As protests sweep through Iran, northern Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen, parts of Jordan, Libya, Egypt and Tunisia, Saudi Arabia is increasingly surrounded by events troubling to its many thousands of princes. And in Kuwait, the kleptocracy that was rescued by the United States in 1991 from the clutches of Saddam Hussein, there’s something simmering, as Kristin Smith Diwan reports in Foreign Policy:
“In Kuwait, the current government headed by Nasser Mohammed Al-Sabah has been inadvertently doing its part to unify the usually fractious opposition. Back in December, it vastly overplayed its hand in sending security forces to attack an opposition gathering, resulting in the injury of several members of parliament and the arrest of a popular constitutional scholar. After narrowly surviving a vote of no confidence in the parliament over this issue, the government entered a second crisis when it was revealed that a Kuwaiti man under detention for alcohol smuggling was tortured to death at a police station. These discrete events play powerfully into a rising opposition narrative warning against a rise of authoritarianism in the normally open emirate, with greater controls on media, the jailing of a prominent critical journalist, and persistent threats to curb the power of Kuwait's spirited parliament, or to close it altogether.
“In response to these threats to civil and political liberties, a group of internet savvy youth encompassing both former Muslim Brotherhood members and liberals has emerged. The group is named the ‘Fifth Wall’ in honor of the constitution which they view as protecting the integrity of the state much as Kuwait's famed wall once protected it from foreign invasion. Their program, communicated through Facebook and Twitter, calls for a ‘youth rebellion to work for freedom and respect’ and certainly resonates with the broader climate of youth revolt.
“The power of tweeting Kuwaitis should not be underestimated. In 2006, an Internet and SMS organized protest movement against corruption and tribal division brought down the Kuwaiti government, forcing early elections and the re-organization of Kuwait's electoral districts: a successful campaign for electoral reform known as the "Orange Revolution." More recently, the Fifth Wall used its 6,000-member Twitter feed to call for a protest at the National Assembly on February 8th -- the date on which the Minister of Interior had been due to appear in parliament to be questioned for the torture allegations. Apparently seeking to avoid the link with the swelling protests in Egypt, the Kuwaiti government took pre-emptive action, announcing the resignation of the Interior Minister the day before the Fifth Wall protest was to take place. The group has vowed to continue their campaign for the protection of the constitution, and has set a new date of March 8th for protests to bring down the Prime Minister. The government is said to be monitoring social networking sites, prompting the opposition to call for a parliamentary discussion on new media freedoms.”
There are lots of Shiites in Kuwait, too, though not as many as in Bahrain.