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KUWAIT: Riot police break up protest by stateless Arabs

March 11, 2011 |  7:55 am

Shamseddin20110308142923717 Police in anti-riot gear descended Friday on a small protest rally near Kuwait City that was staged by stateless Arabs demanding greater rights, media reports said.

According to the Reuters news agency, despite a stern warning from the new minister of the interior, about 200 protesters had congregated for a peaceful demonstration in an area west of the Kuwaiti capital after Friday prayers. Other media reports put the number of protesters a bit higher, at about500.

Rally-goers carried banners reading "Stateless since 50 years, we demand citizenship," and chanted "we will not leave without a solution," reported Agence France-Presse.

But when riot police began firing tear gas into the crowd, the protesters quickly ran for cover.

Kuwait's stateless Arabs are known as "Bedoun" and have lived in the oil-rich Persian Gulf state for a long time. They regularly complain of discrimination and clashed with Kuwaiti police last month when they staged protests demanding greater rights and benefits, including citizenship and free healthcare.

Last month, Kuwaiti officials reportedly assured the Bedoun, who number around 100,000, that their concerns would be addressed, but the parliament refused on Tuesday discuss a bill that would provide them with more rights. The Kuwaiti government still refers to them as "illegal residents."

Earlier this week, hundreds of Kuwaitis took to the streets to call on the country's prime minister to step down and demand more political freedom.

--Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

Photo: Stateless Arabs stage a protest near the Kuwaiti capital on Feb. 20. Credit: Press TV website