Bedoon Activists Kidnapped After His Speech

Stateless Arabs, locally known as bidoons, take part in a demonstration in demand of the Kuwaiti citizenship and basic rights, in Jahra, 50 kms (31 miles) northwest of Kuwait City, on October 2, 2013. Bidoons were born and raised in Kuwait and claim they have the right to Kuwaiti citizenship, but the government says only 34,000 of a total of over 106,000 qualify for consideration, while the rest hold other nationalities. AFP PHOTO/YASSER AL-ZAYYAT

[Abdullah Atallah – archive]

On February 19th, Bedoon activists called for protests in Taimaa demanding the release of Abdullah Atallah, the Bedoon activist who was kidnapped by state security police for giving a speech critical of officials. The protest which was attended by human rights monitors and supportive Kuwaitis, was faced with the same methods of oppression by the riot police, chasing protesters and arresting three minor boys (between 14-16 year old) who were later released. A Kuwaiti activist named Khalifa al-Hashash was beaten and arrested by the police but later released. He demanded to see a doctor who would provide him with a medical report for his injuries but the policemen refused to do so.

In the third anniversary of Bedoon protests that first started on February 18th of 2011, activist Abdullah Atallah spoke for few minutes in the protest calling the minister of interior affairs and all past ministers of interior affairs “criminals.” He stated that growing up stateless among a family that had Kuwaiti uncles and cousins, he deeply felt the discrimination. The activist then directed his message to the Amir “We thought before that you did not know of our plight, but now there is a media exposure, so I want to tell you that you are to blame for this.” Here’s a video of the speech: 

[youtube id=”i2KqEgCQgTQ” width=”600″ height=”350″]

The same night, Atallah was chased by state security police in 5 cars. His car was severely hit by them, according to the testimony of Kuwaiti parliament member Mohammed Tanaa who saw the kidnapping incident in front of his house. According to lawyer Mohammed al-Hmaidi, head of the Kuwaiti Human Rights Association, Atallah is facing charges for “insulting the Amiri self” and vandalizing police cars and taking part of an  illegal protest.

Simultaneously, another Bedoon activist, Yousif al-Zhairy, was chased by state security cars without any details on his arrest place or his charges. Kuwaiti Human rights monitor, Nawaf al-Hindal said police cars used gun shots against al-Zhairy while chasing him.

Following the february 19th protest for Atallah, activist Abdulhakim was taken to Taimaa’s police station to be informed that he will be facing charges for “calling for protests, threatening national security, and threatening police men.” Al-Fadhli has earlier addressed the minister of interior affairs demanding a statement clarifying the status and place of Atallah and al-Zhairy.

On their part, political groups in Kuwait have denounced the arrests and oppression practiced against Bedoon protesters. The “Kuwaiti Progressive Movement” (Taqadomi) issued a statement “we call on all international organizations to make a stand against the violence practiced against Bedoon protesters. The ministry of interior affairs have faced protesters with arrests, sound bombs and tear gas, and violence. They have turned off street lighting in an attempt to disperse the protest.” The statement added “We condemn the illegal ways in which activists Abdullah Atallah and Yousif al-Zhairy have been arrested. The ministry should provide information about their place of arrest and charges.”

On the other hand, the Islamist Constitutional Movement (Hadas) issued a statement condemning violence against Bedoon protesters. The statement reads “the Bedoon issue needs to be completely solved. It was created by the government and therefore should be solved by them. The Bedoon have suffered 50 years of oppression and injustice.”

Head of Kuwaiti opposition, Musallam al-Barrak, has also objected to the violence and arrests. He said the charges against Atallah had no foundations. The ministry’s approach to the issue, he added, continues to drive Kuwait into a state-police. “They acted like gangs. They chased him and arrested him and then accused him of vandalizing their cars” he said.

Bedoon protests continued tonight, the 20th of February, demanding the release of both activists. Activists plan to protest every night until their demands are met.

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