Bidoon (social class)

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Not a "social class" - a sub-ethnic ethnic group of Kuwaiti Bedouins of the northern tribes (predominantly). Like all ethnic groups, there may be a small number of individuals who have other backgrounds, but who have merged into the group and are now culturally embedded with the Bedouin members. The Kuwaiti Bedoun are the descendants of Bedouin tribes-people who settled permanently in Kuwait. They are native to the region [1]

The first statement at top of article: "not to be confused with Bedouin" does not appear to be capable of edits, though it is incorrect... This statement was made in Human Rights Watch "Prisoners of the Past" in the context of a warning about the sound of the name "Bedoun" being very similar to "Bedouin." Two years later, it was used by the wife of a Norwegian diplomat in Kuwait, Anh Nga Longva, to claim the Bedoun should not be confused with Bedouin... yet she herself conceded the Bedoun were Bedouins. The text contained many such contradictions, and failed to clarify that the Bedoun were Bedouins of the northern tribes, i.e. from the same tribal confederation and tribal affiliates as the ruling family of Kuwait, the al Sabah.

The Bidoon/Bedoon/Bedoun should not be referred to as "stateless Arabs" [2] (Arabic: بدون‎ because they are known at a deeper level, more specifically as Bedouins of the northern tribes.

Reference to the Bedoun as a "social class" avoids attention to the ethnic conflict in Kuwait between Bedouins and Hadar nationalists who have attempted to remove the group by writing the anti-Bedoun (ethnic cleansing) policy, which is implemented by the government of Kuwait's Ministry of the Interior, Central Apparatus [3] Although they are stateless people, several governments treat them as illegal immigrants.

Due to academic self-censorship and imposed censorship among intellectuals, and the extent of oppression of stateless groups in the Arabian Peninsula (left hand side), very little is known about these groups in other states. Another reason is because the populations in those states have always been very small, whereas in Kuwait, the Bedoun formerly comprised approx. half of the Kuwaiti Bedouin tribal population - approx. 250,000 - 300,000 souls.


The government of Kuwait claims the Bidoon of Kuwait are illegal residents.[4] The Kuwaiti government asserts the Bidoon are foreign nationals from neighboring countries.[4] We now know this information is untrue. The state began to remove the identity records of the Bedoun population from 1983, replacing their national identity with the names of states that did not belong to them. It then expelled the group from the National Census in 1992, removing the population from their listing as "Kuwaiti" "Bedouin" like the Kuwaiti Bedouins citizens, who were their brothers and sisters. The state of Kuwait distributed citizenship to all Hadar ethnics but only 50% of the Bedouin in the 1960s, due to discriminatory practices against the Bedouin. Those not granted citizenship then became known as "Bedoun." The Bidoon were administratively expelled in December 1986, and from then on, excluded from the same social and economic rights enjoyed by Kuwaiti citizens, and stripped of their basic human rights. Hadar intellectuals had been planning the expulsion since the 1970s, when they first came up with the idea of removing the Bedoun from the National Census where they were listed as "Kuwaiti" and "Bedouin."[5]

The Bedoun have right as indigenous, tribal people in international law. The development of this law is of significant, historical relevance to the Bedoun's case for citizenship. In 1957 the fortieth session of the ILO (attended also by FAO, WHO and UNESCO) adopted a ‘Convention for the protection and integration of aboriginal and other tribal and semi-tribal populations in independent countries’ (Convention no.107). This convention was the first instrument in international law setting out the special category of human rights for indigenous, tribal people, which led to the emergence of the field of Indigenous Law. The Convention stated that ‘governments will be principally responsible for undertaking a co-ordinated and systematic program to protect the concerned populations and to integrate them progressively in the life of their respective populations.’ As a result of the Convention, the UNESCO set a mandate with the sovereign nations of the Middle East to settle the Bedouin throughout every state, including the nations surrounding Kuwait, such as Saudi Arabia and Iraq.[6]

Origins of the Bedoun's statelessness[edit]

