Police barricaded a main square in Kuwait’s capital on Tuesday before planned protests for greater political freedoms that could bring another Gulf state into the surge for reforms around the Arab world.
The police cordons around Kuwait City’s central Safat Square were a high—profile warning to demonstrators, but organizers used social media to point to alternative sites in attempts to keep a step ahead of the crackdown.
Although the calls for protests would mark the first in Kuwait since the stunning Arab uprisings, the oil—rich Gulf nation is no stranger to political showdowns. Kuwait has the region’s most powerful parliament and opposition lawmakers have waged open battles against the ruling system, including nearly bringing down the prime minister two times with no—confidence votes.
One of the protest slogans- “Leave! We Deserve Better!”
The planned rallies were timed to dovetail with the return of parliament from a nearly month-long recess.
One of the first acts was the swearing—in of the new interior minister, whose predecessor was dismissed in January following an uproar when a suspect accused of illegal liquor sales was beaten to death in police custody.
But the main target of Kuwait’s opposition remains the prime minister, Sheik Nasser Al Mohammed Al Sabah, accused of stifling political freedoms and muzzling dissent. The prime minister is a nephew of Kuwait’s emir, whose ruling family holds all major government posts and controls the oil riches in the world’s fourth—largest producer.
The Gulf is already gripped by unprecedented political unrest.
Bahrain’s monarchy has been hit by more than three weeks of protests and clashes. Smaller protests have flared in Oman and Saudi Arabia.
Last month, police in Kuwait used tear gas to disperse protests by descendants of desert nomads demanding Kuwait citizenship and the generous state benefits that come with it.
Keywords: Kuwait protests