Kuwaiti protests (2011–2013)
|Kuwaiti protests (2011–2013)|
|Part of the Arab Spring|
|Date||19 February 2011– July 2013|
|Parties to the civil conflict|
The Kuwaiti protests refers to the series of 2011-2012 demonstrations for government reforms in the state of Kuwait. On 28 November 2011, the government of Kuwait resigned in response to the protests, making Kuwait one of several countries affected by the Arab Spring to experience major governmental changes due to unrest.
- 1 Timeline
- 2 Response
- 3 References
Stateless protests (Early 2011)
Sabah Al-Sabah, the Emir of Kuwait, gave every Kuwaiti citizen 1,000 dinars (3580 $) and a free food grant for one year on 18 January 2011, officially to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Kuwait's liberation from occupying Iraqi forces during the First Gulf War, as well as the 50th anniversary of the state's independence. But the grant was not extended to the stateless Bedoun living in Kuwait. Dozens demonstrated in Kuwait City on 19 February against their supposed second-class status. Opposition leaders called for further protests in March to pressure Prime Minister Nasser Al-Sabah to resign.
Stateless people continued to protest into January 2012 despite a protest ban, turning out on 13 and 14 January in slums near Kuwait City to call for the right to citizenship. On both days, violence broke out, with riot police clashing with stateless demonstrators and arresting several dozen on 13 January and firing tear gas to disperse rally-goers on 14 January.
Riot police on 2 October used tear gas and smoke bombs to disperse hundreds of stateless demonstrators who were demanding citizenship. Witnesses and activists said at least three people, including a policeman, were slightly wounded and 10 stateless were arrested as security forces laid a siege on Taima suburb in Al Jahra which houses tens of thousands of stateless. The new protest comes a week after three international human rights groups sent an unprecedented letter to Emir Al-Sabah urging him to end alleged abuse against stateless people.
Political protests (Mid 2011-2012)
In June 2011, hundreds of Kuwaitis marched in an anti-government protest, calling for the resignation of the prime minister. A 10-year old Egyptian boy named Bassem was expelled from education in the country for asking in class, "Why didn't you have a revolution in your country?" Accused of inciting a revolution, the expulsion sparked an outcry, resulting in his reinstatement later that month. Soon thereafter, reports surfaced of a crisis growing in the country as a rebellious parliament stepped up pressure on the ruling family over allegations of mismanagement of public funds, corruption and inefficiency.
On 21 September, several thousand people marched in Kuwait City. Estimates of the number of ralliers ranged dramatically, from 5,000 at the low end to 70,000 at the high end. Small incidents continued after that, and in October, the oil industry went on strike as well as over three thousand customs workers, and on 20 October, there was another very large demonstration in the capital. In response, the Prime Minister denounced the protests as "going too far" and threatened a security crackdown. The opposition group in Parliament formed a committee for constitutional reforms.
On the night of 16 November, demonstrators and several opposition MPs stormed the National Assembly, briefly occupying it while singing and shouting slogans calling for Prime Minister Nasser Al-Sabah to step down. They left after several minutes to rally in the adjacent Al-Erada Square, although riot police attacked several protesters with nightsticks when a smaller group split off and tried to charge the prime minister's residence.
Shortly after the Constitutional Court declared on June 2012 that the February 2012 National Assembly election were "illegal" and reinstated the previous pro-government parliament, thousands of Kuwaitis rally in Al-Erada Square on 26 June to protests against a court ruling that dissolved the opposition-dominated parliament. Demonstrators chanted "we will not surrender", while a prominent opposition MP called for a constitutional monarchy. On 27 August, around 3,000 people, mainly men in traditional Kuwaiti dress, gathered opposite parliament at Al-Erada Square to protest changes to the electoral law which they said could harm the prospects of opposition lawmakers in upcoming elections.
Around 1,500 Kuwaitis took part in a rally late on 10 September to protest against possible changes in the electoral law and call for more democracy. The crowd, which included opposition lawmakers and political activists, gathered outside parliament in a square which has hosted several anti-government demonstrations since late last year. However, the turnout was smaller than previous rallies in the major oil producer and there was only a light police presence.
