Bidoon (stateless)

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Not to be confused with Bedouin.
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Sulaibiyah[2] and Al Jahra[3]
Related ethnic groups
Bedouins · Arabs

Bidoon, also known as Stateless Arabs[3] (Arabic: بدون‎, bedoon al jinsiya), are stateless people from the Arabic bidūn jinsīyah (Arabic: بدون جنسية‎, without nationality).[4]

Kuwait's Bidoon are mostly descendants of nomadic Bedouins.[5] Kuwait identifies the Bidoon "illegal residents".[6] The Kuwaiti government believes the Bidoon are foreign nationals from neighboring countries. In May 2014, the Kuwaiti government discovered the true nationalities of 6,051 Bidoon, most were Saudi nationals hiding their passports.[7] Several organizations have criticized Kuwait for its handling of the issue.


Kuwait's early population in the 19th century consisted of settlers from the Arabian Peninsula who established roots and lived inside the walled gates of Kuwait City. At the end of the 19th Century, nearly 50,000 people lived in Kuwait, but this number increased substantially after the discovery of oil in the late 1920s.

In 1959, Kuwait was preparing for full independence from the United Kingdom and issued a Nationality Law (LAW NO.15). This law set forth the conditions for naturalization ranging from eligibility to rights of nationals. The government attempted to register all of the residents of Kuwait, but many of those outside the city walls were ill-informed about the scheme. Others who were aware of the scheme did not buy into the idea of a nationality and decided to forgo registration.

The latter of the two above mentioned categories posed a significant dilemma to Kuwaiti authorities. There was no way to prove that current day bidoon are decendents of those who did not register for citizenship or were unaware of it. Thus, the Kuwaiti government granted the bidoon residency permits until they could somehow present claims for nationality. The temporary paperwork presented to them to follow up on their claims identified them as "without nationality"- in arabic Bidoon Jinsiya.[8]


The term "Bidoon" is used mostly in Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain,[5] and Iraq,[9] whose governments consider the presence of large numbers of stateless residents problematic.[10] In Bahrain, the term "Bidoon" is used to describe stateless descendants of Iranians.[5] Although some of the Bidoon are originally Bedouin, the two terms have different meanings.[11][12]


In Kuwait, most of the Bidoon are descendants of nomadic Bedouins.[13] The majority of the Bidoon's population stems from three main sources: 1) Kuwaiti Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior employees who were recruited in the 1960s to fill the ranks of the Non-Commissioned Officer corps; 2) those who claim their ancestors did not comply with nationality requirements because of a lack of documentation or failed to apply for nationality at the time of Kuwait's independence; and 3) children, illegitimate or otherwise, born to Kuwaiti mothers and foreign or stateless fathers.[8] In 1970s, one-third to one-half of Kuwait's army consisted of Iraqi and Saudi tribesmen.[14] In the 1980s, the Bidoon comprised 80-90% of the Kuwaiti Army Non-Commissioned Officer Corps.[15] Until 1990, the Bidoon accounted for 80% of the Kuwaiti Army.[16] After the Gulf War, the number of Bidoon in the Kuwaiti Army declined. It is currently estimated that the Bidoon account for 40% of the current Kuwaiti Army NCO Corps.[17] In the last few years, many organizations have criticized Kuwait for its handling of the Bidoon.[8]


Most of the Bidoon live in Kuwait

Current situation[edit]

The Kuwaiti government has recently ordered the naturalization of up to 4,000 of the estimated 120,000 Bidoons in the country, but it is unclear whether this order will be carried out for just the Bidoon people or will include naturalization of others, as Kuwait has done in the past.[18]

In Bahrain, stateless people are denied the right to hold legal residency,[5] are not allowed the right to travel abroad,[5] buy houses,[5] and to hold government jobs.[5] Recently, the Bahraini government issued regulations preventing them from sending their children to public schools and to receive free medical care.[5] Bidoons can also get deported at any time.[5] Since the beginning of the 1980s, the Bahraini government has deported hundreds of Bidoons to Iran.[5]

In the United Arab Emirates, stateless people cannot get a drivers license, go to school, obtain a marriage licence, receive routine health services (they will be treated at hospitals), or legally work.

In November 2014, the Kuwaiti government offered Comoros citizenship and legal residency to Bidoon people.[19][20]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Kuwait: Whether Bedoun residents who were included in the 1965 census are able to obtain citizenship; whether Bedoun residents can access healthcare, education and employment; information on Bedoun mobility rights, including whether an individual with a Bedoun card, who was registered in the 1965 census, but who left Kuwait illegally without a passport, is able to return to Kuwait, 20 February 2013, KWT104009.E, available at: [accessed 13 November 2013]
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ Fuchs, Martina (19 February 2011) "Kuwait police clash with hundreds of protesters", Reuters, archived here by WebCite
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Iranians in Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates: Migration, Minorities, and Identities in the Persian Gulf Arab States. Eric Andrew McCoy. 2008. p. 48. 
  6. ^ "Kuwait: Stateless ‘Bidun’ Denied Rights". "Kuwait considers the Bidun "illegal residents."" 
  7. ^ 6,051 illegal residents in Kuwait adjusted status by May
  8. ^ a b c
  9. ^ World Migration 2005 Costs and Benefits of International Migration. International Organization for Migration. 2005. p. 53. 
  10. ^ Staff (3 March 2011) "March 8 Parliament session to discuss vital decisions" Al-Watan Daily Newspaper; archived here by WebCite
  11. ^ Hamad, Aziz A. (1991) A Victory turned sour: human rights in Kuwait since liberation Middle East Watch, Human Rights Watch, New York, page 51, ISBN 1-56432-041-3
  12. ^ Henckaerts, Jean-Marie (1995) Mass expulsion in modern international law and practice Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Dordrecht, Netherlands, page 97, ISBN 90-411-0072-5
  13. ^ "Kuwait: Stateless ‘Bidun’ Denied Rights". 
  14. ^ Mercenaries, Pirates, and Sovereigns. p. 90. 
  15. ^ "Government of United Kingdom". p. 4. 
  16. ^ "Challenges of Security in Kuwait". p. 5. 
  17. ^ "Challenges of Security in Kuwait". p. 6. 
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^