The Bidoon (or bidoun) – literally meaning “without” in Arabic – are a group of stateless people who live in the Gulf Arab States. It is estimated that at present there are a few hundred thousand Bidoon currently living in Kuwait, KSA, Qatar and the UAE.
Many people confuse the Bidoon with the term bedouin who are the nomadic indigenous tribes who have always lived in the Arabian peninsular and wider Levant and North Africa region.
Instead, bidoon are long-term residents of the Arab Gulf nations whose ancestors had failed to apply for and obtain formal identity papers or citizenship when the Gulf countries made their transformation from tribal societies to urban nation states. Many of the bidoon’s ancestors come from neighboring Iran or Baluchistan in modern day Pakistan.
Several bidoon families are highly prominent and successful but still continue to suffer practical problems in their day to day lives due to the lack of official papers.
Problems faced by the Bidoon on a daily basis
- Lack of official papers that prevent access to formal education, healthcare, employment, banking services, ability to obtain a driving license, buy or own any assets such as a car or a home.
- Many bidoon are forced to doing business in the name of a “partner” or “sponsor” who legally retains the rights to all their finances and assets as they are officially in the partner or sponsor’s name – there is no sense of security or ownership of assets.
- Being stateless, most bidoon can never obtain a passport and cannot travel easily.
- Even those bidoon who have had their status naturalized through obtaining Comoros passports always face the fear and uncertainty of whether their passports will be able to be renewed when they expire.
- Many bidoon, despite being born or living in a nation all their lives, have no legal or political rights and can be expelled from the only place they call home based on prevailing government policies.
- Bidoon who have no identity papers cannot legally marry and any children they may have are also stateless and relegated to being bidoon.