Thursday, January 10, 2013

"I am Kuwaiti"

Mona Kareem forwarded a tweet on the Bedoon (stateless) community of Kuwait containing a link to a VERY good article by Sebastian Kohn from Open Society on the subject.  Mr. Kohn is a good writer and I enjoyed reading his article.

You can read the full article HERE.


"You've had a lot of experience photographing stateless populations—including the Nubians in Kenya and the Rohingya in Burma. What were your first impressions of Kuwait and of the bidoon community?

The first thing that struck me was just the huge disparity between the Kuwaitis and the bidoon. The Kuwaiti government provides social and financial benefits to its citizens that are unlike anything I have seen before—enormous housing benefits, health benefits, almost assured employment, free education, and financial benefits for being married and for having children that would dwarf the incomes of a huge percentage of people in developing countries around the world. In Kuwait citizenship is clearly more than the right to have rights—to have a passport and be recognized and so on. It is an open door to a secure future for you and your family.
The bidoon are cut off from all of this. They live in slum-like settlements on the outskirts of urban areas. They're denied access to birth certificates and somewhere between 90,000 and 180,000 people are refused access to essential services, including health care and public education.

When you speak with them, you hear about the history that many of the families have in Kuwait, many of which pre-date Kuwait’s independence, and very quickly you see these stark differences and inequalities—inequalities that have been created and perpetuated by the state. You hear how, since the mid-1980s, the bidoon community has been almost completely excluded from Kuwait’s elite—be it political, professional, military, etc. The word “bidoon” in Arabic means “without” and it's an apt description of their situation."

When I first came to Kuwait and for many years after, NO ONE would publicly discuss the subject of statelessness in Kuwait; especially the Bedoun themselves, for fear of repercussions.  Now, they are speaking up and people are listening.  Articles, like this one, are popping up around the globe discussing the issue.

When a person loses hope, he loses everything.   I believe that the Bedoun issue is a ticking time bomb.  Crime is on the rise and the situation seems to be worsening instead of getting better.    I sincerely hope that the Government resolves this situation.

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