Monday, October 29, 2007

The Bedoon Crisis*

“He was about thirty-something years old, decently dressed and soft-spoken. As he drove me from the airport to my house, he told me about how he is forced to drive his cab illegally. He complained about not being able to get a proper job due to his stateless status in Kuwait. He said that he was in love with a Kuwaiti woman, but he cannot marry her. Erzulie, this is a humanitarian issue, don’t you think so?” My friend looked at me waiting for an answer. I nodded in agreement but I knew there were more sides to the presence of the Bedoon in Kuwait.

But who are the Bedoon? In summary, the Bedoon are people who have come to Kuwait from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Iran and other countries of the Arab world. The term “Bedoon” literally means “without,” meaning without any sort of official identification to where the person had come from and where they belong.

Due to my unfamiliarity with the issue, I asked about the history and current situation of the Bedoon in Kuwait. “They don’t deserve to be given the citizenship! They’re trash and are the source of many of Kuwait’s problems. Most of them have their old passports from their countries of origin; they just hide or destroy them so they could get a Kuwaiti citizenship. Even the columnist Muhammed Musa’ed Al-Saleh, a man who is known as a pacifist and humanitarian, stated that out of all the 100,000 Bedoon population in Kuwait, only 20,000 are worthy of the Kuwaiti citizenship,” a young woman I know informed me over coffee last week.

“A while ago, the Bedoon in Kuwait, who are already poor as it is, could only enroll their children in private schools and never in public schools since the Kuwaiti government did not officially recognize their presence in the country. They were also forced to pay for medical care. That is mainly because the Kuwaiti government tried to force some of the Bedoon to handover their original passports that they kept in secret,” a friend of mine told me a few days ago, “However now, the Bedoon have access to medical care and schooling due to the watchful eye of the West and other humanitarian institutions that might zero in on the issue, an act that would probably force the Kuwaiti government into providing many of the Bedoon with the sought-after Kuwaiti citizenship. In general, the Bedoon have low paying jobs. Many years ago, they were heavily used in Kuwait’s secret police but now, they are struggling about in squalid living conditions and other personal hardships. Surprisingly, more than half of the Kuwaiti army constitutes of Bedoon who are originally Iraqi and who have fought with the Iraqi army during the Gulf War.”

But is Kuwait in need of more citizens? In general, Kuwaiti citizens enjoy many benefits that expatriates do not let alone stateless individuals. Kuwaitis have the upper hand in terms of socio-political and commercial matters. Kuwaiti children have the chance to earn a full scholarship and study at the best colleges in the West. There are a multitude of advantages that Kuwaitis enjoy, so it is of no surprise that an individual will try his/her best to obtain that edge.

“The problem lies with the way the Bedoon are. They are a tribal people who are mostly uneducated. Moreover, they are growing in population. The fear lies in their gain and control over governmental posts to secure themselves, their families and overall presence and future in this country. There is a stereotype about the Bedoon, about how they have no solid values and their only want is to reap the benefits off of this country. And when you really think about it Erzulie, why would they want to benefit Kuwait when they could only work on their own betterment? They come from different parts of the Middle East, why should they dedicate their life’s work and sweat on this tiny country that has turned a blind eye at their low status from the start? Personally, I would be quite anxious if a newly Kuwaitized individual held a powerful post in the government,” another person told me, “But the fact is that they are a problem in Kuwait and it is growing, literally. In some way, I see them as a threat. Who knows, they might actually revolt against the government and Kuwaitis as a whole.”

Personally, I refuse to believe that all people think the same way just because they come from similar backgrounds. “But what if some of the Bedoon are truly loyal to Kuwait and they see it as their homeland and not as a patch of dirt they can get their hands on? I mean, I am sure that a very small portion of the Bedoon do want to benefit Kuwait.”

