Saturday, 21 January 2012

#Bedoons in #Kuwait

Originally posted by the Kuwait Times at

A "bedoon" is a popular terminology between Kuwaitis, which is defined as an individual that lives in Kuwait but does not have citizenship of any kind. This societal problem is one that resides far beyond Kuwait's borders. Over 120 countries in the world experience the same issue but the extent and the root of the problem varies. In Kuwait, the problem is distinguished by the strength of the laws behind it and how individuals in this society view this vital concern. 

Kuwait has addressed this issue further through politics, society, and through the media. In addition, the parliament has discussed this problem extensively through legislations. Moreover, the council of ministers has been present in numerous decision-making processes but the questions remain the same: Who are the bedoons, how can we address the problem they face and why has this problem reached human, social and political levels? Can we understand how the problem fits in through legal rights or is it simply a political problem?

Dr. Shafeeq Ghabra, through the "Weekly Diwaniya", seeks to answer these questions with leading thinkers, aired Monday night at 10:30pm Kuwait time and again on Tuesday at 1:30pm. Appearing on this week's episode was, Sheikha Awrad Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, Human Rights Activist on behalf of the bedoons, Dr. Jumaan Al Harbish, Parliament Member, Faisal Al-Shayaa, Parliament Member, Dr. Ghanim Al-Najjar, Human and Legal Rights Expert, Sheikha Fouzia Al-Sabah, Board member and Founder of the Al bedoon Society and a group of bedoons. 

Al-Najjar points out that the bedoon situation started in 1959 when the State of Kuwait was being formed in terms of its governance and its politics. In 1986, the situation changed drastically when the government decided to undergo more confined enforcement on the bedoons. Moreover, even more security enforcements were directed at the Bedoons after the Iraq-Iran war.

Ghabra asked what were the rights that the Bedoons had before 1986 and Al-Najjar remarked that they had residencies and were granted educational scholarships as if they were Kuwaitis but without the nationality. In regards to what happened to them after the 1990-1991 Gulf War, Al-Najjar explains that after 1990, many people lost the chance of ever obtaining Kuwaiti citizenship. They were interrogated and were asked to even show proof of being a citizen of other countries. In a nutshell, what happened was inhumane. On another note, Dr. Ghabra then proceeded to ask parliament member, Dr. Jumaan Al-Harbash, to describe the current situation of the bedoons today and the number of bedoons residing in Kuwait. 

Al-Harbash said, "The number of bedoons used to be about a quarter of a million until 1990, where it dropped to a 100,000. The problem began when certain people were excluded from obtaining a nationality in 1959." "There were many people that came in and out of Kuwait easily without any identification. These are people that also fought in the Israeli/Arab war's, as soldiers in the Kuwaiti army on the Egyptian and Syrian fronts. After the Gulf War, many bedoons were asked to provide identification as a way in which to pressure them."

"We now live the problem of the second and third generations who have no connection to what happened in the past. It is our job to provide a balance for everyone living in Kuwait so that everyone is satisfied and this is something that all sides of society and government should be involved in."  Dr. Ghabra shifted the conversation to another level, when asking Sheikha Awrad Al-Sabah, the daughter of the late Emir of Kuwait, about her stance and to why she has become so involved in the issue.  Sheikha Awrad said, "I first got involved when I participated in an educational summer program aimed at bedoons with Fowzia Al-Maajal." 

"This is a first class human rights issue and we should not allow this to happen in Kuwait. What I discovered about the life-styles of the bedoons shocked me but also motivated me to take action. I tried to escalate the issue to top decision makers in Kuwait because I felt that this was my obligation as a Muslim."

"I also went around to various organizations, political/economic/social societies and the parliament. What I discovered was that on the political side, it was not taken as a human rights issue but looked at as a fundamental political problem. However, aren't societal human rights a fundamental issue?"
Ghabra then shifted to Faisal Al-Shayaa (parliament member), who was also on the human rights legislation in the parliament, in order to gain a political perspective on the topic. Al-Shayaa commented, "I agreed that this is a human rights issue and that we would never de-value their rights."

"However, on the other hand, many of them work in the ministry of internal affairs and defence and get salaries and free education. In the 50's, The bedoons were about 800 and then rose to 33,000 in 1965 and this is an indicator that people were holders of other passports. Then the number increased to 250,000 and when the executive committee was formed in 1996 to deal with the bedoon issues, there were 130,000 individuals and a huge number were denied citizenship. However, they should come forward with their original citizenships and then we can deal with this problem."

Dr. Ghabra said, "And the solution for the way in which they are treated today?" Al-Shayaa said, "In the 1970's, the bedoon was allowed to go to university without having a certain percentage which was the opposite of a Kuwaiti citizen. We are for citizenship but only for those who deserve it." In conclusion, there are ninety thousand bedoons who don't even have the right to have a birth/death certificate or even a marriage certificate. These are simple laws that should be revised and should be given to every individual that lives in our country. 

Likewise, there are a number of bedoons who have contributed to the countries well-being. Some fought in the army, some fought in the Gulf war. The consensus reached from this diwaniya discussion is that the bedoon problem is a first class human rights problem that must be addressed, with or without citizenship. 

The first priority should be to the way the bedoons are living and residing in Kuwait. The political will to deal with the problem, seems to be arising in favour of solving it. Moreover, the consensus reached in this program was that the bedoons' files should be evaluated with transparency and honesty and those that deserve the citizenship should be granted it. 

~ reposted by  Sofia Smith

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