Bedoon (ethnicity)

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Bedoon
بدون
Total population
110,729
Regions with significant populations
Kuwait
Languages
Arabic
Religion
Islam

The Bedoon (Arabic: بدونBidūn) are an ethnic group in Gulf Arab states and Iraq.[1] The Bedoon are reportedly stateless people; several governments recognize them as illegal immigrants.

During the 1970s and 1980s, the Bedoon formed 80-90% of the Kuwaiti Army.[2][3][4] 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.[5]

Kuwait considers the Bedoon illegal immigrants.[6] The Kuwaiti government believes the Bedoon are foreign nationals from neighboring countries.[6] Although many Bedoon are genuinely stateless, there is evidence that some Bedoon are foreign nationals hiding their true nationalities. Kuwait recently discovered the true nationalities of 6,000 Bedoon, most were Saudi citizens.[7][8]

Kuwait[edit]

Origin[edit]

The Bedoon are categorized into three groups.[9] The first group consists of stateless tribesmen whose ancestors failed to apply or lacked necessary documentation at the time of Kuwait's independence.[9] The second group consists of former citizens of Iraq, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries who abandoned their original nationality to join Kuwaiti armed forces and police in the 1960s and 1970s.[10][11] 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.[9] At the time, the Bedoon status conferred many economic benefits.[10][9] The third group is composed of children of Kuwaiti women married to Bedoon men.[9]

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.[12][13] 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.[12] In 1985, the then emir Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah escaped an assassination attempt, later that same year the government changed the Bedoon's status from that of legal residents without nationality to illegal residents.[12]

There are 110,729 officially registered Bedoon in Kuwait. According to the Kuwaiti government, only 34,000 Bedoon are eligible for Kuwaiti citizenship and the remaining Bedoon are mostly Iraqis and Saudis.[14] 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.[7][8]

Reforms[edit]

Kuwait recognizes the Bedoon as illegal residents.[6] Human rights organizations have criticized Kuwait for its handling of the issue. Many Bedoon do not have birth certificates and driving licenses. In March 2011, the Kuwaiti government announced a set of "eleven Bidoon rights".

In June 2011, the Kuwaiti government in coordination with the Zakat house, launched a scholarship fund to support Bedoon students. The Bedoon currently account for 40% of the Kuwaiti Army.[5]

There are 110,729 documented Bedoon, documented Bedoon are not at risk of persecution or breach of human rights.[15] Undocumented Bedoon are at risk of persecution.[15]

United Arab Emirates[edit]

According to the UAE government, there are 10,000 Bedoon in the UAE. Exact numbers of the Bedoon in the UAE are not known and range from 10,000 to 100,000.[16]

Notes[edit]