Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Interview with Amna Al-Shemmery, a Bedoon Woman; & DG Commentary

I keep telling my Bedoon friends that they need to get their voices heard.  Local people/citizens of the region know of the Bedoon problem and have for many years.  There has been much written about Bedoons in Arabic, but not English. 

Westerners (and even many who have lived here for years and years) don't have a good understanding of the issues.  I've seen some even shun the entire concept as if it is something dirty that they can't talk about. That outrages me!   The Bedoon aren't just "those people that are demonstrating."  These reactions come from intelligent, educated people (and many in positions of authority who could make a difference in someone's life). Many of these people don't even ask WHY the Bedoon are demonstrating. Perhaps they get their information from only one source.  Perhaps they don't ask questions or aren't interested in learning different aspects (good and bad) of the country in which they live.  No place in the world is without problems. No place in the world is perfect. (And this includes where I come from.  Please refer to Native American Indians for example.)  God created contrasts.

  • I urge anyone who doesn't know about the Bedoon situation to drive out 5th Ring Road to Sulaibiya and see where the Bedoon live.  Talk to Bedoon people.  You may be surprised how many people you think have Kuwaiti nationality are actually Bedoon.  The greeters at Sultan Center wearing national dress are Bedoon.  The security men in national dress at the malls are most likely Bedoon.  Go talk to them.  Ask questions!  Make friends.  Several of my Bedoon friends are the most humble, gracious people you could ever meet. 
  • We will have a new US Ambassador to Kuwait in August.  Will he/she have a good understanding of the Bedoon issue?  Who will help educate him/her?  I believe that Mrs. Jones is well-versed on the Bedoon issue.  I wholeheartedly hope that the new Ambassador will be as educated and inquisitive (and I pray, as compassionate) on Kuwait's issues?
Other Westerners (like me) can't tell the Bedoon story for the Bedoon (as much as we would like to).  Who is going to listen to me and what do I have to do with it?  It's not my story.  I'm not Bedoon. I'm American and I don't face the same difficulties (and believe me - there are a lot of problems in the US too).   Bedoon people must talk about the issues and discuss their individual personal problems and life experiences so that people will take note and listen.

We, as humans, tend to only see issues as "someone else's problem" until there is some way to find a common, human ground; it must get to the heart and to make it personal. "Community involvement" isn't limited to your company donating funds for the annual raft race (for example).  You can do it for free by being knowledgeable about the country where you live. 

Until very recently, most Bedoon people were afraid to even discuss it for fear of reprecussions.  This is a great article and I hope I see many more like it.  I am also proud of her for using her full name.  She must be a very strong woman and I applaud her for her courage.

Bedoon friends - Tell your stories!  People will listen if you speak up and Inshallah - help.

[Note to B Al-S ("Pretty Girl"):  I want you to be just like Amna!!  Start writing and continue talking to people.]

Amna aspires for a brighter future Bedoon woman inspires many

Published Date: March 04, 2011
By Sunil Cherian, Staff Writer
Source:  Kuwait Times Friday Paper:
Amna Latif Al-Shemmery completed high school a few years ago, and at that time, believed that all doors have been closed, in terms of pursuing higher studies. A studious young girl from Jahra, Amna saw her Kuwaiti classmates go to college while waiting to enroll into a suitable college. Amna who lost her mother when she was in grade two, had never fallen into a depression except during the four-year waiting period. "That was the time," Amna recollected, "I hated myself for being a bedoon.
Four years later, Amna enrolled into a Bachelor's Degree program in Education at the Public Authority for Applied Education and Training (PAAET). Now working as a teacher, Amna serves as a role model to her two younger sisters, supports her unemployed father and student brother. She was promoted to a higher position last year, bought a car last year, an iPhone last month, and has just applied to pursue a Masters degree.
My dream," Amna told me, "is to secure a scholarship which I'll not get. If I were a Kuwaiti, the situation would have been different - I'd receive all kinds of support." Now that Amna has to set aside a lion's share from her earnings for her family, she believes it may take a longer time to complete her Masters degree. Her two working sisters, great friends and co-supporters have fully supportive of their older sister, except for Amna's decision to delay her marriage.
Marriage is an issue," a thoughtful Amna said, "I don't want to talk about it." Amna who is thankful to her father who has, in her words, 'played both father and mother's role' in her life has a pleasant disposition towards life. Her bedoon father remained a widower after his Kuwaiti wife's untimely death, "No, it's not that I'm against men. I don't want to get married to someone who is less qualified than I am. It can create issues." Several of her friends, Amna told me, remain unmarried. Right now, marriage is not a priority. Studies are, she said.
Amna represents a large population of women who are educated, employed, independent and ambitious and prefer to choose partners from an equal, if not higher, social strata. Some women suffer because of their decision to remain spinsters and feel better about it. For most others, 'it's not the end of the world,' as Amna puts it.
But don't you want to continue the good family tradition?," I asked her. I don't know, but I'm willing to be surprised.


Anonymous said...

It's so nice to see people who aren't bedoon actually speaking up about it. I am not bedoon but their issue has touched me and I see no justice in leaving them suffer for the possibilities that they may be hiding their true nationality. I am proud and happy of Amna who is clearly a strong and devoted woman, I wish more bedoon would be as determined as her and not give up. I pray that these people get their rights soon.

Desert Girl said...

Wow - FINALLY a positive, compassionate comment. Where have you been, anonymous 5:04 am?? I have needed a few words like yours after the constant flow of negative comments bordering on hatred.

And for what?? Kuwait is so small and people are suffering HERE - not just in Palestine or Africa or where ever else people are donating their funds and emotions. HERE - in the back yard.

I love your quote "leaving them suffer for the possibility that they may be hiding their true nationality..."

Thank you. You GET me! :)