Kuwait: Authorities continue to violate civil and human rights of the Bedoon community

17.08.21

The Bedoon community in Kuwait continue to be denied even their basic rights, according to research by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR). There have been sizable Bedoon street protests over the last years in which the main demands are for citizenship and all the fundamental rights that go with it. Prominent Bedoon activists have been arrested and detained.

On 06 August 2021, a 32-year-old man from the Bedoon community tried to set himself on fire inside Al-Sabah Hospital in the Shuwaikh area of ​​Kuwait City. Local reports confirmed that he is still receiving treatment in the hospital and is in critical condition. The reported reason for his suicide attempt was the refusal by the Central Apparatus for the Remedy of Illegal Residents' Status (CARIRS) to renew his security card, which means he lost the most basic civil and human rights that this card entitles him to. Thus, as with previous suicide attempts by members of the Bedoon community, the main reason they are occurring is the dead end and the lost future which they face in this country.  

The hashtag (#Bedoon_Burning_ Himself) has trended on Twitter in Kuwait, where citizens expressed their grief and pain, and demanded that the Bedoon community be granted their full rights.

The CARIRS was established in 2010 by Emiri Decree No. 467 in order to develop a radical solution to the problem of the members of the Bedoon community. However, instead of working seriously and sincerely in order to find humanitarian solutions for them, this body has become a large part of the problem through its failed policies. The CARIRS has also made  false accusations against them over the previous years, including a claim in 2012 that about 71,000 Bedoon hold nationalities from other countries, including Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Syria, countries that reject this claim. In addition, many of them as well as their parents and ancestors were born in Kuwait.

The Bedoon community in Kuwait is a cohesive society, whose members do not know a homeland other than Kuwait. Although government statistics and estimates tend to reduce their numbers steadily, local experts confirmed that their number exceeds 220,000 people and may reach 250,000 people. The CARIRS deals with their various issues in a bureaucratic manner, including issuing the security card for members of the Bedoon community, which is valid for periods not exceeding three months to six months or, in a few cases, up to one year. It takes approximately four weeks to obtain this card, in a deliberate effort by this agency to reduce the validity period of the card.

Since 2017, the CARIRS’s affiliates have forced many Bedoon citizens to sign "white pledges", which are white papers that the agency later fills in with whatever information they want about their acknowledgment that they came from neighbouring countries. Therefore, there are thousands of Bedoon citizens who refuse to apply for the security card in order to avoid signing such white pledges.

The security card is necessary to obtain all other public services, including for education and health, as well as work, but it does not give any additional benefits to its holder, and does not qualify them to obtain Kuwaiti citizenship later, and the CARIRS has the right not to renew it without needing to mention the reasons.

Members of the Bedoon community suffer greatly in order to obtain official birth certificates for their children and officially register their marriages, in addition to the difficulty of obtaining a driver’s license. Their suffering is compounded by unfair laws against the right of citizenship to a non-Kuwaiti or a Bidoon woman, as her children remain deprived of basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the law.

On 04 August 2021, the head of the National Bureau of Human Rights, Jassem Al-Mubaraki, stated, "Kuwait, as a state and government, has no tendency to systematically violate human rights." At the same time, one of the diplomats working in the Kuwaiti mission to the Human Rights Council in Geneva stated in a private session in 2020, on condition of anonymity, that "there is no political will to solve the Bedoon problem." The failure of the government to solve this problem despite the passage of years confirms the existence of a systematic policy to deny the civil and human rights of the Bedoon community in Kuwait.

On 11 and 12 August 2021, the General Department of Criminal Investigation at the Ministry of Interior summoned 19 Bedoon activists demanding their rights on charges of unauthorised gathering, after their participation in the weekly gathering held in Al-Erada Square every Saturday at eight in the evening. They were also accused of insulting the CARIRS when speaking through the Club House application.

GCHR wishes a speedy recovery for the young man from the Bedoon community who set fire to himself, and once again calls on the Kuwaiti government to take a historic political decision to immediately solve this problem at its roots.

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights calls on the authorities in Kuwait to:

  1. Further develop and implement plans to provide a solution to the longstanding problem of statelessness in Kuwait in accordance with international legal standards and in consultation with Kuwaiti civil society organisations;
  2. Cease treating the Bedoon as illegal residents, and protect all their civil and human rights, including freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly;
  3. Grant nationality to longstanding residents with claims to nationality, including those without documents;
  4. Register all children born within the borders of Kuwait in an appropriate timeframe and provide birth certificates to all such children;
  5. Issue marriage and death certificates, travel documents and driver’s licenses to all persons in Kuwait without discrimination; and
  6. Eliminate discrimination against women in Kuwait in the field of nationality by ensuring that nationality can be conferred on women and men equally.