The Bidoon are categorized into three groups, all of whom have Bedouin origins, according to historical sources (although some exceptions may exist)[7] The first group consists of stateless Bedouin tribesmen whose ancestors had settled in Kuwait but were excluded from registration at the time of the state's independence.[7] The second group consists of nomadic and semi-nomadic Bedouins who were recruited by the government of Kuwait to join its armed forces and police in the 1960s and 1970s. They had been recruited because they were stateless people, as this was considered to be a key factor in ensuring their loyaly to Kuwait's ruling family. In return, they were promised citizenship and land on which to settle [8] This was not unusual in the post-war era: by the late 1950s, the United Nations mandate for the Middle East region obliged states to provide the Bedouin tribes with citizenship in order to recruit them into their local labour force, and ensure their social and economic wellbeing was protected by the states in which they settled. The requirement was developed to comply with emerging the indigenous law, designed to protect indigenous peoples from exploitation during the process of state modernization.[9][10]The third group is composed of children of Kuwaiti women married to Bidoon men.[7]

The reason for the Bedoun's statelessness lies in ethnic conflict in the state of Kuwait. The Bedoun are subject to ethnic hatred projected onto all Bedouins by the opposing ethnic group, the Hadar. For example, the notion that the Bedouin citizens of Kuwait are not ‘original,’ ‘real,’ ‘true,’ or ‘pure’ Kuwaitis (nor ‘loyal,’ or ‘deserving’ of citizenship), are phrases commonly used by Hadar ethnic scholars and politicians in verbal abuse in the national news media, or the National Assembly [11]. These are precisely the same concepts used by government, in its demonization of the Bedoun and justification for insisting the group must have a different 'original,' 'real,' or 'true' nationality. An identical nationalist ideology has emerged against all Bedouins in Kuwait - both stateless and citizen members of the same community). However, the stigmatisation of the Bedoun is much more intensive. Once these basic principles are understood, the somewhat confusing discussions over fake passports and mass deportation to the Comoros Islands [12], becomes far easier to conceptualise. Most Bedoun are cogently aware that the state is attempting to eradicate their whole group.

The Bedoun are particularly targeted with physical and cultural destruction and prevented from self-determination, because they are from the northern tribes and because they are stateless, which makes them highly vulnerable to attack because they have no effective legal rights in Kuwait. The history of discrimination can be traced back to Orientalist thought, if we care to wonder how these ideas could have advanced so far that the group could become subject to genocide by its own state. It is important to realise that the state did not construct the policy, but was persuaded to adopt it by 'experts' who bypassed the National Assembly by taking up seats on 'special committees' advising the Supreme Planning Council directly.[5] In turn, many of the ideas expressed by Hadar intellectuals in Kuwait, while formulating the anti-Bedoun policy reflected the same policies discussed by Hadar intellectuals and politicians throughout the Middle East, as discussed in the work of Ricardo Bocco, discussed above.[6] As a consequence, the attitudes towards the Bedouin was not unique but somewhat typical of the regional pattern of development. The problem for Kuwait is that it appears to have been so sheltered by the internationally community including the United Nations (in the search for the wages of Oil), that it's government Ministers have never matured sufficiently and/or do not have intellectual capital required, to fully understand that it is inflicting a genocide upon its own people. In future years, the Bedoun issue will likely be compared to the Israeli treatment of Palestinians, or the Burmese treatment of the Rohingya. However, as the Bedoun are family members of citizens, ethnic tensions remain highly volatile in the state until citizenship is granted to the Bedoun.

