Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

Kuwait: Treatment of Bidoon by the Kuwaiti authorities (January 2003 - October 2005)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Ottawa
Publication Date 21 October 2005
Citation / Document Symbol KWT100681.E
Reference 1
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Kuwait: Treatment of Bidoon by the Kuwaiti authorities (January 2003 - October 2005), 21 October 2005, KWT100681.E, available at: [accessed 27 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Basic Information on Bidoon

Bidoon is Arabic for "without," implying "without citizenship," referring to Arab residents who lack citizenship (AFP 26 June 2004; Country Reports 2004 25 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5; The Daily Star 27 Jan. 2003; USCRI 24 May 2004). Lawful residents of Kuwait but not considered citizens (Freedom House n.d.), many Bidoon descend from Bedouin (traditionally nomadic Arabs) (Journal of Comparative Family Studies 1 Apr. 2004) originally from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Iran (Freedom House n.d.). Children in Kuwait inherit their father's legal status, thus the children of Bidoon fathers are also Bidoon even if their mothers are Kuwaiti citizens (Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5).

In September 2005, official statistics put the number of Bidoon in Kuwait at 123,295, including 36,000 who have been granted Kuwaiti citizenship (Gulf News 18 Sept. 2005). However, unofficial estimates of Kuwait's Bidoon population range from 70,000 to 150,000 (AFP 26 June 2004; Country Reports 2004 25 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5; The Daily Star 27 Jan. 2003; EIU 15 Apr. 2004; Freedom House 2005; Gulf News 6 Sept. 2004; USCRI 24 May 2004;).

Some Bidoon are the descendents of other Bidoon who have resided in Kuwait for several generations (Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5); however, Bidoon do not enjoy the same rights as Kuwaiti citizens (Freedom House 2005; USCRI 24 May 2004). The origin of Kuwait's Bidoon population is controversial, with Kuwaiti government officials stating that many Bidoon are in fact citizens of other countries (Al-Siyasah 24 Jan. 2004; AFP 26 June 2004), a position contested by opposition members of parliament who believe the Bidoon should be granted more rights (ibid.).


A number of sources reported that in 2003 and 2004 Bidoon continued to suffer discrimination in the areas of education, employment, healthcare, and mobility (AFP 26 June 2004; Daily Star 27 Jan. 2003; Country Reports 2004 25 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5). While some Bidoon work in the army and/or police force (ibid.; AFP 26 June 2004), others have not been permitted to work (ibid.; Daily Star 27 Jan. 2003), to marry, to receive free medical care or education, or to own and drive a car (ibid.). Country Reports 2004 lists the following as documents that Bidoon cannot obtain from the government: birth and marriage certificates, civil identification, drivers' licenses (without which one's employment opportunities are limited), and, in most cases, travel documents necessary to exit the country (28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5). In addition, according to Beirut's Daily Star, since the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, there has been a level of mistrust among segments of the Kuwaiti population who suspect that some Bidoon are Iraqi nationals (27 Jan. 2003).

The chairman of a human rights committee affiliated with the Kuwait Lawyers Association, Mubarak Al Shimmari, claimed that some Iraqis, Syrians, Saudis, and Iranians who entered Kuwait illegally have attempted to conceal their real citizenship documents in order to pass themselves off as Bidoon and thereby gain certain benefits (illustrated, for example, by the appointment of several "non-Kuwaitis" to the ministries of defence, interior, and oil) (Gulf News 18 Sept. 2005). Country Reports 2004 cited unspecified reports of Bidoon using false documentation to apply for Kuwaiti citizenship (28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5).

Naturalization of Bidoon

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU),

In 2000 [B]idoon were instructed to register immediately with the authorities so as to be accepted or rejected for citizenship. New legislation passed in May that year revised the position that [B]idoon who could prove they had Kuwaiti mothers or provide evidence of constant residence of their families prior to 1921 were entitled to citizenship. The new law required proof of constant residence since 1965. [By April 2004] acceptance procedures under the new regulations [had] been slow. Those rejected [were] told they should register as nationals of a country other than Kuwait in order to be granted residence permits, although this [was] not strictly enforced and deportations [were] uncommon (15 Apr. 2004).

In 2000, the Government of Kuwait introduced legislation that would grant citizenship to up to 2,000 qualified Bidoon each year (Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5). This quota was reduced to 600 in 2002 (USCRI 24 May 2004).

In 2003, the government allegedly naturalized 1,600 Bidoon and allowed up to 5,500 Bidoon to apply for Kuwaiti citizenship if they conformed to one of three categories:

– sons of female Kuwaiti citizens married to Bidoon;

– Bidoon whose male relatives are Kuwaiti citizens;

– wives of Kuwaiti citizens (Country Reports 2004 25 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5; USCRI 24 May 2004).

