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 amerab@gmail.com. Let me know the progress.

Monday, January 15, 2007

DG's Bidoon Friends: More "With" than "Without"

I used to think that the bidoon/ bedoon/ bidun [depending on how you want to spell it – meaning “stateless” “without (nationality)”] issue was something limited only to Kuwait. I was wrong. There are many places in the world where people are without nationality; Bahrain, UAE, and Iraq are some examples.

Long before the imperialists carved up the world into parcels, we were all without nationality, weren’t we? Now, bidoon fight to gain the same types of basic rights that many of us take for granted: the ability to move freely from one country to another; documentation and identification papers; healthcare; education; and more.

I have dear friends in Kuwait who are bidoon. You wouldn’t know it from looking at them, or by their family names. It isn’t like they are any different than anybody else. It is only after hearing their stories that I have come to understand how deep the problem is and how much they suffer.

I met one of my funniest friends on the internet. He’s bidoon and he fights to make things right. In ‘merican, he’d be known as a “ball buster”. He’s always pushing and it works for him. I love him because of his strength and courage. When he is the most upset and down, the guy always makes jokes. He was afraid to tell me at first that he is bidoon. The way he was acting, I thought he was going to tell me that he had some kind of an infectious disease. His hands were all shaky and he found it hard to speak. He was muttering something about “Kuwaitis” and “people who don’t have citizenship” and I’m like, “Oh, so you’re bidoon? Big phuckin deal!” Anyways, he’s always at the Bidoon Council stirring up trouble and he’s on all the bidoon forums out there and in diwaniyas around Kuwait raising hell for the bidoon cause. You go, boyyyyy!

Some bidoon friends I know are held prisoner by members of their own families with Kuwaiti nationality (yes, that happens); having to depend on these relatives for “names on paper” to provide car titles, business licenses, etc. One friend’s Kuwaiti wife holds so much power over him that he has trouble moving. He is constantly depressed and sees no way out. The Landcruiser HE paid for is in her name and she takes it back when she's pissed off at him. The apartment is in her name. The kids would go with her if he left and he probably wouldn't get visitation. When he first told me he was bidoon, I thought he was going to cry. When I told him I couldn’t care less if he was green and lived on Mars – that I liked him for the person he was – he was shocked. He literally expected me to run away.

My kind-hearted friend, Hilal, who took his own life in 1997. He had given up all hope. He was a gentle giant and I used to think of him as the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz. I think about him and how his life could have been different with a piece of paper. I think about how much I have and how much I take for granted and what my life could have been like if I had been born in a different country to a different family.

One of my Kuwaiti friends told me, “I don’t understand why they are bidoon. My father went to school with their grandfather.” A few years later, the 2 brothers I worked with received their Kuwaiti nationality after years of trying. I remember congratulating them at the time; yet it happened at a time when I was new to Kuwait, so I didn’t understand full implication of what it meant. I see how their lives have changed now and how they appear to have rocks lifted from their shoulders. They have better jobs and they laugh a lot more often.

I have a friend whose whole family moved to New Zealand to get nationality there. Generations of their family had been brought up bidoon in Kuwait and they never saw an end, so they headed to a place they had never been before and returned after years to live here again with the rest of their family. They now have options they never had before.

Some people choose to go to other countries to get nationality (either through naturalization or through purchase of nationality with willing governments). Others refuse saying (as I have heard), “No. I am Kuwaiti. I will someday get my citizenship.”

There are a lot of stories and no one will know about them unless people openly discuss the bidoon issue. So, go ahead, send comments.

Through this blog, I won’t tolerate intolerance, hatred, finger-pointing or nay-sayers. If I even get those types of comments, I will most likely delete them because I believe it defeats the purpose of positive efforts and energy. Stop the hate, find a solution.

10 Comments:

  • At 6:35 AM, Blogger q8Sultana said…

    I wrote my dissertation about the bedoon, how their case is interesting from an international legal point of view. Since no country is obliged to take them in, Kuwait is pretty much stuck with them, yet they've chosen to do nothing for decades.

     
  • At 6:56 AM, Blogger q8Sultana said…

    And yes, according to estimates by UNHCR, there are 9 million stateless ppl around the world today, with most of them in Africa.

    The Kuwaiti case is different though because here you see generations of stateless poeple from birth, while usually the loss of nationality occurs as a result of wars or the formation of a new state or when people get their nationality taken away.

    Anyway, I could go on about this for hours (or rahter 60 pages) :o)

     
  • At 8:25 AM, Blogger Desert Girl said…

    I don't know about "stuck with them" when a few of my friends were on the '65 census - complete with documents. The Al-Sabahs are from the Enezi tribe and yet quite a few Enezis are bidoon. Often cousins within the same families in Kuwait are bidoon while others are Kuwaiti nationality holders.

    I didn't know there were so many. Wow. 9 million....

    I bet your dissertation was very interesting.

     
  • At 9:59 AM, Blogger q8Sultana said…

    I guess "stuck with them" wasn't the right word usage. I mean Kuwait is stuck with the problem, as in it HAS to do something about the bedoon issue sooner than later because it will not solve itself.

     
  • At 9:36 PM, Blogger Desert Girl said…

    Yup. I think that's true. And when people give up hope in their lives, bad things happen. If you can't make a living to support yourself or your family - what are you going to do?

     
  • At 10:26 PM, Blogger Jewaira said…

    Thank you for posting on this sensitive and important issue

     
  • At 12:06 PM, Blogger q8teacher said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

     
  • At 12:13 PM, Blogger q8teacher said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

     
  • At 12:18 PM, Blogger q8teacher said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

     
  • At 1:24 PM, Blogger q8teacher said…

    This is such an immensely important issue. It is so considerate of you to get this issue out there, Desert Girl.

    I also have a dear friend who is going through this issue with his family. For years, K and his family have been fighting legally to receive the official Kuwaiti recognition. K is the most intelligent, up-standing, and loyal person I have ever met. He is educated and works in the governmental sector, in service of his country. K's father fought in the war on behalf of Kuwait. His parents and grandparents were all born in Kuwait. Moreover, K is from the Al Enezi tribe, just like the honored Sabahs.

    Some of K's relatives have the Kuwaiti status, while his immediate family does not. There is really no rhyme or reason to such random exclusion.

    "Bedoons" struggle to get access to the basic benefits and rights of other Kuwaiti citizens. “Bedoon” translates to mean "without". When Kuwaitis (and they are Kuwaiti!) are denied a recognized nationality, they are really being deprived of so much more than a document. Desert Girl commented that her friend was embarrassed by his "non-status" --- and so many feel as though there is somehting wrong with them; however, only the Kuwait government should feel shame. It is hard for us on the outside, however, to understand the frustration and self-consciousness that such victims face. Good people who work, serve, and fight for Kuwait are being treated as outsiders.

    This country is recognized internationally for its excellent social security system, which takes care of its people "from cradle to the grave"; yet many don’t really understand how many Kuwaitis are suffering injustices.

    My dear friend K wants to travel and see the world, but Kuwait refuses him a passport. He waits patiently; he continues to fight and push forth for a positive outcome for his family. What is most honorable and admirable about K --- and many others in similar situations --- is that they remain extremely patriotic and dedicated to Kuwait --- the only home many have ever known.

    Please get involved. Write to the Amir. Talk about the issue; pester governmental officials to do something!

     

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