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Kuwait: A New Prime Minister and Detainees Bailed Out

From Right: Kuwait's New Prime Minister, Head of Parliament, and Resigned Prime Minister

Political tension has reached its peak in Kuwait after protesters stormed the parliament more than two weeks ago. More than 20 of those who took part in the action were arrested or have handed themselves in to the public prosecution in solidarity with those arrested. The Cabinet then resigned a day before thousands protested last Monday in Erada Square, demanding the release of detainees and the departure of Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammed, who is accused of corruption. At last, by the end of November, the Amir of Kuwait chose not to reappoint Sheikh Nasser for the eighth time and instead appointed the resigned defense minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak as the new prime minister; a decision that was welcomed with feelings of victory on one side and with worries and disappointment over the appointment of Al-Mubarak, on the other side.

Detainees Hunger-Strike

The 31 detainees

On the 25th of November, those detained for storming the parliament entered a hunger strike protesting the refusal of public prosecution to let them be bailed out until their trial dates. The author of this post has published the English version of the detainees’ statement regarding their hunger strike which lasted for five days. On December 1, the detainees were bailed out after the appointment of the new prime minister. In the statement, the detainees listed six points to explain their decision:

First: Fixed and false accusations have been charged against all, reaching up to 13 charges to some detainees that could carry a total of lifetime sentences.
Second: 14 different detainees have been accused of stealing the same parliamentary gavel belonging to National Assembly Speaker Jassem Al-Kharafi.
Third: We are currently being held in prison cells that lack the most basic human requirements.
Fourth: One of the detainees needing immediate medical attention was transferred to Mubarak Hospital cuffed by hands and feet, as a provocative act by officials.
Fifth: Our attempts in trying to contact family members has been denied keeping us cut off from any news about them and their situation.
Finally, since the interrogation has already been completed by public prosecutors, and since we are accused and not convicted, and since we are Kuwaiti citizens having no reason to flee, and since we willingly and voluntarily turned ourselves in, we declare that it is unlawful and cruel to deny us bail, therefore we announce the start of a hunger strike.

As detainees were on hunger strike, people gathered in front of the court (Justice Palace) for several days demanding their release. In the sit-in, protesters carried a huge hammer in a sarcastic gesture against the head of parliament Jassim Al-Khurafi who submitted a complaint against those who stormed the parliament accusing them of stealing his hammer.

Monday Erada Protest

Last Monday, the day after the cabinet submitted its resignation, thousands gathered in Erada Square to demand the release of the detainees and the departure of the Prime Minister. Through Twitter, there were four groups responding to this protest:
1) A group that already protested against storming the parliament and in favor of the government.
2) The ‘grey’ group that refused to protest as the event was led by those they saw as corrupt and fundamental opposition MPs.
3) The ‘orange’ group that used the hash tag #3an_nafsi (on my behalf) to state that their refusal to let those MPs represent them, yet they will protest for the freedom of the detainees.
4) The ‘yellow’ group which included people who have been protesting against the prime minister despite the crowd attending or leading it. It also included people who sympathized with detainees and wanted to leave politics aside until they get released.

Kuwaiti tweep Danah Taqi designed this avatar for the orange group

In comment on Monday's protest, Kuwaiti blogger Dahem Al-Qahtani wrote [ar]:

للتو عدت من ساحة الإرادة. عدد الحضور وصل إلى نحو 50 ألف مواطن ومواطنة إن لم يكن أكثر. ما حصل لم يكن مجرد إجتماعا سياسيا بل كان وبإمتياز إستفتاء شعبي عفوي رافض لمنهجية إدارة الدولة عبر الطرق التي تدار بها حالياً
I just came back from Erada Square. The number reached 50,000 male and female citizens, if not more. What happened was not just a political gathering but a spontaneous public poll refusing the methods that the state is being ran by.

Another blogger called ‘what's up‘ wrote a post about the rallies in front of the Justice Palace and the one held in Erada Square last Monday [ar]:

تجمع الحشود في ساحة الارادة وقصر العدل ليس عبث ولكن هو نتيجة تراكم الصراعات السياسية التي عشناها في المجلس الحالي، إلا أن أدت هذه التراكمات الى انفجار “ارادة” الشعب الذي “قمع” وتضرر جراء معادلة حكومية فاسدة نتيجتها “قبض” الأغلب لمبالغ من المال التي أهدرت وسلبت من مال الشعب العام واحتياطي الاجيال القادمة التي قد لا تعيش الرفاهية التي نعيشها اليوم بل وقد نحن أنفسنا لا نعيش هذه الرفاهية بعد عدة سنين ليست بكثيرة
The crowds in front of Justice Palace and in Erada Square did not show up randomly but in reaction to a long political clash that we lived through the time of the current parliament. The people exploded and were repressed, after getting harmed by a corrupt government that bribed and wasted the public funds and the money of the coming generations that might not live the luxury we are living in today. We too might not live this luxury in several years.

