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|From Left: Refugees International President Michel Gabaudan, UN High Commissioner for Refugees and Former Portugal Prime Minister Antonio Guterres, and me tweeting.|
|On my left, famous stateless Dominican- Haitian activist Sonia Pierre speaking|
|Next to Maria Otero, US under secretary of state for democracy and global affairs|
|Reading of my speech about the stateless of Kuwait|
Since then, I grew up just like any of the other more than 100,000 stateless Bidun, buying the lie that there would be a solution to the problem of statelessness in the near future. When Kuwait became an independent country in 1961 many people born in the country and eligible for Kuwaiti citizenship – some of whom were living in remote desert areas – did not realize the importance of registering for citizenship. The Bidun living in Kuwait now are the children and grandchildren of those who did not register for citizenship, and the problems of our community have increased as time has gone by. Things got much worse in 1985, when the government gradually denied employment, public education and access to official documents to the biduns. At a certain point during my teenage years, waiting for the situation to change turned into a burden and I started to feel humiliated and hated in my homeland. The questions of my status as stateless turned into anger towards my grandfather, and I blamed him for not making us Kuwaiti citizens more than half a century ago when his brothers received citizenship. The blame turned into self-hate; losing any appetite for life and having no ambitions. This definitely became worse by the time of my graduation from high school because I was not allowed to apply to the country’s only public university.
The person talking to you now is considered the luckiest of her community. I was able to get published as a poet when I was 14 and because of that I was later granted a scholarship to a private university. This was the only way for me, as a bidoun, to have access to higher education because I was forbidden access to public university, and tuition for private universities were too expensive. Many of my schoolmates weren’t as lucky as me. They ended up staying at home waiting for a miracle to happen; hoping for a good husband – maybe a Kuwaiti husband who could pass citizenship on to them - or for death to take them away. Many attempted suicide. Others were destroyed because the university was their only hope for starting their careers and gaining some freedom from their conservative communities. Instead they will end up in marriages that will most likely be arranged for them, among the bidun community, which will only result in the same scenario of fighting for documents and bringing more kids into the same tragedy.
While working as a journalist, I have always been told to be cautious because Bidun journalists do not have an easy path in their careers, and will not be defended by their wealthy newspaper owners. All of us Bidun journalists felt insulted and ashamed to be working for newspapers that shamelessly attacked our community and called us mercenaries and savages. When I lost my job once, my contract had no meaning in court because Bidoun are not allowed certified contracts since they do not have civil IDs. I also had trouble with some embassies because I didn’t have a Kuwaiti passport and they did not hesitate to reject my grey passport. And, unfortunately, since the invasion and occupation of Kuwait by Iraq in 1990, things have become even worse for the bidun. My 17 year old sister Asrar is now reliving the same scenario trying to find a way out in order to finish her education. The entire struggle I experienced at a really young age seems bearable when compared to the insults and harassments that other Bidun have to endure, especially from authorities or policemen. It was especially painful to hear fellow Kuwaitis insulting us, discriminating against us, and demanding the end of our community when we protested in our isolated areas back in February and March. As I am speaking, over 40 Bidun protesters are waiting to be prosecuted for breaking the law, which does not allow anyone who’s not a citizen to protest.
I would also like to highlight that Kuwaiti nationality laws prevent Kuwaiti women from passing on their nationality to their children or their husbands. So, when a Kuwaiti woman marries a Bidun man, their children are stateless. In other words, Kuwait’s gender discriminatory nationality laws create more statelessness. And the only way for Kuwaiti women to pass on their nationality is if they divorce and or if their husband dies. But, many of those who have divorced for this reason have waited unsuccessfully for decades for their children to be granted Kuwaiti citizenship, since citizenship determinations in these cases remain discretionary. Surely, like thousands of Bidun, I also have women in my family who are Kuwaiti and had to get a divorce from their Bidun husbands in hope for a better future for their kids. Those kids had to grow up with divorced parents so they would be citizens, but they are still waiting.
Kuwaiti men can pass on nationality to their bidun wives, but this is not automatic. The story of one of my bidun aunts who is married to her Kuwaiti cousin illustrates the problems that these women face. She has been married to him for over 15 years yet she is still stateless, even though she has several kids from him. She was asked “to wait” and in a country of bureaucracy like Kuwait, she has no alternative. This could be an especially long wait since the Bidun of Kuwait are not allowed to take their cases to court to get sorted out legally
A personal friend of mine is in a similar situation: she is a bidun and has direct Kuwaiti uncles, a Kuwaiti mother, a Kuwaiti son, and she is a widow of a Kuwaiti man, yet she has been waiting for over 8 years for her citizenship. One of the consequences of her not being granted Kuwaiti citizenship yet is that she cannot get a driver’s license. She lives alone with her son and mother and has to drive to work, drop her son off at school, and drive her sick mother to the hospital. So she has been driving without any papers and has been taken to the police station many times for this reason.
Many of the Bidun youth are dropping out of school because they know they will not find their way to the university. Many of them are working in the black market selling copied DVDs or just sitting at home growing up depressed when they should be enjoying their youth. None of them have hope; none of them even use the word ‘hope’. When a bidun girl talks about her dreams of getting a university education and a job, she gets mocked because she faces rejection. Her family will most probably tell her “we can only pay for your brother’s education, what can you do with a degree anyways, if he is a man and incapable of finding a job, then you will surely not have a better chance!” Bidun women confront the conservative cruelty of their community and the injustice of their country. Therefore, they are left only with one hope, which is to marry a Kuwaiti man. My exceptionally smart 23-year-old friend wasn’t able to go to college and is now raising three Bidun kids with no hope in her heart. She says: “Our men are the slaves of this society and we are the slaves of the slaves.”
I am very pleased to have this opportunity to raise this issue today with you all and I ask the United States Government and the United Nations to press the government of Kuwait to amend its nationality laws so that Kuwaiti women may transmit nationality on an equal basis with Kuwaiti men, and to allow stateless individuals who have been denied naturalization or official documentation to contest it through the courts.
2- They have participated with others unknown, in a gathering that had more than 5 persons in a public place to make crimes and disturb public order and they stayed gathered even after authorities ordered them to leave. Some of them were carrying solid things (stones) that they used to attack police men with causing injuries, as our investigations found.
3- They have organized and participated with others unknown, in a protest that is not permitted and did not respond to the orders made to them by authorities to stop it. They used force and attacked police men, as our investigations found.
Therefore, Public prosecution asks the criminal court to punish those charged according to the mentioned articles, as we attach with this report a list of proofs.
Protests erupted in Bahrain this weekend as angry mourners buried
16-year-old Ahmed Al-Qattan, who was killed by a bird shot according to
the Ministry of Interior Affairs, which rarely states the truth about
the causes of protestor deaths. In contrast, the Bahrain News Agency, which fabricated numerous
stories during the February 2011 uprising, stated a different cause of
death for the killed teenager.
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Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of Kerouac's favorite churches. You have a weird feeling when seeing it left out of the 'developed' concrete atmosphere where one can notice the huge tasteless buildings, the metro stop, the bus stops, the European tourists, the tired workers, and the arrogant lunatic taxi drivers.