One of my good friends closed her eyes while she listened to me before replying back, “That is true Erzulie. Unfortunately, the Bedoon are famed more for the bad than the good they bring to Kuwait. The minority of Bedoon who have worked for Kuwait’s welfare were given the citizenship. Yet on the other hand, a lot of individuals and their families who were given the Kuwaiti citizenship only sought after it as a result of their bribes or want of political and/or commercial control. But overall, the Bedoon are victims of the system here and it is hard for them to do something for the sake of Kuwait because that requires a good education and money, something which only a small number of the Bedoon possess.”

I wondered to myself about how impractical Kuwaiti law was. You are either a citizen, expatriate or stateless. As for the latter, I do not agree with providing all the Bedoon citizenship. There should be some sort of a citizenship buffer or in other words, official papers provided from the government that identify the Bedoon as permanent residents with social security. They would be able to attend academic institutions, have the full right to travel the world and basically have similar rights as expatriates do in Kuwait. When that law is instituted, citizenship will be provided only after a certain period of time has passed and every single individual will be treated as a separate case. Personally, I do see this as a rather touchy issue since it involves my country. It is my home and it is mine forever. I would truly hate it if something terrible happens to it. However, generalizing and being judgmental are not particularly positive traits. The Bedoon are part of my home, and they are all human beings in the end…

* These facts have been collected from individuals that I personally know. If you have any corrections or other details regarding this issue, please feel free to post a note or more in the comments section. Thank you.

The Temptations - Papa Was a Rollin' Stone
New Radicals - You Get What You Give
Blue Six - Tropicalia
Blue Six - Here I Come
Blue Six - Aquarian Angel
Dave Matthews Band - Crash Into Me
The Rolling Stones - You Got the Silver
Slick Rick Ft. Outkast - Street Talkin'
Dimitri from Paris - Une Very Stylish Fille
Pizzicato Five - The Girl from Ipanema
Towa Tei - Technova (O-Dubnova Edit)

at 8:00 AM


  1. Anonymous pearls posted at 9:23 AM  
    I hate when I see people being treated differently than us. It's so unfair. If they served the country at some point then they deserve the citizenship but even if they did nothing for our beloved country I still think they should be granted the citizenship because they've lived here for as long as anyone can recall.

    Or at least let their kids enjoy some privileges of our citizenship like free medical care and education till they reach 18 and discounts on basic necessities. I'm sure if this happened crime rates will drop and peaople will start driving like decent people on the road.

    The Bedoon is'nt the only problem that bothers me. I really feel that Kuwaiti women don't enjoy their full rights like men do esp. if they got married to a non-Kuwaiti. Plus public hospitals and schools are so bad, I don't want to start comparing them to public institutions worldwide!
  2. Blogger 1001 Nights posted at 10:24 AM  
    The problem with this issue is that there is no good solution and there seems to be a stalemate. You don't want to be unfair and hurt the people that are Kuwaiti by heart but Bedoun by citizenship and at the same time you don't want to give a citizenship to people who don't have loyalty to ONLY Kuwait.

