The Bedoun – Kuwait’s stateless people

On my old blog, I touch upon the issue of the Bedoun (although mostly my ignorance of the matter). This is what I wrote then – from the observation deck of Kuwait Towers:

Bedoun

I’m soon joined by the only other westerner here. A journo from a Central European country, he is there to cover the issue of the Bedoo. ‘The Bedouins?’ I ask. Not quite. The Bedoo, it appears, are Kuwait’s stateless people; no basic rights, no passports, no freedom of movement.

I have never heard of the Bedoo. Some research is in order.  Amnesty, perhaps?

I’ve yet to learn how to import the comments along with the posts to this blog. Instead I’ll quote a commenter on this post, explaining the issue in greater detail. Rosa writes: Hi Sophie. Nice pictures. Just wanted to say that it’s the bedoon/bedoun. not the bedoo, and you can indeed find out more about them through Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch, both of which have issued damning reports about their treatment. Bedoons/Bedoun/Bidoun are denied birth or death certificates – so can’t obtain passports, have no access to healthcare, education, housing or employment and live in conditions that the Kuwaiti government isn’t keen on advertising.

In light of the current unrest in the Middle East, I thought I’d see if the issue of the Bedoun has come up. It has. On two occasions this year, Bedoun protesters have clashed with police.

According to Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Watan Daily, the issue of the Bedoun was on the agenda for the Kuwaiti Parliament on 8 March, with one MP calling the government “sluggish” in addressing the Bedoun issue. The MP announced a vote to grant the Bedoun civil and social rights, “whether the government likes it or not”. Read the Al-Watan article here.

The following day, Kuwait Times reported Parliament voted against debating the Bedoon issue, instead focussing on the problem of unemployment for Kuwaiti nationals.

It’ll be interesting to see how this unfolds.

On my old blog, I touch upon the issue of the Bedoun (although mostly my ignorance of the matter). This is what I wrote then – from the observation deck of Kuwait Towers:

Kuwait Towers

I’m soon joined by the only other westerner here. A journo from a Central European country, he is there to cover the issue of the Bedoo. ‘The Bedouins?’ I ask. Not quite. The Bedoo, it appears, are Kuwait’s stateless people; no basic rights, no passports, no freedom of movement.

I have never heard of the Bedoo. Some research is in order.  Amnesty, perhaps?

I’ve yet to learn how to import the comments along with the posts to this blog. Instead I’ll quote a commenter on this post, explaining the issue in greater detail. Rosa writes: Hi Sophie. Nice pictures. Just wanted to say that it’s the bedoon/bedoun. not the bedoo, and you can indeed find out more about them through Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch, both of which have issued damning reports about their treatment. Bedoons/Bedoun/Bidoun are denied birth or death certificates – so can’t obtain passports, have no access to healthcare, education, housing or employment and live in conditions that the Kuwaiti government isn’t keen on advertising.

In light of the current unrest in the Middle East, I thought I’d see if the issue of the Bedoun has come up. It has. On two occasions this year, Bedoun protesters have clashed with police.

According to Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Watan Daily, the issue of the Bedoun was on the agenda for the Kuwaiti Parliament on 8 March, with one MP calling the government “sluggish” in addressing the Bedoun issue. The MP announced a vote to grant the Bedoun civil and social rights, “whether the government likes it or not”. Read the Al-Watan article here.

The following day, Kuwait Times reported Parliament voted against debating the Bedoon issue, instead focussing on the problem of unemployment for Kuwaiti nationals.

It’ll be interesting to see how this unfolds.

19 Responses to “The Bedoun – Kuwait’s stateless people”

  1. Turkey's For Life 21 April 2011 1002 #

    I’ve never heard of the bedoun before. Obviously something the Kuwaiti government have done a good job at keeping under wraps. How awful. Hope you’ll be able to do some follow-up posts on this if you find out more information.

    Julia
    Turkey’s For Life recently posted..Winter Sunset- Çalış Beach

  2. Randy 21 April 2011 2140 #

    Very interesting post. It sounds like the Bedoun are on the parliament’s radar, so hopefully that means the Kuwaiti government will move forward with granting them their rights sooner than later. I look forward to reading more about the issue.
    Randy recently posted..The Path To Angel’s Landing – Zion National Park- Utah USA – Somewhere In Time Weekly Travel Photo

  3. American Girl 26 April 2011 1633 #

    Thank you so much for mentioning this topic — as it’s something many pretend doesn’t exist or they just prefer to turn a blind eye.

