- Kuwait Times Extra
KUWAIT: The opposition vowed yesterday it will continue with the protests despite government’s heavy-handed policy just a day after more than 100 protesters were hurt in Kuwait’s largest ever demonstration, but insisted the protests are not directed against the Al-Sabah ruling family. The announcement came in a statement issued after an emergency meeting of opposition groups which also affirmed that the popular moves are not directed against the Al-Sabah ruling family but against the unconstitutional practices of the government. The statement insisted that they are “confronting autocratic rule” and by curbing the peaceful demonstration, the government has proved it is adopting a very dangerous policy.
The meeting came after street confrontations between tens of thousands of Kuwaiti and riot police which used rubber bullets, tear gas and sound bombs in addition to beating people by batons in a bid to disperse the demonstration. The opposition put the number of protesters as high as between 150,000 to 200,000, which will make it the largest demonstration in Kuwait’s history by a huge margin.
The opposition statement said that the demands of the Kuwaiti people are not limited to abolishing the controversial amendment of the electoral law but also extend to achieving political reforms to transform the country into a full parliamentary democratic system. The health ministry medics department said they treated around 70 protesters and around 21 of them needed hospital treatment, but the director of the Kuwait Society for Human Rights Mohammad Al- Humaidi said at least 100 people were hurt. The society began yesterday receiving complaints from protesters who were hurt in order to raise the issue with international human rights organizations and likely in local courts
. Defence lawyer Al-Humaidi Al-Subaie also said that around 70 people have been detained including former Islamist MP Waleed Al-Tabtabaei, spokesman of the National Front for Safeguarding the Constitution Khaled Al-Fadhalah and his younger brother Rashed. The detainees are facing charges of taking part in an illegal procession, assaulting policemen and undermining the status of HH the Amir. Later yesterday, Humaidi, said that the interior minister had ordered the release of all those detained during Sunday’s demonstration. “All of them have been freed without bail,” Humaidi said on his Twitter account.
Charges against them have not been dropped, he said. The opposition statement also charged that the government used “foreign elements” within the elite special forces in clashes with protesters. The statement however did not identify the elements but a source in the opposition said they were members of a foreign community in Kuwait, which was vehemently denied by officials. “I condemn the use of such allegations by the opposition. Why would the interior ministry use foreign elements if it has its own sons to help keep the peace,” a source in the ministry said. Meanwhile, the criminal court will start today the trial of three former opposition MPs -Falah Al-Sawwagh, Bader Al-Dahoum and Khaled Al-Tahous – on charges of undermining the status of the Amir.
The three were arrested on Thursday after addressing the Amir publicly at a public gathering on Oct 10. The government has accused them of making improper remarks against the regime. The public prosecution however freed on a KD 1,000 bail a fourth former opposition MP Osama Al- Munawer pending trial. The prosecution has also issued an arrest warrant against former prominent MP Musallam Al-Barrak for making similar remarks at a public rally on Oct 15. Barrak has not yet been arrested. The Cabinet meanwhile charged that a group of agitators started the clashes with police and reiterated that it will implement the law that bans processions and the assembly of more than 20 people without a prior licence. “Unfortunately, we are heading towards the unknown … I expect more protests, more demonstrations and more confrontations,” political analyst Ayed Al- Manna said. “The regime may declare martial law, leading to an open and bitter confrontation between it and the people,” the political science professor said. “I think we have entered a new phase in which youths are playing a pivotal role,” said independent political analyst Dahem Al-Qahtani. “If no peaceful solution is reached, we could be moving into a scenario similar to (neighbouring) Bahrain,” Qahtani told AFP, in reference to sporadic but persistent street protests against the ruling family. “After reaching this stage, it is very difficult, if not impossible, for the popular movement to back down …
The solution is in real democratic reforms,” he said. Anwar Al-Rasheed, secretary general of the Gulf Forum for Civil Societies said protests will not stop in Kuwait without real and fundamental reforms. “There must be political parties, a premier from outside the ruling family and fundamental political reforms, otherwise we will remain stuck in a vicious circle” of political strife, Rasheed told AFP. Overthrowing the Sabah family, which has ruled Kuwait virtually unchallenged for over 250 years, is not part of the plan, analysts argued. “This is totally ruled out. No one has demanded the overthrow of the regime or to change the ruling family,” said Manna. Qahtani said the opposition is working for a “Kuwaitistyle” constitutional monarchy where the people will have a greater say in running their affairs, adding that the protests are also aimed at preventing Kuwait from sliding back into “an absolute monarchy”. “There is a real fear among Kuwaitis that their country could become like the rest of their Gulf neighbours which have no democracy and (political) freedom,” he said.
By B Izzak and Agencies
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