It is no secret that Kuwait is an oil welfare state. Our government takes good care of us. Even those of us who must work for a living, even those of us who do not belong to the rich in Kuwait, even those of us who financially struggle, still enjoy certain privileges. And it’s not a crime to be grateful for abundance; however, when it affects people who are not Kuwaiti, it can border on injustice, as we have seen in the last several years.
Residents suffer when we flash our Kuwaiti card. In a country where nationalism is on the rise – thanks to a member of Parliament who made it trendy to mock expatriates by taxing them for the air they breathe, thanks to a proposal to charge an exorbitant amount for residents without a university degree who want to renew their residency, thanks to companies that deprive people of their severance pay, or even take advantage of residents’ fear of us by not paying them for months, and thanks to the exploitation of domestic workers – it is the residents who suffer here. And when residents suffer, we suffer. Because we are one.
And it is also the stateless who suffer when we flash our Kuwaiti card. Because even while they live and blend in as Kuwaitis, they can never say they are from Kuwait. The stateless, like our forefathers, came here for a better life, a new life; and many of them are our cousins, having originated from the same tribes that migrated here alongside us. Imagine having a cousin, who shares your DNA, but cannot vote, cannot travel to some countries, and is treated with disregard or apprehension. Or imagine a stateless person, not related to you, whose family escaped traumatic circumstances, but who is ostracized because they do not have documents to prove their origins. Add to that a narrative that all stateless people have intentionally burned their documents. Or another narrative which suggests that due to security reasons, the stateless should not be given citizenship. If the case is one of security, why are the stateless employed in the military? Why are they hired to serve in the police force, to guard dignitaries? Perhaps it’s time we admit these narratives are outdated. Perhaps it’s time to acknowledge that this issue can be solved through compassion and integration, by reintroducing the principles of our ancestors, by allowing ourselves to welcome so-called others.
Borders are man-made. And humans can dissolve them. At least within ourselves. We can recognize that anyone who lives in our country and serves our country is one of us. We can establish humanitarian laws which consider citizenship to both the stateless and expatriates who have lived and worked here for generations. In case we need to be reminded, Kuwaitis are a melting pot. We are originally from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Palestine, and other countries. So, there is no template for being Kuwaiti, even though some people would beg to differ.
This current model is not working for anyone. Don’t we want to be remembered for our hospitality, our generosity, the legacy left behind by the founders of Kuwait? Why are we, instead, creating resentment and divisiveness? Kuwait can be an ideal model of human beings working together to create an inclusive community, regardless of nationality or origin. Charity and humility are in our DNA. It is time to reintegrate these aspects of our tradition into our society.
We are all guilty of flashing the “I am Kuwaiti” card. It’s part of our conditioning. But guess what? We can outgrow our conditioning. Some of us have. We can give up pride for humility at this very moment. After all, in Kuwait, we are a minority. If that’s not a nudge to open our hearts (and minds), then what is? If that is not a prompt to be humble and grateful, then what is?
Let’s start with ourselves, one by one, and remove every ounce of prejudice and sense of superiority that lurks within us. Let’s bid adieu to our roles in an ego paradigm. Then, we can extend the sentiment to our community. And Kuwait can become a haven on the planet. Love is always ready. Love is always a possibility. It can transform our lives in a millisecond. All we have to do is say yes. Yes, to love.
Countries come and go. Power comes and goes. We know that from history. It’s time we befriend the other, for we are the other. Residents, Stateless, Kuwaitis. We are all one. Let’s imbibe this notion again and again, ad nauseam, until it registers in our hearts and we manifest it in our country. Let’s imbibe this. Now.