I don't understand internal Kuwaiti politics, but I'm researching it right now. There's a Reuters article that explains the background pretty well. The Kuwaiti opposition recently took a majority of votes in a Kuwaiti election, where one family holds power and political parties are banned. The government has now changed the voting rules, which would prevent the opposition from winning again in the future.
The people of Kuwait aren't having any of it.
The Arab Spring has arrived in Kuwait.
This was the scene at 12:00 PM, EST
Moments after these pictures were taken, the crowd met security forces. They locked arms and chanted "Peaceful, Peaceful" and were attacked by Kuwaiti security services. A lot of the tweets say with guns, but I don't see any images of injuries. Most people are saying flashbang stun grenades, and gas. Rubber bullets are a possibility, though. I'll know more in a few minutes.
Which led to one of the most incredible photos I've ever seen.
Here's a Kuwaiti protester helping a police officer who was caught by the gas.
I'll update this post as time goes on, and we know more.
Quick Edit: Apparently the special forces have attacked the protesters after they decided that the march was successful and it was time to go home. There's a lot of shock, anger, and confusion among the Kuwaiti opposition right now. No images of rubber bullets, just teargas.
9:52 AM PT: Badscience shared a website with a ton of information.
These protests were in Mishraf, an outlying suburb of the capital, Kuwait City.
The article is here.
The opposition called Sunday's march in Kuwait City to protest against an amendment to the electoral law ordered by Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, the Kuwait emir, last month before a snap December 1 parliamentary election.
Almost all opposition groups have said they will boycott the poll in protest over what they see as a bid to create a rubber stamp assembly.
Leading opposition figure Mussallam al-Barrak told supporters late Saturday night "to handover to police those who resort to violence."
10:10 AM PT: Okay, I'm getting new information. State Security is now yelling "foul language" at the protesters, trying to goad them into attacking. Opposition folks are worried about kettling and attempts to create a violent situation.
The protesters are trying to leave.
This was a well organized protest. If you see that picture, they shut down an entire highway. The internet is estimating 140-200,000 people were marching in Kuwait city tonight. I have no idea if that's accurate, but seeing that march snake on for miles...
Special forces using foul language, swearing,screaming,provoking protestors! While protestors r peacefully walking away#مسيرة_كرامةوطن2— lama alfadala (@Elle_fadala) November 4, 2012
(No, I don't speak Arabic, but Google Chrome does.)
Tweeps reporting that security forces are not allowing people to leave & are arresting people randomly on the way back to their cars #Kuwait— Ahmad Al Murad (@Murad_Ah) November 4, 2012
10:31 AM PT: Images coming out now show special forces in masks making random arrests:
10:41 AM PT: Not an isolated incident. Video now of protesters helping police:
10:44 AM PT: Video of the protest march:
10:47 AM PT: The tweets are correct. Here are protesters walking to their cars being attacked by teargas, flashbangs, and some kind of crowd dispersal weapon I've never seen that causes small explosions among the crowd.
10:51 AM PT: Another newly uploaded video, You can see teargas and hear the concussions from whatever those crowd dispersal weapons are.
11:01 AM PT: I've heard this chant so many times over the past few years.
I still don't know what it means. Anyone else know?
11:08 AM PT: More shots of protesters helping police. I can't tell with the blurring, but this looks like the same people as the first picture.
11:45 AM PT: Things seem to be quieting down for the night. People have gone home, and everyone in Kuwait is seeing the videos and images coming out of tonight's protests. I'll keep an eye out, and update if anything else happens.
11:53 AM PT: According to an activist I have been speaking with, the government has, by the Emir's degree, gone from a voting system where there were "4 votes per citizen, 10 elected seats per district, 5 districts" to what she calls the "Single Non-Transferable Vote" system. One vote per person, one representative per area. According to her, this kind of system will not only prevent the opposition from gaining a majority (through jerrymandering) but it will also exacerbate tribal, religious, and ethnic divisions.
For OllieGarkey and any others who don't speak any Arabic...
The chant in the video from the 11:01PT update is
"الشعب يريد اسقاط المرسوم"
spoken as "Ash-sha'b yureed asqaat al-marsoom," and translates roughly to "The people want the fall of the system." مرسوم - marsoom - doesn't mean 'system' exactly (grammatically it means 'that which is drawn/prescribed/ordained'), but it derives from the same root as the word that means 'official' (رسمي - rasmee), and is commonly used to describe the system of laws and hierarchies that the government maintains.
There's a related chant that's been used fairly frequently in the Arab Spring that goes "الشعب يريد اسقاط النظام" ("Ash-sha'b yureed asqaat an-nithaam") and more easily or obviously translates as "The people want the fall of the system," but they're pretty much equivalent.
Just in case you were wondering!