To mark the international day of non-violence, more than 3,000 protesters from the stateless community of Kuwait (Bedoon) marched to demand their rights to citizenship. The protest, which was covered by local civil groups and bedoon activists, took place in Taimaa area on October 2.
Inspired by the ousting of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Kuwait’s stateless community has been protesting since February 2011. Since then, activists from the community have been establishing different grassroots movements that focus on issues of citizenship, education, and poverty.
Bedoon means without in Arabic and explains the community’s situation in a nutshell. Members of the community, estimated at 120,000, are denied access to healthcare, education, employment, and any sort of documentation.
Social media has revolutionized the means of communication and political dialogue among activists from the community but more importantly has contributed positively to the cause, gaining sympathizers from inside and outside Kuwait. As in other censored spaces, Twitter helps the Bedoon document violations committed against them – which are not covered by mainstream media. In fact, this protest was led and organized by an anonymous account called “A Nation’s Cry” that was created last month to mobilize for the 2nd of October protest using the hashtag #اعتصام_2_أكتوبر, which translates to the October 2 Protest [ar].
هذا الحساب يدار عبر مجموعة من شباب الكويتيين البدون آمنوا بأن الحياة ماهي إلا وقفة عز وقرروا إكمال المشوار حتى اكتمال هذا العز وظهور الحق.
Q8voice1: This account is moderated by a group of Kuwaiti-Bedoon youth who believe in standing for dignity and who want to continue fighting until justice is gained.
Although Kuwaiti political groups have been reluctant in supporting the Bedoon cause, the political tension between opposition groups and authorities has been fruitful for the Bedoon. The political struggle helped kuwaiti political groups realize the importance of supporting the Bedoon in their demands. A few days before the protest, 21 political groups in Kuwait signed a statement that declares support to the October 2nd protest. The statement included three main demands: the Bedoon’s right to peaceful protest, the necessity to find a final solution to their issue, and the importance of involving Kuwait’s civil society in mapping out a solution for the community’s longstanding issues.
In this regard, professor of political science at Kuwait University Mohammad Alwuhaib tweeted one day before the protest [ar]:
كم أتمنى أن أرى أعداد المواطنين غدا في تيماء تفوق أعداد البدون: هل بإمكان المواطن أن يتجرد من كل شيء إلا إنسانيته؟
@m_alwuhaib: I really wish to see more Kuwaiti citizens in Taimaa tomorrow than Bedoon protesters: citizens should maintain their sense of humanity.
Although only a small number of Kuwaitis showed up to the protest, one of them, who is a Kuwaiti political activist and poet, has led the march with his chants:
Tweeting the protest
Although the number of protesters was relatively big, the protest did not last more than a few hours, considering the attacks made against protesters by the riot police. Bedoon activist Falah althuwaini tweeted from the protest:
@althuwaini: Helicopter and riot forces in large number in Taima, so far they didn’t storm the #Statelessness protesters.
Other accounts on Twitter were also posting updates from the protest, including this one who published a controversial picture which was widely circulated afterwards:
Others documented the police crackdown on the protest:
Because Bedoon women have been attacked by riot police in previous protests, many of them restrained from protesting. This picture shows balloons flying during the protests made by Bedoon women who want to show their support and presence – but could not attend the protest:
* also published in Global Voices