Desert Causes

"One voice can make a difference" - or so they say. Everywhere in the world, there are events and circumstances where each of us can make a difference - even if it is for something as simple as passing it along. Heard of a cause? I will post it. Send an e-mail to Let me know the progress.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cabinet wants to end bedoons' suffering

Cabinet wants to end bedoons' suffering

Published Date: January 10, 2010

Kuwait Times

KUWAIT: Although the government continues to oppose introducing new legislation on bedoon (stateless) residents' rights, it is determined to introduce rulings that will help to resolve the humanitarian and social problems they face, according to State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Roudhan Al-Roudhan.

Speaking after the latest fruitless parliamentary session to discuss the subject, the minister said that the cabinet is set to meet with the National Assembly committee on bedoon issues to discuss the matter shortly, during which the cabinet will explain its ideas to resolve the problems.

Al-Roudhan also spoke about the government's development plan, following the revelation that the National Assembly's Secretariat General has received a request signed by 14 MPs to allocate the January 12 parliamentary session for discussion of the issue.

The cabinet affairs minister voiced hope that the government and parliament could work together on implementing the measures outlined in the plan, also expressing a wish that the 14 MPs would coordinate with the cabinet, which he said is ready and willing to discuss this critically important subject.

Al-Roudhan stressed his own confidence in the ability of the parliament and cabinet to reach agreement on the development process, reported Al-Qabas.

On the issue of developments concerning the grilling motion presented by MPs Musallam Al-Barrak and Dr. Faisal Al-Mislem against information minister Sheikh Ahmad Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah, Al-Roudhan said that the general mood is against the motion after the two MPs recent unsuccessful motions against His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah and three other ministers.

The minister for cabinet affairs suggested that MPs Walid Al-Tabtabae and Dr. Jamaan Al-Harbish are unlikely to support this motion after their previous failed motion against the minister. Al-Roudhan said that it therefore improbable that an MP can be found to be present the grilling itself since the interpellator would have to be chosen from a list of MPs who have not previously taken part in a grilling session.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Refugees International Latest Bulletin on Bidoon

The following is a copy of the Refugees International Bulletin on Bidun in Kuwait, dated September 17, 2008:


The Government of Kuwait must move to resolve statelessness within its bor­ders. Despite a new parliamentary initiative to grant some civil and social rights to the bidun, an estimated 80,000 to 140,000 people continue to re­side in the country without an effective nationality. Every time the citizenship issue comes up for debate, other matters arise that preclude concrete action to rectify the situation. But human rights are not open to discussion. Unless Kuwait takes steps now to grant citizenship to bidun children at birth and undertakes the process to naturalize existing bidun cases, coming years will witness a dwindling of the Kuwaiti proportion of the population thereby po­tentially threatening the sustainability of the nation itself.

100,000 People with Nowhere to Go
Kuwait’s 1959 Nationality Law defined nationals as persons who settled in the country before 1920 and maintained normal resi­dence there until enactment of the law. At that time, about one third of the population was recognized as founding families, an­other third was naturalized, and the remainder was classified as bidun jinsiya (without nationality) which now numbers 80,000-140,000. The irony is that while the bidun self-identify as Kuwaiti, expressing love and loyalty for the land of Kuwait, a deep-rooted concern to protect the Kuwaiti identity has contributed to the intrac­tability of the statelessness problem.

Lack of legal status impacts all areas of life for bidun: their identity, mental health, family life, residence, health, livelihood, and lack of a political voice. The problem starts at birth. Bidun children are not given a birth certificate but are instead issued a paper that speci­fies gender but not a name. Without birth certificates, children can not access government education. Parents must pay for private, poorer-quality schooling.

Adults who have managed to obtain identification describe ID card renewal as interrogation. “They try to prove your family roots are derived from any other country,” one man stated. Then there are forms to be completed, supporting documentation, photo­graphs, and a KWD 82 fee ($306). “If after this you are will­ing to leave the country, they will treat you gently. Otherwise you are referred for DNA and blood tests and finger print­ing.” Some succumb to the lure of counterfeit passports. One family may hold documents identifying brothers as Dominican and Eritrean.

Employment in the formal sector is precarious and only possible through “favors”, so bidun seek livelihoods in the underground economy – selling produce on the street, hawking bootleg DVDs, or selling blood and organs. Their vulnerable status and lack of institutional protection ren­ders them exploitable in what one source described as “a new form of slavery.” Many young bidun rule out marriage entirely: “I know 38 men who purposely stayed single,” one man recounted, adding in his case, “I see the painful ex­ample of my brothers and their kids trying to survive with­out citizenship.” A father noted, “Psychologically, I feel frustrated and angry, that I’m a failure. But I keep quiet and endure so as not to jeopardize my children’s future.”

