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Kuwait ‘not’ calling
In 16 years, Kuwait has made only 50,000 people its nationals, many of who are Bedoons or stateless people. Why is that?
December 16, 2008 8:01 by Aarti Nagraj
The report states that the biggest push came in 2001, when the government nationalized 1,000 people at one time. Between 2002 and 2004, it stopped briefly before starting the process again in 2005. This year, 556 people have become Kuwaitis to date.
The numbers are not surprising, considering the country’s strict laws for nationalization. Birth within the territory of Kuwait does not automatically confer citizenship, even if the child’s parents have been expatriates for several years in the country.
A foreign woman who marries a citizen of Kuwait can become a citizen only after 15 years of residency. A foreign man who marries a Kuwaiti woman is not eligible for citizenship.
Like the other GCC countries, many of which are home to stateless people, Kuwait also has many ‘Bedoon’. The word means “without” in Arabic, and refers to people with no nationality.
The Bedoon hardly have any rights; they must pay to obtain any official documentation including permission to marry, birth and death certificates and drivers licenses. They cannot own property. And if a Bedoon man marries a Kuwaiti woman, their children are Bedoon, and hence cannot become Kuwait’s citizens.
In 2000, the Kuwaiti parliament amended a law that allowed around 8,000 Bedoon to become nationals if they satisfied some rules, such as proving that they were stated in the population statistics of Kuwait in 1965.
That may explain why 2001 witnessed the largest number of nationalizations. But there have been several other amendments since then; in 2007, the Kuwaiti National Assembly Committee for Interior and Defense Affairs further amended the Kuwaiti citizenship law to grant citizenship to a foreign divorcee or widow of a Kuwaiti citizen, provided she has at least one child from her Kuwaiti husband.
And according to reports, the government recently agreed to grant citizenship to Bedoon families who are relatives of martyrs. Officials at the Martyrs Office reportedly held a series of talks with the Kuwaiti Interior Ministry undersecretary, which led to a final nod after thorough scrutiny and investigations into the files of these families.
The latest report indicates that 80 percent of those given citizenship were Bedoon, while the other 20 percent included the husbands of Kuwaiti women and their sons in addition to the sons of widows, and Kuwaiti divorcees.
While Kuwait does seem to be taking some steps in the direction of making more residents become citizens, why has there not been a stronger push in this direction? Shouldn’t Kuwait offer its Bedoons a sense of belonging?