    The thing is sometimes you have to settle with not finding a GOOD solution and just find A solution. Just do something to solve this issue. Give them or don't give them. Just don't let our grandkids inherit the same damn problem.
    But personally, I'd rather err on the side of being too merciful than unjust.
  3. Blogger Erzulie posted at 4:56 PM  
    pearls: Well, they don't have a lot of options in terms of getting a good job so serving in the army is one of the ways to go about their life here because for one, many of the Bedoon are already in the army itself and two, there is a possibility to rise up in the army rank-wise and that's always a plus especially if their higher uppers are of their own. Plus, there are benefits in serving in the Kuwaiti army, from salary to accommodation and more. And there is not one type of Bedoon. There are some who simply did not register for their citizenship in the 1960's. When every Kuwaiti was instructed to register for their citizenship, many Kuwaitis laughed it off while boasting their family name, "Me? I am so-and-so! I am Kuwaiti and my ancestors have been in this land since the beginning of time! Why should I register for my citizenship!" And now, these once big-headed individuals are actually Bedoon due to the fact of dismissing their call to register. On the other hand, others have been in Kuwait for less than 15 years and I am not quite sure that they should have the same ease of getting the Kuwaiti citizenship as others do. In general, I think that people who have been born and bred here and have Kuwaiti offspring and whose ancestors are of this land should be given the citizenship. Others who have come from other parts of the Middle East - for lack of a better and politically accurate word - and who have been in Kuwait for 20+ or so should not be given the citizenship immediately or they should be given some sort of identification that stalls them from obtaining the citizenship.
    If I am not mistaken, the Bedoon are allowed to attend public academic institutions however I am not sure about enrollment in Kuwait University and of free medical care.
    And you mentioned something important. If you take away all means to support a healthy and humane standard of living like medical care, education and the like, the result would be a diverse bunch of people where some would feature slightly criminal traits. Actually, that is somewhat of an expected reaction. Why would any major good come out of a ghetto that is hated by the majority, the citizens of the land the Bedoon are inhabiting? I think that hate is being fostered right this minute...
    About Kuwaiti women not enjoying full rights. Fortunately, Kuwaiti women have the same political rights as men due to pressure from the West and Kuwaiti citizens pro-women's rights. However, due to history, culture and gender issues, women's status and presence in the political world is not as strong as that of a man's. The men in our government have had a lifetime to mold their public personality and career whereas Kuwaiti women created their political face by participating in women's rights associations and tackling the issue from an academic stance. Because of the general population ignorance, lack of trust toward the women and simply, their unfamiliarity with their smarts, power, ambition and good-intent, I think that Kuwait is not quite ready to handle a good number of women present in our parliament. Heck, apart from the men who were anti-women's rights, a lot of Kuwaiti women were against women's suffrage due to religious reasons (which are invalid since in the Prophet Muhammed's time, women led armies, participated in the town's consensus and also, the Prophet himself spoke to his wives and sought their advice on many social matters...) while some thought that being involved in politics was not a woman's place and job and that she shouldn't bother with affairs that have always been dealt with by men.
    The solution to such narrow-minded views is education. That's all. Unfortunately, our lovely government is investing its green in foreign entities and downright filth rather than in our country's future minds. For now, our Kuwaiti government is quite happy with the majority of its citizens spending their time on fruitless matters. so if you're just playing dumb, don't. Just BE dumb. That'll make the heartless wretches a lot happier...Excuse my drifting off-topic...

    1001: Yes, it is a double-edged sword. But that's the thing. I'm not pro giving them or depriving them from the citizenship. It's true, a lot of Bedoon actually deserve the citizenship, even more than many Kuwaitis! Yet, there are many who seek it only for the benefits that come along. There has to be a psuedo-citizenship that provides the Bedoon with identification and rights as human beings living as residents in a land that is not their own for the time being. Their children, however, would gain the citizenship. However, there has to be some sort of string of laws that write down the specifics regarding the years they have to wait, residency period and other factors that make their citizenship legitimate and rightfully earned. There should also be some sort of classification of the identification itself. For example, the identification a Bedoon who has been in Kuwait for 50 years would have more rights that are similar to a Kuwaiti citizen's than a Bedoon who has been in Kuwait for 15 years.
  4. Blogger Traveleer posted at 11:40 AM  
    حكومة الكويت هي المسؤولة عن هذه المشكلة و الكارثة الانسانية بكل المقاييس. كيف تسوح دولة ذات قانون و دستور و سيادة بتواجد أناس على أراضيها لا اثبات و لا هوية لديهم منذ الخمسينيات حتى الان؟ كان من المفروض على الحكومة أن تعطي الجنسية لمن إستحق و الاقامة للمغتربين! بدل أن تخترع مسمى "بدون".

    و عن النظرة بأن البدون أناس لا ولاء لهم و لا تعليم و لا طعم و لا رائحة, هي فكرة مغلوطة اسطورة من أناس يجب عليهم ترك قصورهم و ابراجهم العاجية و لاختلاط بالناس أكثر. نعم هناك بدون مجريمين و لكن هناك كويتيين من عوائل محترمة كذلك مجرمين. أمل البدون غير المتعليمين فيجب على الدولة انتاشلهم من هذا الوضع و مساعدتهم في الالتحاق بركب المتعليمين لا زيادة الضغوط عليهم فهذا يضر الوطن الحبيب الكويت بالدرجة الاولى.