Kuwait's erasure program[edit]

In 2014, Kuwait announced some 6,000 Bidoon had accepted a package of benefits in return for asserting their "true" nationalities. Most of these "elected" to accept the status of Saudi citizens.[13] This "package of benefits" was in fact access to basic public services, which are the Bedoun's minimum standard of human rights that the state is obliged to provide the group, according to the UN Declaration of Human Rights. The "benefits" were applicable for five years only. The "package" was only available to those who submitted to identity erasure (removal of both ethnic and national identity on all government records). But even those who submitted, could still not access these basic public services. [14][15]The same "package of benefits" had been on offer to the Bedoun since 1983, but they largely resisted the erasure. This was demonstrated when over 12,000 birth certificates issued by the state were rejected by the Bedoun because they stated fraudulent nationalities on them [16]

On 7th March 2018, the Kuwaiti Assembly passed a law that allows a limited number of Bidoons to join the army. They are still subject to identity theft by government. [17]In the same month, a young Bedoun man was self-immolated in protest over the Bedoun's conditions. [18]

In December, 2019, the government of Kuwait announced that it had completed 90% erasure of the Bedoun population, having assigned them to different nationalities on government records, to match up with the previous National Census expulsion in 1992. Identity cards began to be reissued stating 'valid identity...[country name]' despite the fact that no proof of nationality held by the Apparatus has ever been shown to anyone, including international humanitarian organisations, the United Nations Human Rights Committee, and so on. Salah al Fadalah, Head of the Central Apparatus now claims he holds over 5 million documents proving the "true" other national identity of the Bedoun. [19]

Despite the attempt to cover up Kuwait's ethnic cleansing of its own indigenous, tribal population, in 2006, the program was described by Matt Tueller, former US Ambassador to Kuwait (now Ambassador to Iraq), as "RIDICULOUS." He warned other Arab states that Kuwait's Central Apparatus staff routinely engaged in profiteering with passport traffickers, allowing the traffickers to advertise their services (providing fraudulent identity passports) on posters stuck to the walls of the Apparatus' offices. The Apparatus ordered the Bedoun to buy fraudulent passports from the traffickers to whom they were referred, and to return them to the Apparatus for photocopying. The copies of fraudluent documents were then kept on record as "proof" of the Bedoun's "nationality." Tueller was concerned of the effect the fraud passport market, artificially created by the Central Apparatus, would have on global terrorism as they could be purchased by anyone, and most other potential clients were in a significantly better financial position, to buy them. From 2006 onward, most states in the Arab world and a number of Western states were aware the program sought to erasure the group[20]

The program of forcing the Bedoun to acquire fraudulent passports had started around 1983, when government sent letters to all Bedoun public service employees, instructing them to buy "foreign passports." The government of Kuwait was quite aware all Bedouns were stateless, as this was one of the reasons they had been recruited into the defence forces, police and national guard. [21]Other documents the Bedoun have been forced to sign for the Central Apparatus to facilitate their own ethnic cleansing include affadavit-like photocopied papers stating the signee "admits" to having another nationality. Thousands of Bedoun men in the military and police forces were forced to sign these documents after the Bedoun were ethnically cleansed in the 1990s, and such men were expelled from their public service employment. The issue was described in Human Rights Watch (2001):

More than 100,000 long-term residents of Kuwait faced widespread and systematic discrimination, and tens of thousands more were prevented from returning to Kuwait. Known as Bidun, they had lived in Kuwait for decades, even generations, unable to obtain Kuwaiti nationality, and without effective nationality elsewhere. Kuwait severely restricted their rights to leave and return to Kuwait, to marry and found a family, and to work, and their children's rights to education, to be registered immediately after birth, and to acquire a nationality. Bidun also suffered disproportionately from discrimination on the basis of sex, particularly with regard to issues of nationality and naturalization, marriage, divorce, and family reunification. According to the Ministry of Interior, some 37,000 Bidun became eligible to apply for naturalization following amendments to the Nationality Law on May 16. However, the law limited the number who would be granted nationality in any given year, raising concern that even those eligible could continue to face discrimination for many years to come. The government also said that Bidun not eligible for naturalization would face prosecution and potential deportation if they did not register as foreigners. Prosecutions began immediately following June 27, when the Ministry of Interior ended a nine month program in which it issued five year residency permits and other benefits to Bidun who signed affidavits admitting to a foreign nationality and renouncing claims to Kuwait nationality. The government tolerated a trade in forged foreign passports, raising concerns that significant numbers of those who presented passports purporting to have been issued by countries such as the Dominican Republic, Colombia, and Nigeria when applying for the program may not have had effective nationality in those countries. [22]