The Kuwaiti Red Crescent provides food assistance on a bi-monthly basis to a limited number of families and distrib­utes clothes at Ramadan. The International Committee of the Red Cross pursues missing person cases from the time of the Iraqi occupation as well as carrying out detention vis­its to Iraqis, stateless and Palestinian detainees, some of whom were detained in connection with the 2nd Gulf War. The UN, dependent on Kuwaiti funding, has not seen fit to act in a robust way but did commission a study, with the resulting report insisting that the issue is a priority. Still, there has been little action discernable by bidun themselves. “Our lives are wasted in limbo,” expressed one woman. “With no driver’s license, people lined up to take my job, and no hope of a pension, the anger builds up in me like a mighty volcano,” said another man.

A Year of Progress?
There is little agreement on the character of developments since Refugees International’s last assessment in July 2007. People attuned to the issue alternatively suggest “nothing has changed,” “the situation is worse,” or “there is some evidence of change, some small positive steps.” An article in the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Qabas, entitled “The Thorny Issue of the Bidun,” described the situation succinctly: “Citizenship has been the most important issue on the table of the executive and legislative authorities for long years… like a snow ball that has now grown too large to handle eas­ily. There is… hesitation among members of parliament when it comes to resolving this issue…There are plenty of suggestions but there is no serious will to…close this file.”

Those who try to see the glass half full cite more press atten­tion, supportive leaning of some members of Parliament, scheduling of sessions and workshops on the issue, govern­ment eagerness to exchange counterfeit passports for rein­statement of stateless status, and the fact that bidun are speaking out. Conversely, the annually published list of would-be new citizens was altered to exclude children of Kuwaiti mothers and bidun fathers (citizenship in Kuwait is conveyed only by males and advancement toward equal rights for women is slow), some bidun lost government jobs, and at least one person remains detained outside Ku­wait on a false passport. There was alarming talk of mass “transfer” of bidun to the Comoros Islands, but this has since been denounced as rumor.

There is a new proposal in parliament to honor some civil and social rights of the bidun, but there is little hope that this will move forward as previous proposals have not even been discussed on the floor. Last year saw some action on plans to admit 100 bidun at Kuwait University for children of foreigners or children of Kuwaiti mothers but not chil­dren of bidun fathers and mothers. A proposal that some police, nursing, and teaching jobs be open to bidun was never realized. The release of tens of stateless individuals from detention constituted a welcome gesture, but remained only that, as no procedure was activated, or legal precedent created, to avoid future detentions without cause. Several sources indicate that one stateless man has been detained for several years without a hearing.

Kuwait is a responsible member of the international com­munity, helping people through multilateral and bilateral aid programs. The same generosity applied to the case of the bidun would have a tremendous impact at home. One possible solution would be to grant citizenship to newborns and then begin the process of reviewing all open cases.

While some regard the bidun issue as a migration problem, it is more accurate to consider it one involving human rights. “When Iraq occupied Kuwait,” recalled one man, “the main argument for assistance for liberation was Iraq’s violation of international law and the global community’s obligation to respond. The same obligations ought to apply to regularizing the status of bidun. You can’t cherry-pick statutes of international law.” Ultimately, the bidun are sim­ply looking for the dignity of being recognized as human beings with a legitimate sense of belonging.

Policy Recommendations

Kuwait must begin immediate and trans­parent reviews of all bidun cases towards providing naturalization and at the same time consider undertaking a tolerance campaign to address discrimination in the society at large.

Kuwait should provide civil registry and social services equitably, particularly en­suring that birth certificates, inclusive of name, are provided for all children.

Kuwait should follow the example of progressive Islamic-majority nations in granting equal rights to women and men under the country’s nationality law.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees should facilitate dissemina­tion of its previously commissioned study of statelessness. UNICEF should develop an action plan in conjunction with the Kuwait government on birth registration and child education.

Maureen Lynch
Senior Advocate for Statelessness Initiatives
Refugees International

Link to World:Bridge; a Refugees International Blog
Stateless in Jahra

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Donate Items to Kuwait's Handicapped?

