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The ‘Withouts’ of Kuwait

Kuwait’s stateless Bedoon people have been ignored for 50 years.
Today, they are fighting to be recognized as citizens. There are at least 120,000 Bedoon jinsiyya (without nationality), 10% of the Kuwaiti population, suffering from the lack of human rights. They cannot legally obtain birth, death, marriage or divorce certificates. The same applies to driving licenses, identification cards, and passports. They do not have access to public education, health care, housing or employment. And while they face some of the state’s harshest discrimination policies, they have no recourse to the law and its courts.They have been dehumanized and rendered invisible by government policies coupled with pervasive social stigmatization.

Stateless activists and protesters in the past few years have been harassed, arrested, mistreated, and put to trials for speaking up. Local mainstream media has shamelessly misrepresented them to serve the government’s interests.    

© Molo7 Photo Agency - All rights reserved
Freedom Square, Taima. (Kuwait City). Ali Shamkhi Al-Fadly is a Bedoon athlete of 24 years old. Ali lives in Taima, the area where Bedoon protested for the right of citizenship many times this year and last year.Last March he partecipated in the Arab Championship for the deaf in Tunisia representing Kuwait. Ali with his colleagues got 20 medals. Ali is a person with a disability yet he is not granted any right to the necessary services that can help him in his athletic career. Bedoon athletes like Ali are not even registered in the society of disabled persons that is responsible of taking care of them and supporting them. Although Ali is deprived off his rights as a person with special needs, he is taken to represent Kuwait in championships.Ali receives the passport only to compete in the paralympic champioships in foreign countries, but after these events the government of Kuwait impounds Ali’s passport on his return to Kuwait.
Kuwaiti newspapers speaking about the protests of the Bedoon. But there are not independent newspapers in Kuwait and all the media speak about the Bedoon from the government point of view. The Bedoon have organized numerous demonstrations since February 2011 calling on authorities to address their citizenship claims.
Kuwait. A group of Bedoon have just been released from the prison. They were arrested during the demonstration of the first May 2012. On May 1 between 200 and 300 Bedoon gathered near al-Sha’bi mosque in Taima to demand government action on their citizenship claims and resolution of their stateless status. Abdul Hakeem al-Fadhli, a prominent Bedoon activist, was among those arrested. The ministry alleged that demonstrators ignored its “repeated warning” that demonstrations by “illegal residents” are not allowed.Kuwaiti authorities don’t respect the rights of Bedoon to peaceful assembly. Masked officers normally use batons and harmoured vehicles to disperse and arrest the protesters, partecipants and Kuwaiti activists. Riot police use smoke bombs and hot water.
Kuwait. A group of Bedoon have just been released from the prison. They were arrested during the demonstration of the first May 2012.On May 1 between 200 and 300 Bedoon gathered near al-Sha’bi mosque in Taima to demand government action on their citizenship claims and resolution of their stateless status. Abdul Hakeem al-Fadhli, a prominent Bedoon activist, was among those arrested. The ministry alleged that demonstrators ignored its “repeated warning” that demonstrations by “illegal residents” are not allowed.Kuwaiti authorities don’t respect the rights of Bedoon to peaceful assembly. Masked officers normally use batons and harmoured vehicles to disperse and arrest the protesters, partecipants and Kuwaiti activists. Riot police use smoke bombs and hot water.
Taima (Kuwait). A Bedoon man is speaking about his documents during a diwaniya (a man hosts guests and discusses important issues drinking tea at home). When a woman, whether Kuwaiti or bidoon or a foreign national, gives birth she receives from the hospital a record of the birth which, by law, must be traded in for a birth certificate within two weeks. However, on the record, the hospital must note the parents’ nationalities, and bidoon will typically be asked to either sign that they are nationals of some other state or that they are simply "non-Kuwaiti." Some refuse to do so, as they believe it may jeopardize a future claim to nationality for themselves and their children, and, as a result, the authorities do not put the child’s name on the paper, making the document no good to trade in for a birth certificate.
Taima (Kuwait). This birth certificate belongs to a Bedoon girl but it hasn’t a legal value. In Kuwait Bedoon can’t get birth, marriage and death certificates. Because of this situation it’s impossible to know the exact number of Bedoon living in Kuwait. Estimates of the bidoon population range from 93,000 to 180,000—around ten percent of the Kuwaiti citizenry.
