MPs, activists outraged after bedoon sets himself on fire

Lawmaker to demand special debate on freedoms

KUWAIT: Lawmakers and activists yesterday expressed outrage and strongly lashed out at government agencies after a stateless man set himself on fire apparently over being poverty-stricken, although the interior ministry alleged he has a criminal record. The bedoon man attempted self-immolation outside Jahra court in a bid to commit suicide, the interior ministry said in a statement. The ministry said security men rescued the man and took him to Jahra Hospital for treatment. The man, born in 1982, did not die, but he sustained serious burns.

No details about his personal life were provided, but activists said on social media he was complaining of being poor. But the interior ministry said that after investigating the man’s case, it was found that he has an active criminal record with 21 crimes including a threat to kill, robbery, drinking alcohol and assault. The ministry said investigations are still ongoing to understand the motives behind the suicide attempt.

MP Abdulkarim Al-Kandari called on the Assembly’s human rights panel to investigate the case and summon all officials concerned with the issue of bedoons in the country, including the prime minister himself. Around 120,000 stateless people, known locally as bedoons, live in Kuwait and complain of discrimination and being deprived of basic human rights like citizenship, jobs, education, health and others.

Bedoons claim the right to Kuwaiti citizenship, but the government insists that a majority of them have no right to Kuwaiti nationality because either they or their forefathers arrived in Kuwait and destroyed their identification documents in order to obtain Kuwaiti citizenship and enjoy generous benefits. MP Waleed Al-Tabtabaei criticized the interior ministry for publishing details of the victim’s criminal record, saying the ministry should be ashamed of itself for doing this. He said the ministry should be blamed for oppressing those people and failing to find a dignified solution for their plight.

Director of the Kuwait Society for Human Rights Mohammad Al-Humaidi said as long as the government does not stop the “atrocities” of the central agency for the bedoons, these incidents will continue and could become worse. “What do you expect from a group of people who are deprived of identity, health and education, which are the simplest of basic rights,” he asked.
Ahmad Al-Dayeen, a senior official of the Progressive Movement, said regardless of any other details, any person burning himself reveals their ordeal. He said what happened reveals the deep agony and the suffering of “Kuwaiti bedoons”, adding the suicide attempt was not the first and will not be the last.

Meanwhile, MP Omar Al-Tabtabaei said yesterday he will file a request to hold a special session to discuss the retreat of public freedoms in Kuwait in recent years, especially freedom of expression. The lawmaker warned the government against trying to prevent the session from being held.

By B Izzak

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