The Handicapped Welfare Administration of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor needs donations. As the Director of the Handicapped Care Deparment said, "People think that just because we are a Ministry, we have a lot of money and don't need help."

They currently need beds, TV's, and recreational/activity items.

Their number is 4876035 and they are located right off the UN Circle in Sulaibikhat.

Monday, November 26, 2007

ISO Bidoon Friends who would like to tell their story

I have received a number of requests from journalists from various countries who would like to interview bidoon people in Kuwait to get their perspectives. If you are bidoon or have a friend(s) who would like to be on my mailing list to receive information or these requests, please write to me at You can write to me anonymously and I will forward you contact information.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Refugees International Latest Report on Bidoon in Kuwait

Photos by Refugees International. For the latest report, please go to the RI link. About Being Without: Stories of Stateless in Kuwait

Friday, July 27, 2007

Kuwait: State of Exclusion - Refugees International Report

Refugees International
Kuwait: State of Exclusion
July 25, 2007

The estimated number of bidun in Kuwait ranges from 90,000 to 130,000, less than half the number who resided in the country prior to Iraq’s invasion in 1990. Those who remain are subject to systematic discrimination and their future is uncertain.

Many bidun are descendants of Bedouin tribes such as the Shammar and Aneza that roamed freely across the borders of present day Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iraq. Either because their ancestors failed to understand the importance of citizenship or, given their centuries-old nomadic way of life, demurred at the idea of belonging to any one country, or because they were living outside the city walls, in the desert or “badiya,” and often illiterate, they could not fur­nish adequate proof that they were settled in the country and were consequently classified as stateless.

Denied the right to register officially a birth, marriage, or death, bidun are relegated to a bureaucratic no man’s land. In Kuwait, nationality is deemed a matter relating to sover­eignty and by law courts can not review sovereign actions of the state. Accordingly, the bidun can not petition the courts to have their citizenship claims adjudicated. Their children are barred from free education in public school. They are not permitted to own property, register a vehicle, obtain a telephone line or purchase a SIM card for a cellular tele­phone. Healthcare offered free of charge to citizens is with­held from them. On driving licenses they are characterized as “illegal residents.” Their passports, grey in color and valid for five years, must be renewed after only one journey.

The majority of the bidun live in virtual exile, in squalid housing projects in Sulaibiya and Jahra, in Ahmadi and the rundown neighborhood of Jilib ash-Shuyukh. They are nev­ertheless indistinguishable from citizens and for years enjoyed the same services and privileges. They share a com­mon language and culture. It is common that families com­prise members who are citizens and others who are bidun.

Bidun once made up the bulk of the armed forces and police and served their country loyally. They believed that eventually the government would extend them citizenship. After 1985, however, the government took a number of punitive steps to disabuse them of this belief. Bidun were dismissed from their jobs, children were barred from public and private schools, and driving licenses were revoked. They could no longer carry passports (known as Article 17 passports) unless they left the country and renounced the right to return.

Following the liberation of the country from Iraqi occupation in 1991, the government stepped up its efforts to strip the bidun of their rights. They were fired en masse from posi­tions in the military and police, and only a small fraction was rehired. Those dismissed could not collect their sever­ance pay unless they produced a passport, either Kuwaiti or foreign, or left the country. Tens of thousands of bidun who had fled the country or were forced to the leave subsequently were not allowed to return.

With a foreign passport, bidun would have been able to obtain five-year residence permits like other guest workers. In desperation, many bidun bought counterfeit passports from countries such as Somalia, Yemen, Eritrea and the Dominican Republic. There have been instances when bidun traveling with forged documents were forcibly returned to Kuwait, and the country was compelled to admit them. There are now 15 bidun in prison awaiting deportation. They can not be deported, however, because no country will take them in, and so they languish in jail.
The country’s 1959 Nationality Law defined Kuwaiti nationals as persons who were settled in Kuwait prior to 1920 and who maintained their normal residence there until the date of the publication of the law. Approximately one third of the population was recognized as bone fide citizens, the founding families of the country. Another third was naturalized and
granted partial citizenship rights. The remaining third was classified as “bidun jinsiya.” The law has been amended 14 times since and with almost every amendment, it has become more restrictive. For example, the 1959 law (Article 3) granted citizenship to children of a Kuwaiti mother when at least one of four circumstances existed: the father was unknown, paternity could not be proven, the father’s nationality was unknown, or he was stateless. When amended in 1980, the mention of unknown nationality and stateless­ness was omitted.

