The situation of Bedouns is one of the most complex legal matters in the country, as a generation after another passes without any solution to their legal problem since the government refers to them as ‘illegal residents’. Laws evolve and change in different sectors to better serve the people.
Only the laws that regulate the life of Bedouns have remained the same, there has been no change except the laws that restrain them.
The fifth law regarding the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination states that all countries are part of this convention; so they should prohibit and eliminate all forms of racial discrimination and protect everyone’s right to work, to study and have a nationality. But when it comes to Bedouns, the laws are very complicated and frustrating for them. Kuwait’s Nationality Law states that naturalization is a sovereign matter; thus, laws or courts should not interfere with the decision of the Interior Ministry and His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al- Jaber Al-Sabah to grant nationality. Bedouns are not foreigners who belong to another country and are not granted nationality.
A security card is issued to Bedouns. It is similar to the civil ID but in the nationality section, it is stated ‘illegal resident’ which makes it more complicated, because ‘resident’ is a legal term referring to foreigners who came to Kuwait while illegal residents mean people who violated the Residency Law. Bedouns are not residents and they did not violate the Residency Law. The law itself is not applicable to them! A lot of Bedouns said that when they renewed their security card, they were forced to sign papers but they were not allowed to see what were written on these papers; only to find out after signing that the papers say they confirmed holding the nationality from other countries. If this is true, then it is a grave violation of the law.
The International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights states that all countries are part of this convention so they should guarantee education for the people and it must be free in the elementary years. However, Bedoun children were forbidden from going to school when a law was issued stipulating these children cannot go to school if their security cards are not renewed. This is an illogical connection between the security card and their right to education.
The law was cancelled later, but Bedouns already suffered due to this law as they saw other children going to school while they cannot. Bedouns are also engulfed in fear of mysterious car registration renewal procedures.
Despite the very limited job opportunities granted to Bedouns, employers give them just a quarter of an average employee’s salary for the same work and effort. This is unfair and inhumane. What kind of equality is that! The Bedoun problem in the country is considered one of the most crucial matters which affect political, financial, human and societal aspects. It is not clear if there is a serious step to solve their problem or a plan to improve their situation.
By Atyab Alshatti, Esq.
Email: lawyeratyabalshatti@ gmail.com