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Kuwait’s Parliament dodges bidoon question 12, December 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Kuwait.
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Last week there was supposed to be a motion in Kuwait’s Parliament to deal with their bidoon problem. In Kuwaiti society, there is a whole swathe of stateless people with severely limited rights. Their life is difficult, they are not officially allowed to work, drive or own a mobile phone and are treated as second-class citizens. They live in cinder block houses with corrugated roofs though with AC. However, it must be noted that the ones that I visited in July still – like 95% of Kuwaitis – had a Philippine maid in the kitchen.

Their predicament is a divisive issue in Kuwait. Indeed, other GCC countries had similar problems in recent times. Saudi Arabia, though, sorted their problem out many years ago by simply giving them all passports.

For once, there appeared to be a genuine attempt by Kuwait’s parliament to sort out this issue however not enough Kuwaiti MPs turned up at Parliament to form a Quorum for the vote to go ahead. Presumably, they simply did not want to be forced to vote on an issue which is divisive in society.

Many Kuwaitis believe that the bidoon are people that have arrived from Iran or Iraq or other Arab countries relatively recently in order to take advantage of the hugely generous Kuwait welfare system. This is, however, a massive over-simplification. Many of the bidoons have been resident in Kuwait for generations now, a fact that many Kuwaitis like to ignore. It is difficult from an outsider’s perspective not to feel that it is a rather greedy trait of Kuwaitis to deny these people who have lived in Kuwait for decades and even fought in their army until the early 1980s a passport for what are – essentially – financial reasons.