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In 1959, Kuwait passed a Nationality Law which 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 classified as bedoon jinsiya (without nationality). The current number of bedoon is estimated to range from 80,000-140,000.
Current Humanitarian Situation
Bedoon once made up the bulk of the armed forces and police, individuals who served their country loyally. After 1985, however, the government of Kuwait dismissed the bedoon from their jobs, barred their children from public and private schools, and revoked their driving licenses. Following the liberation of the country from Iraqi occupation in 1991, the government further stepped up its efforts to strip the bedoon of their rights.
Lack of legal status impacts all areas of life for bedoon: their identity, family life, residence, health, livelihood, and lack of a political voice. Employment in the formal sector is unstable and usually only possible through “favors”, so bedoon are forced to seek livelihoods in the underground economy. Their vulnerable status and lack of institutional protection renders them exploitable in what has been described as “a new form of slavery.”
In July 2006, Kuwait’s parliament created a committee to address the issue of the bedoon. On a nearly annual basis parliament approves a law granting citizenship to 2,000 bedoon – a commendable act that is hardly ever implemented. In addition to parliamentary activity, the bedoon themselves and sympathetic citizens have come together to form a National Committee for the Resolution of Statelessness in Kuwait.