    على حكومتنة الرشيدة الاسراع في حل المشكلة باسرع وقت لانها تكبر و لا تصغر مع أجيال و أجيال من البدون.

    و اسف عل اطالة و الكتابة بالعربي و لكن التعبير عن هذه القضية بالعربي أوضح , اسهل بالنسبة لي
  5. Blogger Traveleer posted at 11:41 AM  
    bas chenna badleyati bel 3arabi wayed! et7eseen wayed aktib 3arabi hehehe
  6. Anonymous Anonymous posted at 3:04 PM  
    First, let me just tell you what an excellent and well-written presentation of this highly charged topic I think you have made. Your talent and great intelligence always shines every time.

    Second, I have to tell you how childishly excited I am to find that you like Blue Six's "Tropicalia" too. I love Blue Six ( and their favorite singer Aya whose solo effort I highly encourage you to listen to) and I bought Tropicalia as soon as it came out. It is one of their most lush and dreamy pieces of work, I never get tired of listening to it :)

    The bedoon issue is one of utmost urgency most importantly because it is a local humanitarian crisis that is mushrooming beyond control and may soon explode with terrible effects for all who live here. My family personally knows and helps out - in whatever way we can, a bedoon family in very difficult and dire straits whose situation is beyond tragic and upsetting were I to tell you of the details and how they came to live in Kuwait in the first place. No matter what we could dither and quibble about regarding the political ramifications and consequences of all aspects of the issue, the sole point that is paramount above all, is that these are human beings living under the roof of our country who are enduring inexcusable and unacceptable conditions that no human being should have to endure, which no human being should turn a blind eye to or accept in apathy or avoidance because of how fearsomely ugly the reality is.

    Now I am not saying that every single bedoon person should be given automatic Kuwaiti citizenship - yes , there are those who you would say are indeed "ma9la7cheeyeen" and are here to suckle and feed upon the carrion of our Kuwait and the collapsed Kuwaiti system, as most full Kuwaities do without giving much back or a second thought to it. One needs only to get a glimpse of the intense controversy surrounding the immigration and illegal immigrant issues in US politics and that of other countries such as Australia and New Zealand, to know we are not alone in facing this problem. Obviously, there needs to be a firm political solution and I think it must start with very firm border control and regulation of immigration into this tiny congested country. Which is not an easy issue considering the chaos and madness to the North of us and all the migrant bedu to our South. Which means there will always be this unavoidable seeping flux from every corner of our borders. To repeat myself, this should be regarded foremost and predominantly as a humanitarian issue. People need shelter, they need food, water clothes, they need health care, they need basic education. Giving them this - regardless of what their national/political status is - is something we can well afford to do as a country again on a humanitarian basis. The outstanding work Sheikha Awrad Al-Jaber has done over the years for the bedoon is exceptional and epitomizes so much of what is best of what Kuwaities can do. But now I think this basic support for these people and their families is something the government should now officially fully address and take over responsibilty for until a political and legislatively binding resolution to the issue is arrived at ( and God knows how and when that will happen in this place under the current circumstances)

    There is just too much to say on this topic, and I could go on forever, but the zibda -or butter is that we cannot allow ANYONE to suffer from basic want like this under our roof, in our own home. We can argue about status and rules later, lets get people fed and a decent bed to sleep in first so that we can all keep our basic human dignity intact and remember who we are. I mean please, I love my country something fierce, but being a "Kuwaiti" is not synonymous with being one of the "chosen people" after all (no offense to any members of the "chosen people" ;P ). Lets remember who exactly we are in terms of the world and the global village before we judge these people (most of them).

