Kuwait City, Feb 18 (AFP) At least five people,including a security man, were hurt and dozens arrested todayas Kuwaiti riot police clashed with hundreds of stateless Arabprotesters demanding rights.
The elite special forces used water cannon, tear gas,batons and smoke bombs in a bid to disperse more than 500protesters after they refused calls by authorities to endtheir demonstration.
Ambulances rushed an unspecified number of woundedprotesters and security men away from the scene, with awitness saying at least five people were hurt, one of themseriously.
Witnesses said a large number of protesters werearrested as they refused orders by police to disperse.
About 300 stateless Arabs, also known as bidoons,began the protest immediately after noon Friday prayers inJahra city, 50 kilometres west of Kuwait City, demandingrights and citizenship.
The crowds quickly swelled into around 1,000 despiteheavy police presence as the peaceful protest turned violent.
Some of the protesters were carrying copies of theMuslim holy book, the Koran, and chanting slogans of "God isGreatest," while demanding a solution to their decades-oldproblem.
They also carried Kuwaiti flags and portraits of theruler and chanted: "the people wants the rights of bidoons(stateless people)," who have been deprived of their basicrights of education, health and jobs.
Security officials tried in vain to convince them todisperse, and the situation became tense when some of theprotesters threw rocks at security men, who are armed withbatons and tear gas canisters.
The protesters also raised slogans against Salehal-Fadhalah, a former MP who was recently appointed to lead anewly created government body entrusted with resolving theissue of the bidoons.
Several MPs warned the government from using forceagainst the protesters and blamed it for failing to resolvethe problem.
"We call for dealing peacefully with the bidoonsdemonstration and warn against the use of force or arrestingthe protesters," Islamist MP Jamaan al-Harabsh said in astatement.
"The protest of bidoons is legitimate and thegovernment is responsible for for this because it has failedto resolve the problem," independent MP Daifallah Buramiasaid. (AFP)