Thousands of Kuwait opposition supporters rallied on 24 September, a day ahead where the Constitutional Court is scheduled to rule on next day if the electoral constituency law is in line with the constitution based on a request submitted by the government last month. Around 10,000 people, who filled the seaside square opposite the parliament building, cheered loudly as opposition figures called for an elected government and warned against what they called a politicised ruling. The next day, the Constitutional Court ruled that the Gulf emirate's electoral constituency law was in line with the constitution, rejecting a government appeal. Dozens of opposition activists who were in the court room hailed the verdict and exchanged congratulations.
On 15 October, Kuwaiti security forces detained at least five people, including the son of a prominent opposition figure, at an anti-government protest against possible changes to an election law. Several people were hurt in skirmishes at the rally, attended by at least 3,000 people who defied a request by authorities to cancel the Monday night demonstration. In some of the strongest remarks by an opposition figure, former lawmaker Musallam Al-Barrak appealed directly to Kuwaiti Emir to avoid "autocratic rule". His speech to the crowd contained extremely rare criticism of the ruler, "In the name of the nation, in the name of the people, we will not let you, your Highness, practice autocratic rule," Barrak told the rally in a speech addressed to the emir, drew repeated chants of "we will not let you, we will not let you" from the crowd. Analysts said his remarks, including the criticism of the emir could spark a strong reaction from the authorities. The son of Ahmed Al-Sadoun, another prominent opposition leader and former parliament speaker, was among those detained during the protest near parliament where several anti-government demonstrations have taken place in the past year.
Tens of thousands of people on 21 October had gathered across the capital Kuwait City to march on the Seif Palace, which houses offices for the emir, crown prince and prime minister, to protest against changes to the electoral law which the opposition described as a "coup against the constitution". Several groups taking part in the so-called Dignity March were quickly surrounded by riot police who used tear gas in an attempt to disperse them. A medical source told Reuters that most of the injured suffered from tear gas inhalation or from baton bruises as well.
Hundreds of demonstrators on 31 October marched on the central prison, hours after the leading opposition figure Musallam Al-Barrak is detained. The crowd first gathered at Barrak's residence in Al Anadlus before marching on the central jail. Chanting "Freedom for Barrak" and holding banners reading "The nation wants the release of the conscience of the nation", the protesters were faced with stun grenades as they arrived at the prison. Activists told AFP that there were at least two other smaller demonstrations in solidarity with Barrak in south and north of Kuwait which has seen an increased number of protests in recent months amid intense political disputes.
On 4 November, 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 in Mishref. 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. Opposition said protesters numbered around 100,000 but observers said there were less.
On 11 November, at least 50,000 supporters of the Kuwaiti opposition rallied to mark the 50th anniversary of the constitution and to demand the repeal of a disputed electoral law. The enthusiastic crowds chanted "The people want the repeal of the law," ordered by Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah to change the voting system ahead of the 1 December parliamentary election, the second this year. Unlike previous three demonstrations which turned violent, Sunday's gathering remained peaceful as it was held at the Al-Erada Square opposite parliament building in Kuwait City, as the interior ministry had demanded.
On 30 November, tens of thousands of protesters in Kuwait City called for a boycott over changes made to the voting rules last month. Opposition MPs say the amendment manipulates the ballot in favour of pro-government candidates. The protesters carry banners reading "Absolute power corrupts", demonstrators marched through Kuwait City chanting, "We are boycotting" and "The people want to bring down the decree". The rally was led by nationalists, former Islamist MPs, liberals and young people. Unlike recent unauthorised protests, which ended in clashes between protesters and police, authorities had issued a permit for Friday's peaceful march.
After the 1 December elections which were won by pro-government candidates due to boycotts by the opposition, hundreds of opposition supporters demonstrated in various areas of Kuwait late on 6 December to demand scrapping the newly elected national assembly. Night demonstrations were staged in at least four areas of the state and that riot police used teargas and stun grenades to disperse the protesters. Activists clashed with police on the next day as they took to the streets in at least eight areas of the Gulf state. Thousands then demonstrated on 8 December to demand dissolving the new elected parliament.