    Kuwait currently has between 120,000-150,000 bedouns. Perhaps even more. The numbers are never very accurate. These people are also known as ‘stateless’ or ‘bedoun jinsiya’ (without citizenship). They rarely have passports, no embassy, no birth certificates, marriage certificates, or death certificates. Their identification is minimal and degrading. Many bedoun children can’t attend school to get a basic education due to lack of proper identification (birth certificate) or the high cost of the schools. They’re not provided free education. Bedouns do not have the legal right to employment, so many will opt for selling vegetables on the side of the road, or even crime. Those who do have ‘normal’ jobs are generally paid a fraction of what the other employees make.

    The Bedouns live in areas such as Taima (Jahra) and Sulabiya in Kuwait. Their homes are substandard at best. Many have aluminum additions in an attempt to make a larger living space. It’s not uncommon for several of them to share a room and sleep on the floor.

    Yes, some of these people did sneak into the country years ago and dispose of their real identity, hoping to benefit from Kuwait’s oil riches. But the majority have lived in Kuwait longer than many ‘Kuwaitis’, yet have few basic human rights.

    Again, thank you for bringing attention to this topic as it’s very important.

    I wish you all the best in your travels.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 26 April 2011 2046 #

      @American Girl: Happy to – and thanks so much for the additional information. As you say, the plight of the Bedoun is not well known, at least not in the Western world. Perhaps the current focus on system changes in the Middle East might provide an opportunity for a fair resolution also for the Bedoun. We can at least hope.

  4. Jason 26 April 2011 2137 #

    Sophie,

    A very interesting story about the Bedouns – I also have not heard of them. It sounds like they are treated horribly and not many people seem to care.

    Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    Jason
    Jason recently posted..A Visit To The Venta De Repuestos

  5. Nancie 27 April 2011 0237 #

    What a sad way to live. I can’t imagine not having my birth or death acknowledged.
    Nancie recently posted..Travel Photo Thursday- April 21- 2010- Inle Lake- Myanmar

  6. Christian 6 May 2011 0038 #

    I have never even heard of the bedoun. A very sad situation.

  7. Petter 6 June 2011 1027 #

    I think Kuwait sounds like such an interesting country, but this is soooo sad.

  8. Marie 2 July 2011 1553 #

    I also have never heard of the Bedoun but am really glad you brought it to my attention. Do you know if Amnesty works does anything here?

  9. American Girl 10 July 2011 0723 #

    There are numerous human rights organizations which are fully aware of the Bedoun situation. Sadly it’s more a political issue which requires the government of Kuwait to fix.

    However, providing charitable contributions to the Bedouns would always be appreciated. I do believe the Salvation Army provides support at times, but there’s not specific charity set up for only Bedoun needs. If I had a clue how to start one I would — in hopes of at least covering the cost of education for children.

    I met a Bedoun the other night who is married, has 5 children ranging from 17 years old down to 6 years old. None of his children ever got to attend school past the 4th grade (fiances didn’t allow). His 17 year old son can’t read or write more than his own name and a few other basic sentences. His younger children are completely illiterate. This man’s occupation is to sell watermelons on the side of the road — which is illegal and could get him arrested. But he has no education (his family couldn’t afford it), and he has no other options than to resort to violent crimes. So he settles for selling watermelons.

    Fortunately, in Kuwait, people aren’t often going hungry. Neighbors and other family members will ensure everyone eats — even if it’s just rice. So these people aren’t homeless and starving to death. Yet the majority are living in substandard accommodations, 10 or more people in a 2 bedroom living space, no right to a legal job, no right to free education for their children, nothing.

