Bedoon (ethnicity)

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Total population
Regions with significant populations
Kuwait, Iraq, United Arab Emirates

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. In 2014, the Kuwaiti government discovered the true nationalities of 6,000 Bedoon, most were Saudi citizens.[7][8]



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 and other Arab countries who abandoned their original nationality to join Kuwaiti armed forces and police in the 1960s and 1970s.[9][10] In the 1960s and 1970s, there was a steady inflow of Iraqi workers to Kuwait, many Iraqis joined the Kuwaiti armed forces and police.[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 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.[12] The Bedoon issue in Kuwait “overlaps with historic sensitivities about Iraqi influence inside Kuwait”.[14][15][16][4]

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.[17] 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.[8][7]


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 93,000 documented Bedoon, documented Bedoon are not at risk of persecution or breach of human rights.[18] Undocumented Bedoon are at risk of persecution.[18]

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.[19]


  1. ^ World Migration 2005 Costs and Benefits of International Migration. International Organization for Migration. 2005. p. 53. 
  2. ^ "Government of United Kingdom" (PDF). p. 4. 
  3. ^ "Country Information and Guidance Kuwaiti Bidoon" (PDF). Government of United Kingdom. p. 11. 
  4. ^ a b "Stateless Bedoons Are Shut Out of Kuwait". The Christian Science Monitor. 
  5. ^ a b "Challenges of Security in Kuwait" (PDF). p. 6. 
  6. ^ a b c "BBC Talk Show about Bedoon (29:07)" (in Arabic). 
  7. ^ a b 6,131 illegal residents adjusted status thru mid-July 2014
  8. ^ a b "الكويت : 4600 من «البدون» أظهروا جوازات سفرهم السعودية" (in Arabic). 
  9. ^ a b c d e f "United Kingdom Government - Bedoon" (PDF). p. 7. 
  10. ^ a b c "Country Information and Guidance Kuwaiti Bidoon" (PDF). pp. 26 & 32. 
  11. ^ "Country Information and Guidance Kuwaiti Bidoon" (PDF). p. 11. 
  12. ^ a b c "United Kingdom Government - Bedoon" (PDF). p. 8. 
  13. ^ "Country Information and Guidance Kuwaiti Bidoon" (PDF). p. 26. 
  14. ^ "Australian Government - Bedoon" (PDF). p. 3. 
  15. ^ "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." 
  16. ^ Famous victory: the Gulf War. p. 187. 
  17. ^ "صالح الفضالة رئيس جهاز معالجة البدون: لدينا وثائق عن 67ألف يدعون أنهم بدون وهذه بعض الوثائق" (in Arabic). 
  18. ^ a b "United Kingdom Government - Bedoon" (PDF). p. 2. 
  19. ^ UAE turns to deportation to silence regime's critics