After the storming of the National Assembly, Emir Sabah Al-Sabah convened an emergency Cabinet meeting on 17 November 2011 to discuss the event. The emir denounced the demonstration as "an unprecedented step on the path to anarchy and lawlessness" and blamed the clashes on "preplanned sabotage" by "rioters". The Kuwaiti opposition responded by intimating the royal family sought to make Kuwait into "a police state". Opposition lawmakers vowed to intensify protests "regardless of the price".
The prime minister and his cabinet submitted their resignation on 28 November ahead of a mass rally calling for their departure from power. The emir accepted the resignation and is expected to name a new prime minister within days, though Nasser will serve until the formation of a new government. Up to 50 thousand people marched in Kuwait city hours after the resignations were announced.
On 20 June 2012, the elections were declared invalid by the Constitutional Court, as the dissolution of Parliament in December 2011 by the Emir was unconstitutional, and reinstates the former parliament. In response, opposition MPs resigned from parliament and demanded a 'full parliamentary system'.
Kuwait's Constitutional Court ruled on 25 September that the electoral constituency law was in line with the constitution, rejecting a government appeal on August 2012 to rule if the electoral constituency law was not in breach of the 1962 constitution.
On 7 October, the Emir issued a decree dissolving the 2009 parliament, just over three months after it was reinstated by the Constitutional Court. Fresh parliamentary election will be held on 1 December.
In a speech aired on national television on 19 October, the emir said he had ordered partial changes to the electoral system to fix deficiencies ahead of expected elections. He said Kuwait's constitutional court had issued a ruling that allowed for any necessary changes to be made to the country's electoral system, but without elaborating on what the proposed changes should be. Opposition politicians criticized the decision, calling changes to the voting system announced by the government a "coup against the constitution". Opposition groups in Kuwait say they will also boycott the next parliamentary elections on December.
On 5 November, the emir defended the voting amendment, saying it was constitutional. He said he understood why those whose interests were hurt by the new voting rule were upset, but their difference of opinion should be expressed within the framework of the law.
On 18 October 2012, former MP Bader al-Dahum was taken into police custody. Khaled al-Tahus, also a former MP, was summoned for questioning by the prosecution service. Later, a group of around 500 people gathered outside the Justice Palace late Thursday night to protest against the detention of the former lawmakers. On the same day, Kuwait's Al-Sabah royal family issued a rare statement calling for "obedience" to the government. The three former lawmakers were all later released on bail on 23 October.
Local media reported on 24 October that authorities have banned gatherings of more than 20 people.
Prominent opposition lawmaker Musallam Al-Barrak was arrested by Kuwaiti authorities on the night of 29 October following a news conference at his house where he called on the government to abide by the constitution. Activists says that his arrest could impact for the further protests, which demonstrators has vowed to stage another protest on 4 November. He was freed after an appeal although he remains under investigation. Another opposition figure, former Islamist MP Faisal Al-Muslim, has been summoned for questioning on 31 October.
On 3 November, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Anbaa quoted a security source saying that authorities may call in the army to help security forces stop a march called by the opposition for the next day, shortly after the government vowed to use force if necessary. There were allegations that Jordanian forces had been deployed to assist in quelling protests in Kuwait. However, the Jordanian government denies this, saying the reports were "fabricated" and "not worthy of comment."
On 21 October 2012, Kuwait's bourse tumbled 3.1 percent, its biggest daily drop since July 2009 ahead of a demonstration called by opposition leaders to protest against planned changes to the electoral law. On 29 October, Fitch Ratings put Kuwait on warning that a further escalation of political protests there could put its AA sovereign credit rating under pressure for a downgrade despite the nation's strong balance sheet. The credit rating firm said recent popular protests over a change in the election law decreed by the ruling emir "suggests a radicalisation of the political scene".
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