Kuwait protesters say ‘watermelon’ PM must go

March 9, 2011 - 0:0

KUWAIT - Kuwaitis demonstrating outside parliament calling for the prime minister to resign came up with a new symbol of Arab discontent on Tuesday by handing out watermelons.

“This is for the parliament’s poor performance,” one of the small band of protesters shouted as he gave a watermelon to a lawmaker making his way into the parliament, Reuters reported.
The significance was not spelled out, but in local parlance, a person who has a lack of understanding or holds an unrealistic point of view sometimes is called a watermelon.
In Libya, where protests against Muammar Gaddafi have descended into widespread violence, protesters threw shoes, which are considered unclean in the Arab world, at television screens showing the Libyan leader’s speech.
In Kuwait, six members of the Kuwaiti youth group Kafi (Enough) gave watermelons to a few lawmakers as a signal of their political dissatisfaction in a country that has the most outspoken parliament in the Persian Gulf Arab region.
The protesters, who used Facebook and Twitter to organize the demonstration to coincide with the opening session of the country’s powerful and combative parliament, demand an end to alleged political corruption, organizers said.
“From A to Z, what we see is bad -- political corruption, briberies, corrupt media, special forces attacking the people and parliament members,” an organizer, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisals, told The Washington Post.
The demonstrators claim some pro-government lawmakers won seats in 2009 through vote rigging.
The demonstration marked a tempered start to a planned day of unauthorized protests by youth groups demanding the removal of Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah, a member of the ruling family, and greater political freedom.
Kuwait, the world’s fourth largest oil exporter, does not allow political parties, and its parliament is made up of individuals who form loose blocs.
The government has restricted public gatherings, violently breaking up a political salon held by opposition leaders in December -- and then closing the Al-Jazeera satellite network after it covered the incident.
Tension with stateless Arabs, longtime residents of Kuwait known as “bedoun” who clashed with police last month in protests demanding citizenship, appeared to be easing after some lawmakers promised to discuss a draft law in parliament on Tuesday that would grant them basic civil rights.
Demonstrations are banned in Kuwait without prior approval and youth groups Kafi and al-Soor al-Khames (Fifth Fence), the main organizers, will present a challenge to the government since they had not sought permission for the protests.
Some of the protest organizers not only want Sheikh Nasser to step down, but seek a replacement from outside the al-Sabah family, which has ruled Kuwait for some 250 years.
The prime minister, a nephew of the ruler, has survived two non-cooperation motions in parliament since he was appointed in 2006. All other critical portfolios, such as defense, interior and foreign affairs, are held by al-Sabahs. The emir has the final say in all political matters.