Kuwait police clash with hundreds of protesters

KUWAIT Sat Feb 19, 2011 11:45am EST

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KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwaiti police fired teargas at hundreds of stateless Arabs demanding citizenship in a second day of protests in a village outside the OPEC member's capital on Saturday, a human rights activist said.

Around 300 stateless protesters clashed with police, who fired teargas in the As-Salbiya village outside Kuwait City, injuring around seven people according to witnesses.

It was the second protest in the oil-producing Gulf Arab state since a wave of unrest inspired by turmoil in Tunisia and Egypt began sweeping across the Middle East in January.

Maha al-Barjas, vice president of the Kuwait Human Rights Society, said seven people had been wounded in the clashes.

On Friday, more than 1,000 stateless had demonstrated in Jahra, northwest of Kuwait City, demanding citizenship Barjas said between 100 to 140 people were arrested in that clash, but most were released on Saturday.

The stateless Arabs, longtime residents of Kuwait known as bedoun from the Arabic "bedoun jinsiyya" (without nationality), were demanding citizenship, free education, free healthcare and jobs, benefits available to Kuwaiti nationals.

Many of Kuwait's stateless are descendants of desert nomads denied citizenship under strict nationality laws in the small Gulf state, whose citizens are entitled to generous welfare benefits.

(Reporting by Kuwait newsroom; Writing by Martina Fuchs; Editing by Alison Williams)

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