower”,
http://news.kuwaittimes.net/2012/11/04/police-choke-protest-with-force-firepower/

[3] “Teargas fired at protesters in Kuwait City”,
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/04/teargas-protesters-kuwait-city

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