    I know another Bedoun who has his BA and is currently doing his Masters. He’s worked odd jobs programming IPhones and IPads and has managed to pay for his education. He has what would be considered a ‘very good job’ (though is reminded often he’s not ‘allowed’ to be working and risks job loss often). Yet he only makes $1,000 a month — his colleagues with less education who he supervises all make at least double that because they’re Expats with valid employment visas. I’ve often asked how he feels about this and his reply is, ‘Thank God I have a job’. He’s the oldest son with only 1 brother, 5 sisters, and a mother to provide for — his father passed away a few years ago. His mother is a Kuwaiti citizen, but he and his other siblings are entitled to nothing because his father was a Bedoun.

    I have numerous Bedoun friends so I could really go on and on about this topic endlessly. But talking does them no good. I want to do so much but don’t have a clue where to start or how. Sadly all I can really do is bring it to the attention of anyone who will listen.

    Thank you all for your wonderful kindness regarding this topic. If any of you have suggestions of how I can truly help the Bedouns (setting up a charity, finding educational funds to help these children go to school, etc) please email me at [email protected].

  10. Kuwaiti 23 September 2011 0000 #

    The bedouns or stateless they are same as the Mixecans people who coming to the United states of America cross the borders without stamp their passport and staying at the country.

    the stateless people in Kuwaiti Originality from ( Iraq – Iran – Syria and Saudi Arabia ) countries.

    they came to Kuwait under the dark specially after discovered the oil in Kuwait when the Kuwaiti borders not covered by high security to check the people who cross the dessert to the rich country.

    Nowdays their sons ask to be a Kuwaiti without showing any decuments as prove.

    the Kuwaiti Parlemint and the Gov, try to give them some human rights but the nationality will give only to who aprove they coming to kuwait bt law.

  11. Kuwaiti2 7 November 2011 1849 #

    The last comment by “Kuwaiti” is biased. It is not like the situation with the Mexicans in America. Yes it is true that most of the so called bedoons arrived in Kuwait after the discovery of oil from mainly Iraq, Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia…but Kuwaiti officials have proven on numerous times that they are willing to grant citizenship to people who are already citizens of other countries, under certain conditions that the government officials decide on. In America, there are very clear laws for granting citizenship and no one can skip these laws because there is a real, functioning and efficient and effective judicial system there. Kuwait is not even close to having a real functioning Democracy like America’s…it has one, but it is not like America’s, and, so I repeat, the comparison “Kuwaiti” tries to make is very misleading. Things have tightened up significantly in Kuwait, but it is fact that there are a ton of loop holes in the so called “laws” and it is all very arbitrary and biased, and “Kuwaiti” is representative of those not looking at the issue from all sides, never taking all the facts into consideration.
    Regardless of that argument, what about those who can prove they have resided in Kuwait since before oil and even before the country gained independence?! are you denying that there are tens of thousands of those kinds of stateless people in Kuwait? They have lived and survived in Kuwait for decades, they are in the 1965 census or in the earlier ones, they have tons of proof including Kuwaiti relatives and witnesses…
    It is understandable that Kuwaitis are full of suspicion when it comes to this issue, but you need not generalize the issue, open up the available files and documents and just go ahead and give the 30-40 thousand DESERVING Kuwaitis their identifications. In reality, however, it has always sadly been a matter of economic self interest. Kuwait has such a massive welfare system and the officials don’t want to increase this quickly inflating cost. The government employs unskilled Kuwaitis in ministry jobs and is forced to pay wages that are too high – beyond any rational economic system or equation because people’s satisfaction maintains the status quo. It is not characteristic of the Kuwait I know, but it is just that citizens have gotten somewhat mislead and confused, or that they don’t want to believe that there is such injustice in their country.

  12. Oilfart 14 December 2011 0524 #

    Reading this story reminds me of all the people who chose to leave Israel when it was created in 1947 by the United Nations. To this day, those people are referred to as Palestinian “refugees”. These people departed on their own accord to other nations who invited them. These people are still refused rights in any countries they went even though there are several generations who have lived in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt.
    Egypt now has a government with more commonalities with the former residents of Israel and still do not grant these folks any rights. Jordan is the worst offender in that they have made decisions to not provide any status change to any of these people.

  13. Statelesssoul 26 January 2012 0220 #

    Hello All,

    I think you all for raising this sensitive and human issue. I myself was once a bedoon until I got accepted as a citizen of a true democratic country unlike the Kuwaiti Democracy.