The area of Kuwait City where the governement is going to build a new public university. It will be very modern but open only to Kuwaiti people. On the other side, the Bedoon families must pay for the education of their sons because the public schools and universities are prohibited to them. The Bedoon community has a low literacy rate. So the only way for Bedoon is to pay private colleges for studing. But not all the families are able to.
Kuwait. A public school for Kuwaiti students. These kinds of school are free for Kuwaiti people and they are also clean and modern. On the other side, the Bedoon families must pay for the education of their children because the public schools and universities are prohibited to them. The Bedoon community has a low literacy rate. So the only way for Bedoon is to pay private colleges for studing. But not all the families are able to.
Kuwait. A public school for Kuwaiti students. These kinds of school are free for Kuwaiti people and they are also clean and modern. On the other side, the Bedoon families must pay for the education of their children because the public schools and universities are prohibited to them. The Bedoon community has a low literacy rate. So the only way for Bedoon is to pay private colleges for studing. But not all the families are able to.
Hasawi (Kuwait). A school for Bedoon students. The Bedoon community has a low literacy rate. The Bedoon families must pay for the education of their children because the public schools and universities are prohibited to Bedoon. So the only way for Bedoon is to pay private colleges for studing. But not all the families are able to.On the other side, the public schools are free for Kuwaiti people and they are also clean and modern.
Hasawi (Kuwait). A young hawker in a football field a of a poor neighbourhood. The employment system for Bedoon is discriminatory. Most of Bedoon are not allowed to work, obtain a driving license or travel as they lack any travel documents. Because of this situation they become hawkers in the streets.
Taima (Kuwait). Bedoon houses. The Bedoon community is always on risk to be forced removed from their houses. They can not own property. The strategy of the Kuwaiti government is simply to push this issue onto other states.
Stablat (Kuwait). The interior of a Bedoon house. Stablat is an aerea created just for the Kuwaiti stud farms, but it wasn't ever used, so the Bedoon poorest families began to live in. The Bedoon community is always on risk to be forced removed from their houses. They can not own property. The strategy of the Kuwaiti government is simply to push this issue onto other states.
Kuwait’s criminal court (Kuwait City). The first trial against 69 Bedoon protesters. Amnesty international activists are discussing with Kuwaiti lawyers after the trial. Amnesty international were there to monitor Bedoon issue. The charges are vandalizing public properties and police cars, threatening public security, violence against policemen, resiting arrests, and illegal protesting. The last charge was the reason the trials were held to see what the constitutional court decides on whether Bedoon are entitled to protest based on the Kuwaiti constitution which does not specify who have the right to protest. Amnesty called for the release of Bedoon detainees and denies the false accusations against them.
Kuwait. Abdul Hakeem al-Fadhli is one of the most prominent activists within the Bedoon community. He has been deteined for five times from the beginning of the demonstrations. He has collected 20 government charges untill the May 2012. Hakeem is very active on twitter. He has two brothers, Adi and Nasser. Adi was the first Bedoon to call the whole community for a public demonstration. Adi and Nasser also have been deteined in prison.Hakeem is working to better organize the movement of the Bedoon activists and to create a digital archive to collect video, photographs and audio about Bedoon.
Al Ahmadi City (Kuwait). A group of Bedoon activists, seated in a private house. The Bedoon new generation has been organizing numerous demonstrations since February 2011, calling on authorities to address their citizenship claims. The government has repeatedly promised to address citizenship claims of stateless residents, but has taken little actions to resolve the issue of Bedoon.
Kuwait. A group of Bedoon activists, seated in a private home in Ahmadi City, are watching the video of their last demonstration. The Bedoon topic is one of the less reported human rights issues by the international media. Because of this the Bedoon activist have begun to report their stories on the web.Inspired by the Arab Spring, the Bedoon new generation has been organizing numerous demonstrations since February 2011, calling on authorities to address their citizenship claims. The government has repeatedly promised to address citizenship claims of stateless residents, but has taken little actions to resolve the issue of Bedoon.
Sami AlMonayyes Centre (Kuwait City). Fahad Maiah is a Bedoon journalist. He has just been dismissed by his local newspaper because his point of view on the Bedoon issue was different from the Governement official position.
