x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Kuwaiti bedouin stage rally over 'racist' TV programme

Thousands of tribesmen protest at claim by satellite channel that they are not 'true citizens' of Kuwait

Thousands of Kuwaiti tribesmen have staged a massive rally to protest against a controversial television programme which alleged that bedouin tribes were not Kuwaiti. More than 5,000 tribesmen showed up late on Saturday at the rally, which was addressed by MPs and activists who accused the government of failing to curb "racist" attempts aimed at dividing the small Kuwaiti society. The programme, aired a few days ago by the recently established private Kuwaiti satellite channel Al Soor, alleged that a majority of tribesmen in the emirate are not true citizens, and is said to have insulted them.

The channel, whose name in Arabic means fence, claimed that the true Kuwaiti nationals are those who lived inside a fence built in the 19th century to safeguard Kuwait City against attacks. It also claimed that most tribesmen hold dual citizenship, which is outlawed in Kuwait. Kuwaiti tribes form the backbone of the army, police force and national guards and hold half the seats in the 50-member parliament.

They also account for about half of Kuwait's native population of 1.1 million people. The oil-rich state, which sits on around 10 per cent of global oil reserves, also has 2.3 million residents. Last year security forces clashed with tribesmen while trying to prevent them from holding outlawed primary elections before the 2008 general polls. Speakers at the rally vented anger at the government, and the veteran opposition politician Ahmed al Saadun threatened to grill the Kuwaiti prime minister, Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al Ahmad al Sabah, over the incident if the government did not act quickly to close the station.

Speakers also claimed that influential people were behind the channel, owned and run by Mohammed al Juwaihel, a former parliamentary candidate and a long-time critic of bedouins in Kuwait. Before the rally was over, the information and oil minister, Sheikh Ahmad Abdullah al Sabah, announced that the government had shut down the station, which broadcasts from outside Kuwait via the Egyptian satellite company Nilesat.

The opposition Popular Action Bloc claimed that the programme was part of a wider conspiracy to sow sectarian, factional and tribal tensions in Kuwait with the aim of changing the democratic constitution of 1962. * AFP