Bidoon (social class)

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The Bidoon, or stateless (Arabic: بدونBidūn Arabic: بدون جنسية‎, "without nationality"), is a social class in countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, particularly Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq.[1] They are considered by some regional governments, for instance Kuwait, as foreign nationals or illegal immigrants.[2]



The Bidoon are generally categorized into three groups: stateless tribespeople, economic migrants and the children of GCC or Iraqi women who married Bidoon men.[3] The stateless tribespeople are those whose ancestors had settled in GCC countries (and Iraq) but were excluded from registration at the time of the respective states' independence.[3] The second group, former citizens of Iraq, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, frequently abandoned their original nationality to join Kuwaiti and other GCC armed forces and police in the 1960s and 1970s.[4][5][6] The Kuwaiti government preferred to register these people as "Bidoon" rather than to reveal the politically-sensitive recruitment policy in the armed forces and police.[3] At the time, the Bidoon status conferred many economic benefits.[4][3] The third group is composed of the children of women of GCC nationality married to Bidoon men.[3]

Erasure (administrative ethnic cleansing)[edit]

The government policy is to impose false nationalities (legally ineffective) on the Bidoon.[7]

In 1985, the Bidoon were excluded from the same social and economic rights enjoyed by Kuwaiti citizens as the country needed to isolate them from the rest of the society. The Iran–Iraq War threatened Kuwait's internal stability and the country feared the ambiguous status of the Bidoon, which provides a human pool for Iraqi refugees, draft dodgers and infiltrators to blend into after getting rid of their identity papers.[8] In 1985, the then emir Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah escaped an assassination attempt. Later that same year, the government changed the Bidoon's status from that of legal residents without nationality to illegal residents.[8]

There are 110,729 officially registered Bidoon in Kuwait. According to the Kuwaiti government, only 34,000 Bidoon are eligible for Kuwaiti citizenship and the remaining Bidoon are expected Iraqis and Saudis.[9]


Kuwait recognizes the Bidoon as illegal residents.[2] Human rights organizations have criticized Kuwait for its handling of the issue. Many Bidoon do not have birth certificates and driving licenses. In March 2011, the Kuwaiti government announced a set of "eleven Bidoon rights".[citation needed]

In June 2011, the Kuwaiti government, in coordination with the Zakat house, launched a scholarship fund to support Bidoon students. The Bidoon currently account for 40% of the Kuwaiti Army.[10]

There are 110,729 documented Bidoon. Documented Bidoon are at risk of persecution or breach of human rights.[11]

United Arab Emirates[edit]

According to Federal Law No. 17 of the United Arab Emirates Citizenship and Passport Law of Year 1972, any Arab who resided in the Trucial States prior to 1925 is eligible to obtain UAE citizenship.[12] Many stateless people who lived in the UAE have failed to obtain Emirati passports, either because they have failed to demonstrate that they lived in the region prior to 1925, their roots cannot be traced back to the tribal region, or because they arrived to the region after 1925. Stateless are generally considered immigrants from Baloch or Iranian origin by the UAE. The UAE has also deported some Bidoon people after the Arab Spring.[13] Although they are not considered Emirati citizens, their status and residence in UAE is legalized. Stateless who are not able to obtain any passport are offered the Comorian passport for free through a government initiative for a citizenship by investment deal worth million of dollars with the government of Comoros and enjoy certain citizenship privileges such as subsidized education and access to government jobs in the UAE.[14][15][16]

Saudi Arabia[edit]

Bidoon in Saudi Arabia are not considered Saudi citizens and therefore have no benefits. It has revoked citizenship of certain Saudis in the past too, which means these people become Bidoon. [17][18]


Qatar has a number of stateless people living within its borders. Qatar has not helped them out; instead it has imprisoned many of them.[19]


Like neighbouring Qatar, Bahrain also has a number of stateless people, some of whom were dissidents.[20]


  1. ^ World Migration 2005 Costs and Benefits of International Migration. International Organization for Migration. 2005. p. 53.
  2. ^ a b "BBC Talk Show about Bedoon (29:07)" (in Arabic).
  3. ^ a b c d e "United Kingdom Government - Bedoon" (PDF). p. 7.
  4. ^ a b "Country Information and Guidance Kuwaiti You Bidoon" (PDF). pp. 26 & 32.
  5. ^ "Government of United Kingdom" (PDF). p. 4.
  6. ^ "Stateless Bedoons Are Shut Out of Kuwait". The Christian Science Monitor.
  7. ^ Human Rights Watch, 350 Fifth Avenue 34th Floor, New York. "Report on the Human Rights Watch Report and Response to its Questions and Inquiries" (PDF). Human Rights Watch.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ a b "United Kingdom Government - Bedoon" (PDF). p. 8.
  9. ^ "صالح الفضالة رئيس جهاز معالجة البدون: لدينا وثائق عن 67ألف يدعون أنهم بدون وهذه بعض الوثائق" (in Arabic).
  10. ^ "Challenges of Security in Kuwait" (PDF). p. 6. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 17, 2014.
  11. ^ "United Kingdom Government - Bedoon" (PDF). p. 2.
  12. ^ "UAE Citizenship and Passport Law of Year 1972, Article 17". Retrieved 2018-01-23.
  13. ^ "UAE turns to deportation to silence regime's critics". The Independent. 2012-06-07. Retrieved 2020-02-12.
  14. ^ "Citizenship hope for UAE stateless". Retrieved 2018-01-23.
  15. ^ "Special report: Ten years on, the UAE's stateless people reflect on how life has improved and on the challenges ahead". The National. 5 September 2018.
  16. ^ Abrahamian, Atossa Araxia (2018-01-05). "Opinion | Who Loses When a Country Puts Citizenship Up for Sale?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-08-06.
  17. ^ "Immolation in Riyadh exposes plight of Arab stateless in Saudi Arabia". Reuters. 2013-06-26. Retrieved 2019-08-06.
  18. ^ "The 'Bidoon' of Saudi Arabia: Generations of discrimination". Retrieved 2019-08-06.
  19. ^ "Doha rejects opportunity at UN to end its persecution of Qatari tribe". Arab News. 2019-10-09. Retrieved 2020-02-12.
  20. ^ "The new unpeople". The Economist. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved 2020-02-12.