The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) also reported in 2004 that the Kuwaiti ministry of defence had granted citizenship to 400 Bidoon who fought in defence of Kuwait when it was invaded by Iraq in 1991 (ibid.).

Other Government Initiatives

In the summer of 2004, a Kuwaiti member of parliament, Awwad Barad al-Enezi, submitted proposals to the Kuwaiti parliament, in which he called for "free education, medical care, civil identification, marriage certificates, and drivers' licences," for Bidoon, as well as the entitlement of Bidoon children to study in public schools, and of children of Kuwaiti mothers (but Bidoon fathers) to study at Kuwait University (AFP 26 June 2004).

In the fall of 2004, the government of Kuwait introduced free education for all Bidoon children (Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5; see also Gulf News 6 Sept. 2004). While some Bidoon can afford to send their children to private schools, others keep their children at home, an action which goes against the Kuwaiti Constitution, according to the Secretary of the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee, Jasem Saleh Al Ashour (Gulf News 6 Sept. 2004). In order to provide education to Bidoon students, the Ministry of Education had registered 20,000 Bidoon students by September 2004 (ibid.; see also Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5).

The government has also promised to grant Bidoon free access to health care beginning in 2005, with the help of the Waqf Health Fund, which is a program partly funded by the government that has "signed contracts with several insurance companies to pay the fees for [B]idoon health services" (Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5). However, corroboration of this information, including whether the program was implemented, could not be found by the Research Directorate within time constraints.

The Kuwaiti Bidoon Human Rights Organization (KBHRO) was launched in 1999 as an Internet-based non-governmental organization committed to providing human rights information on Kuwait (CRIN 21 May 2001; HRI n.d.). However, no further information on this organization, including whether it is still in operation, could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within time constraints.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agence France-Presse (AFP). 26 June 2004. "Kuwaiti MP Proposes Granting 'Basic Rights' to Stateless Arabs." (Factiva)

Al-Siyasah [Kuwait, in Arabic]. 24 January 2004. "Kuwaiti Interior Minister Says People Chose Ruling Family." (Factiva/BBC)

Child Rights Information Network (CRIN). 21 May 2001. "Kuwait Bidoon Human Rights Organisation (KBHRO)." [Accessed 18 Oct. 2005]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2004. 28 February 2005. "Kuwait." United States Department of State. Washington, DC. [Accessed 18 Oct. 2005]

Daily Star [Beirut]. 27 January 2003. "Stateless Kuwaitis Struggle for Acceptance amid Deepening Suspicion." (Factiva)

Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). 15 April 2004. No. 301. "Kuwait Risk: Political Stability Risk." (Factiva)

Freedom House. 11 August 2005. "Kuwait." Freedom in the World 2005. [Accessed 14 Oct. 2005]
_____. N.d. Haya Al-Mughni. "Kuwait." [Accessed 18 Oct. 2005]

Gulf News [Dubai]. 18 September 2005. Mustafa Mahmoud. "Kuwaiti Activists Seek Action to Solve Bidoon Issue." (Factiva)
_____. 6 September 2004. Nirmala Janssen. "Bidoon Issue to the Fore Again in Kuwait." (Factiva)

Human Rights Internet (HRI). N.d. "Kuwaiti Bidoon Human Rights Organization (KBHRO)." [Accessed 18 Oct. 2005]

Journal of Comparative Family Studies [Calgary]. 1 April 2004. Volume 35, Issue 2. Nasra M. Shah. "Women's Socioeconomic Characteristics and Marital Patterns in a Rapidly Developing Muslim Society, Kuwait." (Factiva)

US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI). 24 May 2004. "Kuwait." World Refugee Survey 2004. [Accessed 14 Oct. 2005]

Additional Sources Consulted

The Embassy of the State of Kuwait in Ottawa did not respond to requests for information within time constraints.

Unsuccessful attempts to contact the Kuwati Bidoon Human Rights Organization and the Kuwait Society for Human Rights (KBHRO).

Publications: Encyclopedia of the World's Minorities, Ethnic Groups Worldwide, World Directory of Minorities.

Internet Sites, including: Al Jazeerah, Amnesty International (AI), Arabic News, Arab Times [Kuwait], British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Emory Law School, European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI), Haaretz [Tel Aviv], Human Rights Watch (HRW), Kuwait Times, Middle East Intelligence Bulletin (MEIB) [New York], Middle East Times [Cairo], Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Refugees International, World News Connection (WNC).

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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