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Outcry in Kuwait over suicide of stateless Bidoon child

Thousands of people are highlighting the case online and demanding an end to the community’s marginalisation
An illustration of the child has been shared online with the caption 'you have returned to God, the most merciful, Ali' (Screengrab/Twitter)

Reports of a 12-year-old child’s suicide from Kuwait’s stateless population, known as Bidoon, has prompted outcry online.

The child, who has been identified as Ali Khaled from the Sulaibiya region, reportedly hung himself in his room. The exact reasons behind his suicide are not yet confirmed. 

In a tweet, Mubarak Saleh Alnajdah, who says he knows the child’s family personally, said that he woke up in shock at the news of the suicide.  

“I was shocked today to find out the news of the suicide of the Ali, my brother and friend Khaled al-Shammari’s son, from the Bidoon community. This is a friend who, if I did not witness the details of the tragedy myself, it would have been impossible for me to believe,” he wrote on Twitter. 

The tweet, which has been retweeted over 700 times, has been used to highlight the plight of the Bidoon community. 

Thousands of people used the hashtag #انتحار_طفل_بدون (suicide of a Bidoon child) to condemn the discrimination people in the community face. 

A statement released by Kuwait’s medical syndicate condemned the injustices faced by the Bidoon community and called for urgent solutions to ensure that they are given rights following the suicide. 

“Today we received the news of the suicide of the Kuwaiti child from the Bidoon community, and we on the medical list denounce all forms of injustice and deprivation that our brothers of the Bidoon community face.

'What happened today is the inevitable result of the poor social and economic conditions imposed on [Bidoon]'

- Kuwait’s medical syndicate

"We believe that they are entitled to a decent life and human rights. What happened today is the inevitable result of the poor social and economic conditions imposed on them.”

“Therefore, we call for the imperative need to respect the human rights guaranteed by Islam as well as the Kuwaiti constitution, convention and charters, ratified by the state of Kuwait,” the statement read. 

Bidoon, which literally means “without” and implies that the members of the community are stateless or without nationality, are regarded as foreign nationals or illegal immigrants in Kuwait. Most Bidoon belong to the Shia sect of Islam. 

History of marginalisation

In Kuwait, Bidoon are banned from obtaining birth and death certificates and denied identification documents, which drastically reduces access to job opportunities, social services and travelling abroad.

Bidoon are also not allowed to be educated in Kuwaiti schools or universities. 

People from Kuwait’s Bidoon community have long suffered marginalisation. According to several human rights organisations, they have suffered ethnic cleansing, genocide and discrimination at the hands of the Kuwaiti state. 

According to Human Rights Watch, the Bidoon community is made up of around 88,000 to 106,000 stateless people. 

The rights organisation states that they have been marginalised as the government claims most of them moved to Kuwait from neighbouring countries and hid their nationalities to claim Kuwaiti citizenship.

Many people from the Bidoon community face challenges in obtaining civil documentation, getting rights to healthcare, education and work. 

The ID cards issued to members of the community in recent years often state that the cardholder is of Iraqi, Saudi, Iranian or other nationality. 

Last year, a Kuwaiti man attempted to kill himself by self-immolation in protest against living conditions in the Sulaibiya region. Talal al-Khulaifi, 27, survived but suffered severe burns.

The incident garnered a lot of attention from social media users, who expressed sympathy and called for action on the issue.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.