Citizenship in Kuwait is passed on to children through their fathers, not their mothers. Consequently, the children of a Kuwaiti woman and a bidun husband are also bidun. A child of a divorced Kuwaiti woman or widow can acquire citizenship, so that there is an incentive for couples to divorce to guarantee their children’s future.

Several legal experts in Kuwait are of the opinion that the country’s nationality law is in need of revision. More liberal nationality laws of other Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia, where long-time residents can apply for citizenship, limit the problem of statelessness. Laws in Algeria and Tunisia, which grant mothers the right to pass on their nationality to their children, could serve as models for revisions in Kuwait’s law.

In June 2000, the National Assembly passed a law requiring the bidun to register with the government to begin a pro­cess that would allow some of them to be documented as citizens. The last step in this process entails DNA testing to prove that family members are in fact blood relatives. Those who failed to register would be considered illegal residents at risk of being deported. Many bidun are able to demon­strate convincingly their families’ presence in the country for several generations, and their applications for citizen­ship deserve consideration.
Feelings of distress, frustration, resentment, disappoint­ment and anger among the bidun are palpable. An older generation of bidun, who once served or still do in the mili­tary and police force, are reluctant to protest their plight too strenuously. Their children however are more impatient. Unable to afford the cost of tuition, they are prevented from accessing higher education. Barred from employment in the public sector, they have to accept work that is poorly paid and intermittent. Many are reluctant to marry, because they can not support a family and fear that their children would face the same hardships. The suicide rate among bidun is reportedly high.

There is perhaps greater interest in the plight of Kuwait’s stateless now than there has been in many years. In July 2006 Kuwait’s parliament created a committee to address the issue of the bidun and earlier this year the parliament approved a law granting citizenship to 2,000. A list of those to be granted citizenship will be approved in October. In January, the Ministry of Interior announced that it would issue driving licenses to bidun. Loath to be identified as illegal residents, however, many if not most refuse to apply for one. More constructively, the government recently announced that 100 places in Kuwaiti universities would be designated for bidun. The bidun themselves and sympa­thetic citizens have formed a Popular Committee for Support of the Bidun.

There is general agreement in Kuwait that the humanitarian consequences of statelessness should be addressed imme­diately, leaving the contentious issue of citizenship rights to a later date. At the same time, however, many Kuwaitis acknowledge that the problems associated with statelessness will escalate. There is concern that young disenfranchised bidun may resort to crime, turn to alcohol and drugs, and subscribe to extremist ideologies. It would therefore be in the best interests of the state to find a just and equitable solution to the plight of the stateless sooner rather than later.

Refugees International Recommends:

The government of Kuwait:

  • Immediately undertake transparent evaluation of unresolved bidun cases, with intent to grant citi­zenship for qualifying individuals and families.
  • Revise nationality law to bring it into conformity with more progressive legislation in the region, particularly regarding the equal right of women to pass on nationality to children.
    Become signatory to the 1954 Convention relating to the status of stateless persons and the 1961 Convention on the prevention of statelessness.
  • Amend law barring nationality from court jurisdic­tion to allow bidun access to due process.
    Provide all civil registry and social services equitably and without discrimination.
  • Refrain from arresting or detaining stateless per­sons solely on the basis of their being stateless.
  • Include tuition fees for children of bidun in the national budget.

United nations High commissioner for Refugees:

  • Translate and publish its previously completed survey of bidun in Kuwait.
  • Actively support government efforts to end state­lessness in Kuwait.

United nations Human Rights Bodies:

  • Appoint a special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Kuwait and address the issue in the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
  • Establish presence in Kuwait to assess and recom­mend resolution to the bidun situation.

Senior Advocate Maureen Lynch and Patrick Barbieri just returned from a two-week assessment of the situation of bidun in Kuwait

Maureen Lynch and Patrick Barbieri
1705 N Street, NW Washington, DC 20036
phone: [202] 828–0110 facsimile:
[202] 828–0819

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Calling Bidoon Friends

Dear Friends,

Within the next several months, a representative of Refugees International ( will be here in Kuwait. Refugees International has expanded it's scope to include stateless people around the world.

I would like to ask for your help. We are trying to arrange for the representative to talk to Bidoon people while she is here. We believe that the more personal stories she hears and the more data she can collect, the more it will help the Bidoon cause.

If you would like to meet with the representative while she is here, please e-mail me at All information will be kept in strict confidence. You don't have to provide your name - just give me an e-mail address and I will send her contact information as I get it.