Sami AlMonayyes Centre (Kuwait City). A group of Bedoon activists. The Bedoon new generation has been organizing numerous demonstrations since February 2011, calling on authorities to address their citizenship claims. The government has repeatedly promised to address citizenship claims of stateless residents, but has taken little actions to resolve the issue of Bedoon.
Al-Ahmadi (Kuwait). A Bedoon woman at home. Many Bedoon women are not married because their men don’t have a work and they couldn’t take care a family. Because of this situation many Bedoon women go into depression. There are also a lot of cases of suicide among young women.Kuwaiti women were only given the right to vote and stand for pubblic office in 2005, but similar reforms have not taken place in the citizenship area. With a few rare exceptions, Kuwaiti women are prohibited from conferring nationality to their children. When a Kuwaiti woman has children with a stateless man, or a foreign national who is unable to confer nationality to his children, their children become stateless. Kuwaiti women are also prohibited from conferring nationality to their non-Kuwaiti husbands.The plight of these families is similar to families where both are Bedoon in that the couple cannot secure marriage certificates and must pay to send children to private school.
Al-Ahmadi City (Kuwait). A Bedoon man, seated on the floor of his house in Ahmadi city. The man decided to not marry because of the bad conditions of life for the Bedoon in Kuwait. Many Bedoon have no access to identification documents, such as birth certificates or passport, and are barred from legal employments as “illegal residents”. Due to the lack of job opportunities many houses are inhabited by large families.
A Bedoon woman at home in a neighbourhood of Kuwait City. She needs special care for her legs, but the Bedoon patients are denied health care by authorities. In Kuwait there are stories of critical cases of sick children and adults among the bedoon and who need special care. Bedoon don’t have the right to access to public hospitals. They have to pay for private hospitals but even in this case they are treated only with drugs of low quality. There are several cases of deaths between Bedoon patients who were denied passports to get special medications abroad.
Hasawi (Kuwait). A Bedoon disable boy living in a small room in a poor suburb of Kuwait City. The young is assisted only by his family. He can’t receive any medical care because Bedoon don’t have the right to access to public hospitals. They have to pay for private hospitals but even in this case they are treated only with drugs of low quality. There are several cases of deaths between Bedoon patients who were denied passports to get special medications abroad.
Hasawi (Kuwait). A young Bedoon with his sister in a neighbourhood of Kuwait City. While Kuwaiti citizens enjoy a huge range of financial luxuries by virtue of being citizens, stateless people in the small country live in slum-like settlements on the outskirts of its cities.
Hasawi (Kuwait). A Bedoon blind man living in a small room in a poor suburb of Kuwait city. The man has no relatives and he is helped by some Bedoon neighbour. He can’t receive any medical care because Bedoon don’t have the right to access to public hospitals. They have to pay for private hospitals but even in this case they are treated only with drugs of low quality. There are several cases of deaths between Bedoon patients who were denied passports to get special medications abroad.
Taima (Kuwait). Many Bedoon work on the street selling cucumbers and vegetables. The employment system for Bedoon is discriminatory. Most of Bedoon are not allowed to work, obtain a driving license or travel as they lack any travel documents. Because of this situation they become hawkers in the streets. The women sell clothes and toys.
Kuwait. Bedoon living in the desert near the border with Iraq. Many Bedoon are descendents of Bedouin tribes who have lived in the region for generations but failed to apply for citizenship when Kuwait became independent in 1961. They cannot get birth certificates or passports and do not have the same right to free education and healthcare enjoyed by Kuwaiti citizens. Barred from most jobs, they largely live in makeshift housing outside the capital, Kuwait city. Nowadays only a few families live permanently in the desert sleeping in traditional tents and caring for animals. The strategy of the Kuwaiti government is simply to push this issue onto other states.
Bedoon living in the desert near the border with Iraq. Many Bedoon are descendents of Bedouin tribes who have lived in the region for generations but failed to apply for citizenship when Kuwait became independent in 1961. They cannot get birth certificates or passports and do not have the same right to free education and healthcare enjoyed by Kuwaiti citizens. Barred from most jobs, they largely live in makeshift housing outside the capital, Kuwait city. Nowadays only a few families live permanently in the desert sleeping in traditional tents and caring for animals. The strategy of the Kuwaiti government is simply to push this issue onto other states.
