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4 bedoon activists on hunger strike

By Faten Omar

KUWAIT: Four bedoon activists are on hunger strike for the past seven days to highlight the struggles of the country’s stateless people, who are deprived of citizenship, travel and other rights. The living conditions and rights of this group are among the thorniest human rights issues in Kuwait, according to reports by human rights organizations.

Speaking to Kuwait Times, Mohammed Al-Barghash, a human rights activist, said the bedoon problem has been dragging for over 70 years, but the Kuwaiti government has not offered a proper solution. “The government has complicated this issue instead of resolving it. We protested a lot in various areas over the years and still haven’t got our rights,” he said.

Barghash said the protest site in front of Sulaibiya police station is to deliver the message that ignoring the issue of stateless people is not acceptable, pointing out that the suffering and struggle of bedoons have led to an increase in the number of child suicides in the country, amid poor living conditions.

“The issue of bedoons must be resolved immediately, where the government must decide if we have rights or not. The Kuwaiti government is saying we have other nationalities and are not originally Kuwaitis. Then why don’t they work to prove this, contact our embassies and deport us? Or if we are Kuwaitis, why are they not recognizing our work and the sacrifices of bedoon martyrs who died during the Iraqi invasion. Our demand is for a final resolution, whether we have rights or not,” he said.

Bu Yousef, one of the protesters, demanded the bedoons’ case must be referred to the courts for a just and final judgment. “We demand to refer our case to the court to get our rights, or the government can just bury us in Sulaibikhat cemetery!” he exclaimed. “The final decision rests with the judiciary. We have announced a hunger strike until our issues end forever. We will suffer in this holy month but will not move until there become no more stateless people and we have our basic rights, including the right of citizenship,” he added.

Fadel Al-Shammeri, a bedoon father of three, tried to set himself ablaze last year, “I got my nickname “Abu Turki” after I poured gasoline on myself because I could not obtain a birth certificate for my little girl, although by law, I deserve to get a birth certificate for my children,” he said.

He raised the issue of “fake” nationalities written on the civil IDs of many bedoons. “The nationality changes every time we get a new civil ID. A different nationality is written in the nationality space every time. When we try to contact the embassy (of the country written on the IDs), they do not recognize us and issue a circular not to recognize the nationality written on our identification cards,” Shammeri said.

He appealed to the interior minister, who has said he will not accept any injustice. “We hope to meet him so he can listen to our demands and give us our rights,” he added. Meanwhile, a number of hunger strikers are in danger after their health deteriorated, which necessitated their transfer to hospitals.


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