Kuwait, the Gulf's Poster Child of Democracy, Strips Opposition Members of Citizenship

The Kuwaiti Cabinet revoked the Kuwaiti citizenship of two pro-opposition members and their families on July 21. This development rings serious alarm bells across the region, as Kuwait is often cited as the most democratic state in the Gulf region.

The move follows a threat by the government last week that it will take all necessary procedures against those suspected of trying to “destabilise” the country in the wake of protests which erupted last month demanding the release of Kuwait opposition and former National Assembly member Musallam Albarrak. He has since been released on bail.

The root of this saga goes to events that took place a few months ago, when Albarrak gave an hour long speech at a gathering where he made allegations of rigged elections, coup attempts and government corruption that led to billions of dollars of public money being wasted. Documents that support his claims were leaked in what some called “Kuwaitgate”. Among the documents were details of money transfers to a few judges, which led to a lawsuit being lodged against Albarrak for insulting the judiciary.

On July 2, @BarlamanNews a Twitter account that publishes news about Kuwait tweeted to its 17.3K followers this breaking news:

The public prosecution office orders the arrest of Musallam Albarak in the complaint filed against him by the head of the Supreme Judicial Council

Since then Kuwait witnessed a series of protests and confrontations that were closely followed and documented on social media, particularly Twitter.

POMED (Project on Middle East Democracy) issued a statement and tweeted:

Albarrak was released on bail following those protests but many others were detained for protesting.

Musalam Albarak raised above the shoulders of his supporters in Alkaramah roundabout after his release on bail this afternoon

The government said last week that it will strike with an “iron fist” to defend the state's “prestige” and commissioned the Interior Ministry to take all necessary measures to fulfill the royal commands. (Details in this AlRai newspaper article in Arabic)

Among those named in the decision to revoke their nationalities is an opposition former MP Abdullah al-Barghash and three members of his family.

The government also revoked the nationality of Ahmad al-Shemmeri, owner of the independent Al-Youm television station and Alam Al-Yawm newspaper. His newspaper was ordered to temporarily shut down twice this year by a court for defying a prosecutor-ordered media blackout about an investigation into claims of the attempted coup that Albarak spoke about in one of his speeches. With his nationality revoked, it is expected that the channel and newspaper will be ordered to be shutdown as well.

The action raised concern all over the Gulf. Bahraini journalist Faisal Hayyat tweeted:

Why would a nationality be revoked? Where are the laws if any dissident should be held accountable? Revoking nationalities is terrorism and blackmail. It speaks of helplessness

Saudi former journalist who turned academic Dr Omar Ualymany tweeted:

The case of revoking nationalities in Kuwait stirs reactions and threatens the structure of the Kuwaiti community

Twitter user abo3asam, who has more than 113K followers, noted:

They're anticipating your reactions so if today they scare you by revoking nationalities and you remained silent, tomorrow they will take away from you rights that are bigger than citizenship

Kuwait is an oil rich country, where individual income is among the highest worldwide. It is considered the most politically developed state in the Gulf. Therefore such developments are important and ring serious alarm bells because as blogger Ahmed Alomran tweets to his 85.5k followers:

1 comment

  • Thanks Noor for this post and letting us know more about what’s happening. Unfortunately Egyptians, even those pro-revolution, do not follow this side of the world and do not exert enough effort to communicate with them as we are supposed to do.

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