Bedouns suffer uncertain fate in Kuwait

Tue Aug 23, 2011 9:00am EDT
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By Emma Batha

LONDON, Aug 23 (AlertNet) - For years after he left his native Kuwait, Mohamed Alenezi had nightmares about checkpoints and would wake up terrified the police were chasing him.

A religious man, Alenezi had not broken any law. His crime was of being an illegal immigrant in the land of his forebears, but without ties to any other country -- stateless.

On Thursday, the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR will launch an international campaign to highlight the plight of millions of people not considered nationals by any country.

Being stateless is like being "between the earth and the sky," said Alenezi, 42, now a British citizen.

"You are here and not here," he said in London, where he lives with his wife and seven children and works as an Arabic teacher.

"You are here as a human being, but you don't have an identity. Without an identity, without a nationality you cannot do anything. No one will respect you or deal with you."

Alenezi's family are bedouns, from the Arabic "bedoun jinsiyya" meaning "without nationality." Like many bedouns, they are descendants of nomadic Bedouin tribes which had for centuries roamed freely with their animals across what is now Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan and Iraq.

Many bedouns fell through the cracks when Kuwait became independent in 1961. Some did not apply for citizenship because they did not know how important it would become. Others were illiterate or could not produce documents.   Continued...