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Kuwait criticized for treatment of Bidun minority

Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] criticized [press release] the government of Kuwait [BBC backgrounder] on Friday for continuing to limit the rights of the Bidun. The Bidun jinsiyya, Arabic for "without nationality," are a class of illegal immigrants in Kuwait and United Arab Emirates (UAE), who remain non-citizens either because their ancestors immigrated without filling out state paperwork before 1920, or they settled as a refugee in the nation after 1920. There are approximately 106,000 Bidun, and while recent laws have allowed them access to obtaining birth certificates and basic government services, they still contend they are discriminated against. Bidun have protested [Kuwait Times report] various discriminatory actions from the government, with AI and Human Rights Watch (HRW) reporting that peaceful protests have been broken up by force [HRW report]. HRW alleged that: "[s]ecurity forces used water cannons, tear gas, smoke bombs, and concussion grenades (sound bombs) to break up the demonstrations; they beat some protestors, and detained dozens. Bidun detained during the protests reported beatings and physical abuse in detention." On Thursday the Kuwaiti Ministry of the Interior [official website] ended several protests and discouraged future protests [Kuwait Times report]. He stated that these demonstrations inherently violate the law, as non-citizens are not guaranteed free assembly. AI criticized the Kuwaiti government's stance and asked that "the law fully guarantees the right to freedom of assembly without discrimination, in line with international law." It also reported that the protests were ended by using force against the Bidun.

Kuwait has been accused of censorship and stifling protests from citizens in addition to the Bidun. A Kuwait court sentenced a man to ten years of imprisonment for posting insulting and defaming comments [JURIST report] about the Prophet Muhammad and the Sunni Muslim rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain on Twitter. Similarly last July, HRW urged Kuwait to immediately release [JURIST report] two men being detained for posting messages on the Internet criticizing Middle East rulers. HRW reported that in June authorities detained and investigated Nasser Abul for threatening state security using Twitter and Lawrence al-Rashidi for posting a YouTube video criticizing Kuwait leader. His Tweets support the protestors demonstrations against Bahrain King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa.

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