Bedoon (ethnicity)

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Bedoon
Total population
93,000-120,000
Regions with significant populations
Kuwait, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates
Religion
Islam

Bedoon (Arabic: بدون‎), is an ethnic group in Gulf Arab states and Iraq.[1] The Bedoon are reportedly stateless people; several governments recognize them as illegal immigrants. Although some Bedoon were originally Bedouin, the two terms have different meanings.

Most of Kuwait's Bedoon are of Iraqi ancestry.[2][3][4] The Bedoon issue in Kuwait “overlaps with historic sensitivities about Iraqi influence inside Kuwait”.[5] During the 1980s, the Bedoon constituted 80-90% of the Kuwaiti Army.[6] Until 1990, the Bedoon accounted for 80% of the Kuwaiti Army.[7]

Kuwait considers the Bedoon illegal immigrants.[8] The Kuwaiti government believes the Bedoon are foreign nationals from neighboring countries.[8] Although many Bedoon are genuinely stateless, there is evidence that some Bedoon are foreign nationals hiding their true nationalities. In 2014, the Kuwaiti government discovered the true nationalities of 6,000 Bedoon, most were Saudi citizens.[9][10]

Kuwait[edit]

Origins[edit]

Most of Kuwait's Bedoon are of Iraqi ancestry.[2][3][4] During the 1970s and 1980s, the Bedoon formed 80-90% of the Kuwaiti Army.[6][11][4] Until 1990, the Bedoon accounted for 80% of the Kuwaiti Army.[7] After the Gulf War, the number of Bedoon in the Kuwaiti Army declined. It is estimated that the Bedoon account for 40% of the current Kuwaiti Army.[12] The Bedoon issue in Kuwait “overlaps with historic sensitivities about Iraqi influence inside Kuwait; many who continue to be denied Kuwaiti nationality are believed to have emigrated from Iraq”.[5]

The Bedoon are categorized into three groups.[13] The first group consists of stateless tribesmen whose ancestors failed to apply or lacked necessary documentation at the time of Kuwait's independence.[13] The second group consists of former citizens of Iraq and other Arab countries who abandoned their original nationality to join Kuwaiti armed forces and police in the 1960s and 1970s.[13][14] In the 1960s and 1970s, there was a steady inflow of Iraqi workers to Kuwait, many Iraqis joined the Kuwaiti armed forces and police.[14][15] The Kuwaiti government preferred to register these people as "Bedoon" rather than to reveal the politically-sensitive recruitment policy in the armed forces and police.[13] At the time, the Bedoon status conferred many economic benefits.[14][13] The third group is composed of children of Kuwaiti women married to Bedoon men.[13]

Until 1985, the Bedoon benefited from the same social and economic rights as Kuwaiti citizens. The Iran–Iraq War threatened Kuwait's internal stability and the country became a target of terrorist attacks.[16][17] The ambiguous status of the Bedoon at that time provided a human pool into which Iraqi refugees, draft dodgers and infiltrators could easily blend after getting rid of their identity papers.[16] In 1985, the then emir Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah escaped an assassination attempt when a bomb detonated in one of his cars, later that same year the government changed the Bedoon's status from that of legal residents without nationality to illegal residents.[16]

There are 93,000 officially registered Bedoon in Kuwait. According to the Kuwaiti government, only 34,000 Bedoon are eligible for Kuwaiti citizenship and the remaining 67,000 Bedoon are mostly Iraqis and Saudis.[18] Although many Bedoon are genuinely stateless, there is evidence that some Bedoon are foreign Arabs hiding their true nationalities. In 2014, the Kuwaiti government discovered the true nationalities of 6,000 Bedoon, most were Saudi citizens.[10][9]

Reforms[edit]

Kuwait recognizes the Bedoon as illegal residents.[8] Human rights organizations have criticized Kuwait for its handling of the issue. Many Bedoon do not have legal residency permits and birth certificates. In March 2011, the Kuwaiti government announced a set of "eleven Bidoon rights" that got implemented through new government decrees. These benefits include free education, birth certificates, driving licenses and preferential employment in the public sector. The Bedoon currently account for 40% of the Kuwaiti Army.[12]

Most Bedoon students receive free education.[8] In June 2011, the Kuwaiti government in coordination with the Zakat house, launched a scholarship fund to support Bedoon students.

There are 93,000 documented Bedoon, documented Bedoon are not at risk of persecution or breach of human rights.[19] Undocumented Bedoon are at risk of persecution because of their status as undocumented aliens.[19]

United Arab Emirates[edit]

The UAE government say there are 10,000 Bedoon. Exact numbers of the Bedoon in the UAE are not known and range from 10,000 to 100,000.[20]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ World Migration 2005 Costs and Benefits of International Migration. International Organization for Migration. 2005. p. 53. 
  2. ^ a b "Kuwait City Journal; The Bedoons: Outcasts in the Land They Served". In the last century, and more so in the early decades of this one, nomadic shepherds, most from Iraq but indifferent to national boundaries, settled in Kuwait. Because they were not rooted in the pursuits of the original families of Kuwait -- fishing, trading or pearl fishing -- they remained apart from the society that formed the modern state. These people became known as Bedoons, from the Arabic word for "without." 
  3. ^ a b Famous victory: the Gulf War. p. 187. 
  4. ^ a b c "Stateless Bedoons Are Shut Out of Kuwait". The Christian Science Monitor. 
  5. ^ a b "Australian Government - Bedoon". p. 3. 
  6. ^ a b "Government of United Kingdom". p. 4. 
  7. ^ a b "Challenges of Security in Kuwait". p. 5. 
  8. ^ a b c d "BBC Talk Show about Bedoon (29:07)" (in Arabic). 
  9. ^ a b 6,051 illegal residents in Kuwait adjusted status by May
  10. ^ a b "الكويت : 4600 من «البدون» أظهروا جوازات سفرهم السعودية" (in Arabic). 
  11. ^ "Country Information and Guidance Kuwaiti Bidoon". Government of United Kingdom. p. 11. 
  12. ^ a b "Challenges of Security in Kuwait". p. 6. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f "United Kingdom Government - Bedoon". p. 7. 
  14. ^ a b c "Country Information and Guidance Kuwaiti Bidoon". pp. 26 & 32. 
  15. ^ "Country Information and Guidance Kuwaiti Bidoon". p. 11. 
  16. ^ a b c "United Kingdom Government - Bedoon". p. 8. 
  17. ^ "Country Information and Guidance Kuwaiti Bidoon". p. 26. 
  18. ^ "صالح الفضالة رئيس جهاز معالجة البدون: لدينا وثائق عن 67ألف يدعون أنهم بدون وهذه بعض الوثائق" (in Arabic). 
  19. ^ a b "United Kingdom Government - Bedoon". p. 2. 
  20. ^ UAE turns to deportation to silence regime's critics