    Good job, Erzulie :)
  7. Blogger Erzulie posted at 12:22 AM  
    أنا معاك إبكل إلي قلته. هذي المشكلة مشكلة حكومتنا ومادري ليش مو قاعدين إسون شيئ, كأنهم مستانسيت على هذا الوضع البائس. حالة البدون بالكويت سيئة جداً ووضع حياتهم اليومية مأساوية من كل النواحي وما راح أستغرب إذا صارت ثورة ضد الحكومة لكسب حقوقهم الإنسانية لأن بالنهاية, محد الظالم إلا حكومتنا. فكرت بالموضوع أكثر بعد ما قرأت إلي كتبته أنت وقلت إذا الحكومة تعطي البدون مجال للجنسية أو الإقامة, يمكن هالشيئ يقلل الكراهية والحقدان إلي بين الكويتين والبدون. لكن المفروظ الحكومة مشتغلة على هالشيئ من زمان لأن المشكلة هذي مثل السوسة وإذا ما تعالجة راح تكبر وتضر الكل.
    And Traveleer, la tit’asaf 3ala badliyatik lana ma7ad igi6 badliyat kithree.

    Ms.Baker: Oh the wonderful Ms. Baker, always full of uplifting notes and comments! Well, I almost didn’t write this post due to exhaustion. I was actually very interested in the topic as well as learning more about it since a few conversations with people I know do not do the subject justice. Anyhow, this is the post that came about between 3 to 4 AM! So yes, I was pretty pooped when I wrote this thing up but I’m glad I did because I’m learning a lot and plus, I really do think people should know about it and be aware.
    And I heart Blue Six too! Whenever I’m tense, I put it on and just lose myself in the music. It’s extremely relaxing.
    And I have heard about how many of the Bedoon live in awfully horrible conditions. I know someone who is involved in a non-profit organization here in Kuwait. She once told us that she visited a Bedoon family. They had seven children living in a two bedroom house. The woman recounted the day she spent with the Bedoon family and I remember her saying that when she gave them toast, there were all over her like flies. Imagine, toast! I feel like Marie Antoinette here but it is really hard to believe that we have people living in our country in those atrocious conditions. And it is a damn shame.
    And yes, apart from all the laws the should be constituted for this very reason, these people need the basics to begin and build a fruitful life because in the end, they are going to stay in our country, why not give them a better life that would help out the society as a whole instead of neglecting them and treating them as untouchables? They are here to stay and citizenship or not, they are entitled to good living standards.
    Finally, hats off to your beautifully written (or typed!) comment :)
  8. Blogger error posted at 12:54 AM  
    I don’t know why I love reading your blog, its very proper, even though I don’t agree with you. very quiet and calm I get captivated in its serenity! Hehe.. I'm starting to write like you.

  9. Blogger Erzulie posted at 11:40 PM  
    error: well for starters, i sometimes wonder why i'm still blogging...i guess it has become somewhat of a habit, like picking at my cuticles. and agreeing or not, it's there for anyone to read...i don't really care at this point, just saying what i want to say. and what's with the last bit...iti6anaz ya error! all righty, that's about it for now...good night...
  10. Blogger Little Pascal posted at 4:31 PM  
    That Bedoon children cannot attend state schools is in a way, a blessing in disguise for them - private schools in Kuwait are so much better than state schools are. Incidentally, is there a Bedoon connexion to the Beidoun chain of department stores in Kuwait?
  11. Blogger Erzulie posted at 9:57 PM  
    little pascal: Well, any sort of education would be of help for them whether it be public or private. And there are many good public schools in Kuwait, but it depends on which area you're in. Also, many Bedoon cannot afford private school tuition.
    And no, there is no connection between the two.
  12. Anonymous Kiss Him He's French posted at 4:34 PM  
    As an expat eager on learning new Arabic words each day I was gobsmacked finding out Bedoon in Arabic also meant " without" which I think is doing poetic justice to the Bedoon community which is in in a real sense without citizenship, without education or decent jobs and generally, without a good chance of progressing in life.
    Incidentally, is there like a nominated MP in the Kuwaiti House of Commons for Bedoon Affairs, or a Ministry for Badu Affairs?
  13. Anonymous Bedoon sans frontieres posted at 6:34 PM  
    I have heard it been said Bedoon women are stunningly beautiful. Not having been to Kuwait I really wouldn't know but from what my friends living there tell me the Bedoons have contributed so much to Kuwait's fashion scene that local fashion stores ought to dedicate an entire line to Bedoon clothing and fragrances.Maybe eve have a stand alone Villa Moda celebrating Bedoon's contribution to the Kuwaiti way of dressing and/or smelling.
  14. Blogger Erzulie posted at 9:47 AM  
    kiss him he's french: no there isn't such a thing. there are organizations (ngo's) that work for preserving the human rights of all bedoon but there is no official MP that represents them. to have that would make others want someone to represent their specific clan or tribe or whatnot.