The New Prime Minister

After the appointment of the new prime minister, bloggers and Twitter users expressed their opinions about the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. Blogger Hamad wrote a post to thank those who have been protesting over the past two years against the resigned prime minister. He emphasized the importance of keeping up the struggle [ar]:

ولازلت أعتقد بأن التحرك ضد الاستفراد السلطوي ومن اجل محاسبة كل المتورطين في قضايا الفساد المليوني هو واجب لابد من الاستمرار في نهجه لحين تحقيق هدف مهم وهو تطبيق القانون و ادانة المتورطين الكبار في الدولة والذين خانوا الامانة ولابد من أن يكونوا عبرة لمن لا يعتبر
I still believe in working against those who want to have the power for themselves, and in questioning all those who were involved in corruption and bribes worth millions of Kuwaiti dinars. Consistency is a duty to achieve an important goal which is to apply the law and to charge those who betrayed trust, so they would be an example for others.

The following video shows the moments the detainees were released on bail, after the appointment of the new prime minister:

Professor of political science Kristin Diwan (@kdiwaniya) wrote in her Twitter account pointing out the value of replacing Kuwait's prime minister:

@kdiwaniya: Replacement of Kuwaiti PM due to popular pressure is a milestone in forcing political accountability in the GCC.

Kuwaiti doctor Fawaz Farhan (@FawazFarhan) actively participated in different protests against the former prime minister and for the freedom of detainees. Despite being secular, Farhan attended political rallies against the prime minister despite the fact some of them were led by Islamist or conservative members of the parliament, a number of them accused of corruption. He refuses their acts and criticizes liberals as well and their absence in the late political scene but at the same does not mind Islamist presence if brought by ballots.

هناك أنباء عن النية بتحويل النواب ذوي الحسابات المتضخمة بعد حل المجلس.. يبدو أن الحراك الشعبي بدأ يؤتي أكلَه.. المجد للشعب
@FawazFarhan: Reports suggest that parliament members with suspicious bank accounts will be investigated after the dissolving the parliament. It seems the public movement is gaining its results. Glory to the people.
مع أنني لست متفائلاً كثيراً ، إلا أن جابر المبارك قد يعيد شيئاً من ثقة الشعب بالحكومات الكويتية لو اتخذ بعض القرارات التاريخية
@FawazFarhan: I am not too optimistic, however Jaber Al-Mubarak might gain back a bit of people's trust in Kuwaiti governments, by taking historical decisions.
قلناها من قبل ونقولها الآن: حتى لو كلفنا التخلص من الدكتاتورية والفساد صعود الإسلاميين فلن نتراجع ، فلنترك المجتمع يجرّب ويتطوَّر
@FawazFarhan: We said it before and will say it again now: if getting rid of dictatorship and corruption will cost us the raise of Islamists, we will still not back off. Let society try and develop.

Hamad Aljudai (@hamadmj) is one more young man who protested against the prime minister. He wrote many comments about the way he sees this developing and in one of his tweets, he talked about the clash inside the ruling family:

أحد يسكّت “رجالات الدولة” من مطالبة الأمير وقف صراع أبناء الأسرة. الصراع طبيعي والي نحتاجه هو وضعه بإطار دستوري ديمقراطي لا أكثر
@hamadmj: Someone silence ‘the state figures’ from demanding the Amir to stop the ruling family clash. The clash is natural, what we need is to put it within a constitutional democratic frame.

Abdullah Alsadoun (@AbdullahAlsadon) stated the obvious regarding the appointment of Al-Mubarak as the new prime minister of Kuwait:

تكليف جابر المبارك الشريك الرئيسي في جميع حكومات ناصر المحمد خطوة الى الوراء و لا يعبر عن طموحات الشعب!
@AbdullahAlsadon: The appointment of Jaber Al-Mubarak, the main partner in all Nof asser Al-Mohammed's cabinets, is just a step backwards that doesn't reflect the ambitions of people.

Columnist Ahmad Al Essa (@ahmadaleisa) was one of those who formed the ‘grey’ group refusing to participate in protests led by corrupt opposition figures. He comments on “the new era” saying:

الإصلاح يتمثل بتقديم حكومة الرئيس الجديد طلب رفع الحصانة عن النواب المقتحمين واتخاذ الإجراءات القانونية ضد الراشي والمرتشي قبل حل المجلس
@ahmadaleisa: Reform will be seen when the new prime minister submits a request to remove the immunity of the parliament members who stormed the parliament and by taking legal action against the briber and the bribed before dissolving parliament.

Lawyer Bassam Alasousi (@Bassam_Alasousi) was also from the grey group and he was critical of the confusion that liberal politicians had in the past days. Alasousi believes the winner from all of this is Muslim Brotherhood, as he wrote in criticism and sarcasm:

جيش (الإخوان) استخدم مدافعنا الثقيلة في معركته الأخيرة ……. هنيئا لكم النصر ياشباب
@Bassam_Alasousi: The army of Muslim Brotherhood used our heavy cannons in its last battle…. Congrats on your victory, youth!

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