Kuwait Punishes Bidoun for Demanding Their Rights

By Michael Boyce

In recent days, the stateless bidoun of Kuwait have taken to the streets to demand the restoration of their citizenship. The Kuwaiti government, however, has responded by crushing their protests. It has declared them "illegal" and threatened protestors with two years' imprisonment or a $3,600 fine.

Earlier today, RI condemned the government's actions, and urged the UN and US to pressure Kuwait to fairly and transparently review all 105,000 bidoun's citizenship claims.

Kuwaiti police threatened journalists covering the story and prevented them from accessing the protest site, so RI reached out directly to Mahmoud*, one of the protestors, who sent his account of the events in a Kuwait City suburb. What follows is a lightly-edited version of his statement:

First of all, let me introduce myself. I'm a 33-year-old guy from Kuwait. I am a civil engineer, and graduated from a university overseas. I count myself among the luckiest stateless people in Kuwait, because I had the opportunity to get a passport and study abroad.

Today's protest was planned, down to the date, location, and time; the government knew about it, and knew what it would be like

The protestors and I gathered at the agreed-upon place which, which was not blocking traffic or the surrounding houses. The protests got bigger as protestors encouraged their friends to participate; women also took part.

We sat down on the ground, with our backs to the police force. There were at least 30 vehicles from the police and Kuwait intelligence force - more than I have ever seen before.

They attacked us without any notice. Some of us stayed where we were, while the rest ran away. I ran away with my friends, and the police force were followed us into the residential area, in between the houses. I ran for almost eight kilometers and was followed by dark-colored GMC Yukon cars.

They arrested and beat many of those who remained at the protest site, and used cattle prods, smoke bombs, tear gas, and hot water cannons against them.

Another major issue was that they refused to send the injured to the hospital only few steps away. Instead, they sent them to the police hospital in order to cover up their mess.

As RI has described in its field reports, the bidoun's lack of legal status impacts all areas of their lives: from employment and education, to their political freedoms and rights, to their mental health and sense of identity. It also disproportionately affects women and children, who can be forced to sacrifice their citizenship under the country's discriminatory nationality laws.

RI will continue to press for the rights of the bidoun, and we remain hopeful that Kuwait will bring its nationality laws into alignment with international standards. But this cannot happen without a peaceful and open dialogue - a dialogue that was entirely absent in the Kuwaiti government's recent crackdown.


*Not his real name.



I have been reading " Price of Honor " published in 1995 . See page 176 for the comments on the Bedouin and their problems starting in the 1950's when the government required all Bedouin to register in order to have official citizenship. " the time of the Gulf War...... 300,000 -strong Palestinian middle management declared traitorous and expelled because of Yasser Arafat's alignment with Saddam, so too were the Bedouin arbitrarily declared non-Kuwaitis and deprived of their legal right to live in the country they consider their homeland."