    bedoon sans frontiers: like i stated in my post, bedoon come from all sorts of places in the middle east. i wouldn't be surprised if they were beautiful especially if their blood is mixed with that of arab blood esp. syrian since they are known for their natural beauty. in general, there isn't one type of bedoon "look" but it is possible to pin down which ones came from saudi arabia and which ones came from elsewhere. as for their fashion sense, i haven't heard about their triumphs in that department.
  15. Anonymous Anonymous posted at 11:11 PM  
    it seems that the whole article was written over a cup of coffee. you can't talk about bedoon in such a way as long as you don't know them. you met only biased people who don't think that bedoon are human being who deserve to live with dignity. let me tell you this. 75% of the bedoon have Kuwaiti relatives as you know kuwait is land of migration. many people came from many part of the world and formed the state of kuwait. even in history at school they tought us the Al-Sabah family came from Saudi arabia and you want bedoon to be originally Kuwaiti !!
    and by the way bedoon are loyal to Kuwait more than most of kuwaiti. they love Kuwait although they suffer a lot while kuwaitis just demand more money from government.
    PS: Alaa hussein who was Sadam's representitive in kuwait during the invasion is KUWAITI not bedoon !
  16. Blogger Erzulie posted at 12:57 PM  
    anon: first of all, it feels kind of weird commenting on something i wrote more than two years ago. i didn't bother reading what i wrote but here goes, in terms of replying back to what you just wrote: regardless if it's really a fact or not, i regard whatever i write on my blog as an instant opinion piece. i am not as informed as others about the bedoon crisis in kuwait, and i certainly have learned more about the issue than i knew in 2007. i actually did meet a young bedoon girl. then again, because i do consider this as an opinion piece and yes based on limited knowledge about the subject, i personally don't see it as a requirement for me to know every single bit about the topic to write about it. it's not an essay, it's a blog. about the whole human being bit. i don't know where you got THAT from but i do believe that everyone deserves a chance to earn their happiness. that is something i believe in because we all have the ability to make that happen, theoretically speaking because we choose our own choices, if that makes sense. bedoon or not, we're ALL human beings that deserve good lives if we are good human beings to ourselves and others. about the whole migration bit, that's the story with EVERY country over history. i don't want to get into the who's more loyal to kuwait based on their roots. i mean, i can bet an arm and a leg that a random bedoon would love and serve kuwait more than someone whose ancestors have been in kuwait for 100 years. i think there are a lot of circumstantial cases here, and it'll take more than a post to address them. but in short, i think everything "depends." in the end, it's the government's problem and the only thing that it's doing about it is doing not much of anything. and speaking of biased, you said "...while kuwaitis demand more money from the government." you claimed that i was biased, but doesn't that comment of yours reveal that you're biased as well? i'm a kuwaiti, does that mean i'm instantly greedy for my government's money? that's not the case with me Anon. about alaa hussein, that's a first for me, i don't know this person. then again, there are a lot of traitors in kuwait, bedoon, kuwaiti or otherwise. if there are any fingers to be pointed here it's only toward the government.

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