Kuwait MPs call for special session on bedoons


MP Faisal Al-Duwaisan said the request for the bedoons’ session was submitted to the general secretariat of the Assembly and it called for holding the special debate on Dec 10 to coincide with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

He said that the session aims at granting bedoons, or stateless Arabs, basic human rights that they have been deprived of for many years including education, medical treatment and obtaining identification papers like birth, marriage and divorce certificates. Duwaisan urged other MPs to sign on the request although the number of current signatories is sufficient to enforce the session.

He urged the government to cooperate with the Assembly in finding a lasting solution to the bedoon problems and to close this file, adding that the issue has tarnished Kuwait’s image abroad, especially with human rights organizations. Bedoons, whose number is not exactly known but is estimated at around 100,000, complain that depriving them of identity cards prevents them from getting jobs. They also complain that the government refuses to issue them death certificates and driver’s licences.

Bedoons claim they are entitled to Kuwaiti citizenship but the government insists that many of them do not qualify for nationality because they or their ancestors came from neighbouring countries decades ago after the discovery of oil to benefit from the oil windfall and free services offered to Kuwaitis. The government does not recognize the term ‘bedoon’ but calls stateless Arabs illegal residents and has urged them to disclose their true identity to obtain residence permits like those given to other for
eign nationals.

Most bedoons claim to be Kuwaitis whose forefathers – who lived as bedouins in the desert – failed to apply for citizenship when the state first introduced its nationality law in 1959. Now the government says that bedoons, or their ancestors, who came to the state before 1965 qualify to apply for citizenship, but it is not a guarantee they would be naturalised. About 250,000 bedoons lived in Kuwait before the Iraqi invasion of 1990, but many fled after Kuwait’s liberation in February 1991 at the hands of a
US-led international coalition. Thousands of those who remained have since acquired third-country citizenships.

Some are employed in the Kuwaiti army and police force but many others are not allowed to work, a situation for which Kuwait has repeatedly come under criticism by international human rights bodies. On Saturday, a group calling itself Kuwaiti Bedoons Congregation launched a three-month campaign aimed at securing basic human rights for stateless Arabs.

MPs are divided on the issue. Some MPs urge the government to grant most bedoons, especially those who fulfill conditions, Kuwaiti citizenship, while other strongly oppose this. But a majority of MPs agree that regardless of whether bedoons deserve nationality or not, they must be given basic human rights.

Former MP Ahmad Al-Mulaifi strongly criticized most bedoons yesterday, alleging that Iraqi Baathist cells loyal to former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein are trying to get Kuwaiti citizenship by posing as bedoons. MP Ali Al-Rashed however revealed that the government has a plan to resolve the issue of bedoons which was submitted by the interior minister to the Cabinet. He said that naturalization is a sovereign decision, but the focus here should be made on humanitarian and living conditions of bedoons, desc
ribing the issue as a "time bomb" that we all want to resolve.

The legal and legislative committee meanwhile approved a draft law calling to naturalize a maximum of 2,000 people in the current year. It is believed that a majority of those will be bedoons. Head of the panel MP Hussein Al-Huraiti said the committee approved several other issues including a bill that bans trafficking in persons, over which Kuwait was blacklisted by the US State Department.

The committee also approved a proposal that calls to make half of the KD 70,000 housing loan as a grant to Kuwaiti citizens. It also approved raising housing allowances for Kuwaitis to up to KD 300 per month. The committee also approved a draft law submitted by the Popular Action Bloc to establish a "Jaber Fund for the Present Generation", which stipulates deducting 15 percent of returns from Kuwaiti foreign investments every year and distributing the cash to all Kuwaitis equally.


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