Taima is a neighborhood of Al-Jahra where the most part of Bedoon community lives. It is located 32 kilometers north-west of Kuwait city.Bedoon have to pay KD 50 for the house rent each month. Many Bedoon work on the street selling cucumbers and vegetables. The women sell clothes and toys. On February 18, 2011 the first antigovernment protest among the Bedoon took place in Freedom square in Taima.
Taima. The employment system for Bedoon is discriminatory. Most of Bedoon are not allowed to work, obtain a driving license or travel as they lack any travel documents. Because of this situation they become hawkers in the streets. Many Bedoon work on the street selling cucumbers and vegetables. The women sell clothes and toys.
Taima is a neighborhood of Al-Jahra where the most part of Bedoon community lives. It is located 32 kilometers north-west of Kuwait city. Bedoon have to pay KD 50 for the house rent each month. Many Bedoon work on the street selling cucumbers and vegetables. The women sell clothes and toys. On February 18, 2011 the first antigovernment protest among the Bedoon took place in Freedom square in Taima.
Kuwait. This grave belongs to a Bedoon soldier dead during the war between Kuwait and Iraq. Since 1990-91 there were no news about him and other soldiers of the Kuwait army who were taken prisoners by the Saddam Hussein’s troops The corpse of all these soldiers came back to Kuwait in 2004 after their finding in Iraq. The first who was made welcome on its arrival by the Emir was the Bedoon’s body. There was a solemn ceremony. But the soldier’s family, escaped to Jordan during the Guklf war, was prohibited from entering Kuwait to visit the grave.
Kuwait. Mr l-Fadhli is a Bedoon, he has worked for twenty years for the Kuwaiti police. Now the Bedoon are not allowed to work for the Kuwaiti army and for the police. But in the past decades Bedoon, even if stateless, were part of the army also during the first Gulf War. A lot of them lost their life and were imprisoned.
Kuwait. Mr l-Fadhl is a Bedoon, he has worked for twenty years for the Kuwaiti police. Now the Bedoon are not allowed to work for the Kuwaiti army and for the police. But in the past decades Bedoon, even if stateless, were part of the army also during the first Gulf War. A lot of them lost their life and were imprisoned.
A Kuwaiti family 's house in a neighbourhood of Kuwait City. When the young Kuwaiti couple marry, the government helps them for the expenses, from the marriage to the house.
Stablat (Kuwait). The interior of a Bedoon house. The interior of a Bedoon house. Stablat is an aerea created just for the Kuwaiti stud farms, but it wasn't ever used, so the Bedoon poorest families began to live in. The Bedoon community is always on risk to be forced removed from their houses. They can not own property. The strategy of the Kuwaiti government is simply to push this issue onto other states.
Stablat (Kuwait). The interior of a Bedoon house. Stablat is an aerea created just for the Kuwaiti stud farms, but it wasn't ever used, so the Bedoon poorest families began to live in. The Bedoon community is always on risk to be forced removed from their houses. They can not own property. The strategy of the Kuwaiti government is simply to push this issue onto other states.
Kuwait. A Bedoon woman at home in a neighbourhood near Ali Al Salem. Many Bedoon women are not married because their men don’t have a work and they couldn’t take care a family. Because of this situation many Bedoon women go into depression. There are also a lot of cases of suicide among young women.Kuwaiti women were only given the right to vote and stand for pubblic office in 2005, but similar reforms have not taken place in the citizenship area. With a few rare exceptions, Kuwaiti women are prohibited from conferring nationality to their children. When a Kuwaiti woman has children with a stateless man, or a foreign national who is unable to confer nationality to his children, their children become stateless. Kuwaiti women are also prohibited from conferring nationality to their non-Kuwaiti husbands.The plight of these families is similar to families where both are Bedoon in that the couple cannot secure marriage certificates and must pay to send children to private school.
Al-Ahmadi (Kuwait). The last tree of an area where an entire group of Bedoon houses have just been forced removed by the government. Kuwait is a rich country with a complex social fabric. The political, economic, and social elite strive to retain wealth and power—unfortunately often at the cost of violating basic human rights of other people in the country, such as the bidoon.
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