First Published: 2006-05-29

 
Young Kuwaitis turn ‘Orange’
 

Cursed by some as spoiled children, hailed by others as heroes, young Kuwaitis demand reform in 'Orange Revolution'.

 

Middle East Online

By Omar Hasan - KUWAIT CITY

Their voice was heard

They have been cursed by their opponents as spoiled children and hailed by their supporters as heroes. They call themselves the voice of Kuwaiti youth, and they have broken their silence.

Wearing orange T-shirts and waving orange banners and Kuwaiti flags, hundreds of "frustrated" young people launched their campaign for political reform in a rare protest outside the seat of government on May 5.

Since then, they have been branded the "Orange Movement" or the "Orange Youth", with some even calling them the "Orange Revolution".

"We are a group of young people, from school, university and young graduates," one of their leaders, 29-year-old Khaled al-Fadalah, said as dozens of activists gathered outside the election registration centre.

Kuwait is holding early elections on June 29 after Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah dissolved parliament on May 21 after a bitter standoff between pro-government and opposition MPs over electoral reform.

Opposition MPs have accused the government of deliberately blocking efforts to stamp out vote-buying by reducing the number of constituencies from 25, an issue that plunged the oil-rich emirate into political crisis.

"Our beginning was spontaneous," the US-educated Fadalah said. "We were discussing the political crisis in Kuwait at a restaurant. We said we should act. We decided to hold a protest at the council of ministers."

The orange protest began with the sending of SMS text messages. Then, through Internet bloggers and mobile phone calls, they set a date and a time.

"Between 400 and 500 people gathered. It was very successful," said Fadalah of the peaceful rally that lasted about three hours.

The protesters and pro-reform MPs blame the election system created some 25 years ago for most of Kuwait's alleged rampant corruption, saying it promotes vote-buying and thus produces some corrupt MPs.

They have pressed for the number of constituencies to be slashed to five, saying this would expand electoral districts and make vote-buying very difficult.

The colour orange was chosen "for no political reason", according to Nada al-Mutawa, one of the female activists. "It has nothing to do with Ukraine or Lebanese Christian leader Michel Aoun's movement," she said.

Buoyed by their initial success, the orange activists then staged an overnight vigil outside parliament ahead of the crucial May 15 debate. A number of pro-reform MPs visited them at what later came to be known as the "Square of Will".

About 1,000 members of the orange movement and others disrupted the parliament session when the government backed a motion to send the constitutional court its own bill that would trim the number of constituencies to 10.

They applauded as 29 opposition MPs walked out of the session, and chanted slogans like "we want it five" and "down with the government" - forcing ministers and pro-government MPs to leave the chamber before completing the vote.

Two days later, the protesters held a large public rally at the same spot, followed on May 19 by another at which opposition MPs pledged to back a request to question Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah.

"They branded us as children. Yes, we are. But children who love their country and who are determined to force positive change," activist Abdullah Buftain told thousands at the rally.

"We acted out of frustration at widespread corruption in every government institution and at every level," said Fadalah.

On the day parliament was dissolved, veteran opposition former MP Ahmad al-Saadun hailed the orange youth "as leaders of the Kuwaiti people who brought all political groups under one umbrella".

"In seven days, this group of young activists succeeded in bringing down the government. This week is historic for Kuwait, when the people exercised their right of change," Saadun said.

The orange activists and opposition MPs consider that the government has "failed" at a popular level.

The activists plan to play a key role in the June 29 parliamentary elections, though no Orange Movement member is standing because they are all under 30, the legal age for candidates.

Outside the election registration centre, the activists have managed to speak to most of the candidates, urging them to support a bill to reduce the number of constituencies to five and to fight corruption.

"We will monitor the candidates and we will expose the corrupt ones. We will keep a close watch and we will continue to chase them," said Fadalah.

The group is now using the Internet to name candidates it alleges are corrupt or who oppose reform.

The orange activists have created two lists for candidates.

Their "white list" contains the names of reformists, including the 29 opposition former MPs who have formed a new group called Alliance for Change, while the "black list" names hopefuls they allege are pro-government.

 

Heavy fighting shakes eastern Aleppo as army advances

Yemen prepares assault on Iran backed rebels near key strait

Palestinian Fatah conference ends with boost for Abbas

Nigeria and Morocco agree joint venture to link Africa to Europe

Blocked news website accuses Qatar government of censorship

First buses take Aleppo residents back to ruined homes

Kurdish restrictions cause ‘unnecessary harm’ to Iraq Yazidis

Egypt court strikes down part of protest law

Syria army advances deeper into east Aleppo

US rules out military intervention in Libya

Saudi Arabia names new Labour Minister, reshuffles councils

Eight arrested in Morocco over alleged ties with IS

Syria regime seizes half of rebel parts of Aleppo

Europol warns of changing IS tactics

Palestinian contenders for Fatah posts set to declare

Protests erupt in Istanbul over ‘Aleppo massacre’

Aleppo family reunited after war kept them apart for months

Syria rebels put up fight for key Aleppo district

Obama unlikely to act on Israel-Palestine before leaving office

UN says torture 'widespread' after Turkey coup

International push aims to protect endangered heritage

Journalist's body found shot in Iraq’s Kurdish region

Iran urges Kenya to release two of its citizens

Morocco business diplomacy at heart of strategy to rejoin African Union

Turkish prosecutor calls for drop of Gaza ship charges against Israelis

Iran preparing ‘appropriate’ response to US sanctions renewal

Saudi government detects fresh hacking attempts

Qarawiyyin library holds written wonders

Putin getting admirers from US to Europe to Syria

Congress approves Iran sanctions extension

Staggering casualty toll in Mosul offensive

Pentagon says IS jihadists making 'last stand' in Sirte

Iraq faces post-IS problem in Shiite militias

Turkey detains business executive for alleged Gulen links

Putin says Russia not looking for enemies

Tunisia sentences protesters to 14 years in jail

Saudi increases jail term for rights activist to 11 years

Misery deepens for Mosul refugees with heavy rain

Turkish parliament to vote on bill expanding Erdogan’s power

UN envoy to Yemen, President meet in new peace bid

Syrian Grand Mufti rejects terrorism claims

Qatar blocks popular news website

Desperate civilians brave Aleppo front line

OPEC spares Iran oil production cuts

Minister says Abbas is Israel's top 'ideological' foe