Refugees International visited Kuwait to assess the
condition of statelessness faced by bidun (meaning ‘without’ in Arabic) and evaluate government efforts to remedy this denial of basic human
rights. We found few tangible changes.
Cars in Kuwait City: Kuwait, a small oil-rich country, is bordered by Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran. The difficult negotiations of the Ugair Conference that fixed the borders between Kuwait and its neighbors in 1922 hinted at the nascent problem of Kuwait’s stateless. Housing for Bidun: Many bidun are descendants of Bedouin tribes who once moved freely across what are now national borders. Those whose ancestors could not prove that they were settled in the country were classified as stateless and today live in fetid housing projects. Roadside Stand: Bidun in Kuwait cannot access healthcare or education. They are not permitted to own property, or register a car. Bidun are also denied formal employment and find odd jobs where they can, such as polishing coffeepots at roadside stands as pictured here. Bidun Without Work: Recent proposals that some police, nurse, and teacher positions be opened to the bidun have not been realized. Necessity forces them to seek livelihoods in the informal economy – hawking fruit, vegetables, and other goods on the street. Parliament Begins to Recognize the Bidun: It’s all talk and no action to solve the situation of the bidun. A new proposal in the Kuwaiti Parliament aims to honor some civil and social rights of the bidun, but it does not address the underlying problem of the need to regularize their legal status.