    The bedoon in Kuwait are living in terrible conditions that nobody living in a western civilization can imagine. They are neglected people with no hope no future. The Kuwaiti government used to allow the bedoon children to attend private schools paid by willing bedoon families but that is long been forbidden. The Kuwaiti government is fighting a very two faced war. It wants the bedoon new generation to be just like the ones previous to that, illiterate and fearful of the government. While on the other hand it is lying to the international community by saying falsely that it is providing human needs and rights to the bedoon. As you all know of course an illiterate society is a disabled society.

    This is just part of the war the battle against the education of bedoon, but there is one major issue that I would like to raise and that is oil. It is now has been learned that the Kuwaiti government has been counting the bedoon as Kuwaiti citizens in its own census to get a bigger share of oil production from OPEC. This is a very dangerous new issue that has been rising to the top recently. It means that the Kuwaiti government is stealing the bedoons identities and there supposed share of the oil money. It also means that the Kuwaiti government has been making billions of dollars through these false census. This is a very dangerous issue that the any human right watch group caring about the bedoon should investigate and address accordingly.

    God Help the bedoon and help every poor stateless human being on this unfair planet.

    Thank You
    StatelessSoul

  14. Antonio Tiso 21 April 2012 1528 #

    Hi Sophie!

    I just read your post about Bedoon.

    Can you help me to make known the crowd funding for an humanitarian photo project that I am carrying out? Its aim is to tell through a photo reportage the plight of life of “Bedoon” in Kuwait. Thanks in advance!

    http://www.molo7photoagency.com/blog/bedoon-project/

    If you could share this link with your friends and contacts, I would be grateful. Antonio.

    The photographers of Molo7 are raising 5.000 euro in order to fund thei visual project about the plight of Kuwait’s stateless community. Deadline: 30 June 2012.
    Antonio Tiso recently posted..“Il mio quartiere”. Laboratorio fotografico con i ragazzi diversamente abili de La Primula – 3a puntata.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 23 April 2012 2342 #

      I’ll spread the word.

  15. lookingforhome 9 July 2012 0312 #

    thank you very much Anne-Sophie to bring such critical issue to the surface .
    i’ve read the article plus all the comments under it , and i found it all talking from an ” observer point of view ” , but as a bedoun myself i would say that all what was written is not even touching this big wound in the dignity of the humanity pride ..
    humans in kuwait are not treated equally .. this is a fact all of us including racist kuwaitis should realize and acknowledge , there are big and high differences between us and the kuwaitis , financially , spiritually and
    bedoun are kuwaitis but without any papers and without any rights , they stole the rights of us to live like normal people , killed our dreams , stopped our ambition and treated us as a ” lower humans ” .. what did we do ? .. nothing but being faithful to this country , through it’s hard and good times we stood together along side the kuwaitis to fight for it’s freedom in the saddam invasion , we gave our fathers and sons as sacrifices in the wars kuwait fought with other arab countries ( egypt in 1973 and iraq in 1984 as the battalion of al yarmouk was mostly of bedoun ) , we were so patient and so grateful for this country as it was the land of our antecedents through the years .
    being a young man who saw most of the suffering of the bedoun ( i’m 32 years old ) , i didn’t gain anything from being here all my life , i studied with my fathers money ( as we can’t study for free ) while i saw my friends study for free with no father misery , graduated with high marks but no university would accept bedoun in my days and saw my dreams of being a psychologist go with the wind , worked so hard in so many jobs with really low salaries as i saw other go over me just because they are kuwaitis , i managed to be as good as it gets in my specialty but still can’t keep enough money to get married or buy a car or build a house or even start my own small business !! … i saw and still see my dreams shred away in pieces as i found a decent way to start my life outside kuwait .. but .. i don’t and can’t get a passport to do it !!

    imagine yourself trapped in your country .. forced to see life go on so easy for all people and you can’t even do a thing about it .. not even run away for another country …. just because my grand father and my father were a complete idiots when they refused documents and passports from the kuwaiti government in it early days , and their reason was ” we are citizens for this beautiful land .. why papers ? ” … ! .. stupid old men ..
    now it’s their fault that i must carry , with such a stupid and racist government to face ..

    is this logical Anne-Sophie ??

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