The situation for the Bedoun remains much the same in terms of the number of restrictions and violations of human rights, they continue to face. However, they are now much further along in the erasure process, making them extremely vulnerable to further large population losses due to ethnic cleansing and more broadly, genocidal intent.[23]

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 the UAE citizenship.[24] Many stateless who have lived in the UAE have failed to obtain Emirati passports, either because they 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 have arrived to the region after 1925. These people are generally considered immigrants from Baloch or Iranian origin by the Emirati community.

Although they are not considered Emirati citizens, their status and residence in UAE is legalized. Stateless who do not hold any passport are offered the Comorian passport "for free" through a citizenship by investment deal worth million of dollars with the government of Comoros and "enjoy certain citizenship privileges such as free education and access to free healthcare" in the UAE.[25][26] Only 15% of the total population in UAE is considered Emirati citizens and enjoy the full privileges of citizenship due to the majority of the population being expatriates.[27]


  1. ^ Weissbrodt, D. (2008). The human rights of non-citizens. Oxford: Oxford University Press
  2. ^
  3. ^ World Migration 2005 Costs and Benefits of International Migration. International Organization for Migration. 2005. p. 53.
  4. ^ a b "BBC Talk Show about Bedoon (29:07)" (in Arabic).
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ a b Bocco, R. (2006). The settlement of pastoral nomads in the Arab Middle East: International organisations and trends in development policies, 1950-1990. In D. Chatty, D. (Ed.), Nomadic societies in the Middle East and North Africa: Entering the 21st century (pp. 302-330). Leiden: Brill.
  7. ^ a b c "United Kingdom Government - Bedoon" (PDF). p. 7.
  8. ^ Alhajeri, A. (2004). Citizenship and political participation in the state of Kuwait: The case of the National Assembly (1963-1966) (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Durham, Durham
  9. ^ Bocco, R. (2000). International organisations and the settlement of nomads in the Arab Middle East, 1950-1990. In M. Mundy and B. S. Musallam (Ed.s), The transformation of nomadic society in the Arab East (pp. 197-217). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  10. ^ Bocco, R. (2006). The settlement of pastoral nomads in the Arab Middle East: International organisations and trends in development policies, 1950-1990. In D. Chatty, D. (Ed.), Nomadic societies in the Middle East and North Africa: Entering the 21st century (pp. 302-330). Leiden: Brill.
  11. ^ Alhajeri, A. (2004). Citizenship and political participation in the state of Kuwait: The case of the National Assembly (1963-1966) (Unpublished doctoral dissertation), University of Durham, Durham
  12. ^ Sloan, A. (2014, November 11). Kuwait is Failing its Most Loyal Residents. Middle East Monitor. Retrieved from:
  13. ^ 6,131 illegal residents adjusted status through mid-July 2014
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ Technologies, Mano. "Kuwait Local | Kuwait Assembly Passes Law To Accept Bedoons In Army". Retrieved 2018-03-07.
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  20. ^ WikiLeaks US Embassy Cable 06Kuwait4514, November 26, 2006.
  21. ^ Al Anezi, R. H. (1989). A Study of the role of nationality in international law with special reference to the law and Practice of Kuwait, (Unpublished doctoral dissertation), University of Cambridge, Cambridge.
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  24. ^ "UAE Citizenship and Passport Law of Year 1972, Article 17". Retrieved 2018-01-23.
  25. ^
  26. ^ "Citizenship hope for UAE stateless". Retrieved 2018-01-23.
  27. ^ "The Cosmopolites: The Coming of the Global Citizen" by Atossa Araxia Abrahamian, Buchbesprechung von Richard Bellamy in: New York Times, 11.1.2016.