KUWAIT CITY -- The re-emerging authority in Kuwait is treating Palestinians unfairly and sometimes brutally, Palestinians said in interviews yesterday.
Food and water is being dribbled meagerly into poor Palestinian neighborhoods while it is more ample for Kuwaitis, they contend.
Young Palestinian men are being seized and taken away for hours or days of questioning and are sometimes abused, they say. Some disappear entirely. Others are searched and hassled at each of the many checkpoints that have proliferated under martial law, they say.
"Look at this," said a 23-year-old Palestinian, showing nasty marks on his arm he said were caused by cigarette burns during questioning in a police station. His head was bandaged and a cheek badly bruised.
"They kept me for two days. They picked me up for no reason when I was walking home," he said. "My only crime is that I'm Palestinian."
Like others interviewed, he would not give his name. All said they fear retribution.
The Palestinian minority here, said to be about 180,000 now, is regarded with suspicion by Kuwaitis because Palestinian leaders favored Saddam Hussein in the war.
The returning Kuwaiti government has been careful not to make sweeping public indictments, saying that most Palestinians remained loyal to Kuwait during the occupation. But Western diplomats have been pressing the government to back its words with actions to ensure that Palestinians are not mistreated.
Interviews yesterday in the dilapidated neighborhood of Hawalli, a Palestinian ghetto, brought charges of formalized mistreatment.
"There is no water here. There is no food here. Most of the people are cooking with wood," said a young architect. "They are eating rice. No meat. No fish. No chicken."
Food distribution began this week in most parts of Kuwait City. Each family got a bag full of rice, salt, cooking oil, flour, sugar and other staples. In some areas, distribution began of bread, vegetables and other fresh food items.
"I had a family of five, and all I got was four apples," said one woman. "Each of the Kuwaitis got a kilo."
Other Palestinians said that even when food was available, they were often told their names were not on the official rolls to receive it.
"My father has lived here for over 30 years. We waited for three hours in line yesterday for food, and then they said his name is not on the [residency] list," said Nasser, 24. "We went home with nothing."
Palestinians say the distribution at their local co-op Monday consisted only of water, while food was being given out in Kuwaiti neighborhoods.
The Palestinians say they fear leaving their neighborhood to try to get food from the other distribution points because of the threat of being abducted or beaten.
Walter Stocker, head of the Kuwaiti delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said that there is "no concrete proof" of systematic beatings of Palestinians.
"The impression I have is it is not officially at the hands of the government," he said. "But to what extent they close their eyes, or they are not in a position to suppress it, I don't know."