Thousands of angry Kuwaitis stormed parliament last week in an extraordinary show of defiance against the Gulf state. Protesters battled security forces before pushing their way into the building.
The demonstration follows a wave of strikes that have shaken Kuwait. The oil-rich kingdom had previously seemed immune from the Arab Spring.
The strikes erupted in the public sector following a government climbdown in the face of a threatened national oil strike. Oil workers won huge wage increases weighted towards those on lower pay.
The mood of militancy then spread to customs workers and civil servants. They shut down the ports as part of their strike.
In a rare expression of public anger, firefighters recently stormed the department’s headquarters demanding the end to the clock-in system. Cabin crews on the national airline have also threatened to strike over privatisation.
The latest demonstrations outside parliament involved an unprecedented public protest by women librarians demanding equal pay.
The scale of anger has shaken Kuwait’s ruling Al-Sabah family. It has erupted following revelations of multi-million dollar bribes to MPs and the prime minister.
Rising militancy has reinvigorated calls for sweeping reforms. One left wing former MP told the crowds gathered in Erada Square outside parliament, “We want a full democracy. What was good enough in the 1960s is no longer good enough today.”
Kuwait’s king has powers to dissolve the parliament and assume total power. But he has faced increasingly vocal opposition among some MPs over recent years.
Some 62 people, including a military officer and opposition MPs, have been arrested during the latest protests.