Stateless and waiting in Kuwait

Khawla al Suwaidi – WNN SOAPBOX

The Towers in Kuwait City
Flowers bloom in the gardens at the base of the Kuwait Towers in Kuwait City on the Persian Gulf. In a region that has been called home to over 106 thousand stateless persons, the government of Kuwait is still dragging their feet to allow citizenship for a discriminated part of their society. Image: Snap

(WNN) Kuwait City, KUWAIT, WESTERN ASIA: As the difficulties of being of Iraqi descent and a paperless member of Kuwaiti society continues to stack up year-by-year, 33-year-old Ms. Khawla al Suwaidi sends a letter to the world asking for wisdom, compassionate understanding and solutions. She is not alone in her struggle. At the end of 2012 after many years of waiting for government policy in Kuwait to improve for more than 106 thousand paperless persons, many who’s families were originally from Iraq as  they traveled to Kuwait hoping for asylum, are still trying to apply for citizenship inside Kuwait’s courts. Only six thousand stateless paperless residents were finally given citizenship in 2013.

Kuwait now categorizes people living inside its borders as “Article-1-citizens,” “Article-5-citizens,” and so on, outlines international advocates for the displaced, Refugees International.

“Full political rights are only awarded to those who acquire nationality under Article 1 or 2—the so-called “original Kuwaitis.” Indeed, naturalized citizens only acquire the right to vote after 30 years of residence,” says Refugees International.

Today frustrations for thousands of Kuwaiti’s who are still not accepted as an integral part of Kuwaiti society continues.

Dear World Friends –

I am a woman who, like my siblings since 1952, was born inside Kuwait. But today I have become part of a well-known case in Kuwait’s courts that denies me the right to live in the country where I grew up.

In those early years in Kuwait we lived as any family, in a natural and stable life where kids go to school and a father goes to work on the weekdays and the mother is a stay-at-home housewife. My father worked

My legal case has to do with citizenship and the importance of human rights for those who have been part of building a nation and a dream.

Since 1999 up to this present moment the government of Kuwait has refused to renew my Identification (ID) papers. Why?

Because my family is not of Kuwaiti nationality. But they also will not let us leave the country. Why? Because our family has been

After the August 2, 1990 Iraq invasion of Kuwait everything in our lives changed. It changed tragically, and dramatically.

Kuwait is not a poor country. Nor is it suffering any kind of hunger or devastating shortages.  It’s an Arabian Gulf Oil State Country. But it suffers from poor management and
monopoly and cooruption.   All of our time here my family and I knew there was no ‘Freedom of speech’ here. No kind of freedom is guaranteed here.

The American economist and professor at CGU – Claremont Graduate University Robert Klitgaard, whom I have read, summarized these facts in how people in power encourage corruption: “Corruption is increasingly recognized as a preeminent problem in the developing world. Bribery, extortion, fraud, kickbacks, and collusion have resulted in retarded economies, predator elites, and political instability,” said Klitgaard in 1991 in a book called “Controlling Corruption.”

In 1991 one of my brothers died fighting in the Kuwait/Iraq war, defending for what he called ‘a free Kuwait’ with friends in the Kuwaiti National Army. My parents considered the death of their son during those years as a gift for the sake of freedom in Kuwait. After Kuwait won its liberation from Iraq on February 26, 1991 the Kuwait government seemed to hit my family from behind. They neglected to give us any compensation for the death of our family member. They also neglected to give us any information about where my brother’s corpse could be found!

Then things became more difficult as years followed 1991, my father tried hard to help us travel out of Kuwait to another country for a better life, but the moment he tried finally to get us on a plane a sickness he had prevented us from flying. In 1998 he died from this sickness.

During those years, my father was the only man who was willing to help my mother, my sisters and myself.  Today my only living brother, who does currently have an ID in Kuwait, feels he cannot step up to help the women in his family.

The facts are that woman in Kuwait have little rights alone. Women must either have a husband, or a father, to help them.

I, my 2 sisters and my mother still have invalid IDs that date back to 1999. It seems like something so simple, but it’s something that can trap you. We don’t want this. We’ve tried to renew our IDs many times. We’ve tried too to get other Kuwaiti relatives inside Kuwait to help us, but they’ve closed their doors choosing to stay silent.

The truth is: families of Iraqi descent don’t want to ’cause trouble’ or challenge the government of Kuwait.

The frustration of being here in the shadows of a country with no rights to open our mouths or to speak is part of my personal everyday struggle.

We only want our government officials to listen to us, but they won’t. We want only ask for human rights and compensation, but this continues to be ‘not available’. We want only ask for freedom but we are obligated by the government, as most women, to stay silent. We want dignity through freedom but we are told to cover our hair and hide our faces. On this one point, even though it goes against the tide, I have refused this bad treatment.

In a rage to fight for what is right my older sister Mai went to the police station to ask for her rights as a viable part of Kuwait’s citizenship in September 2013. But after outlining her ‘human rights needs’ she was only told in return that she was carrying an invalid ID which is against the law in Kuwait. Because of this an order for her arrest was made.

After two weeks they set her free.

Even though she says she received sympathetic treatment in jail, clean clothes, food and drink, there is still no solution to our troubles. My sister’s trauma as a paperless person in Kuwait started, like mine, many years ago as we continue to wonder about our government. What’s wrong with them? Why won’t they help us solve our situation?

In my dreams I look forward someday to expressing myself freely through my thoughts in public inside Kuwait, without feeling threatened because being a girl growing into a young woman in an Arabian society is not easy. Women are often not free to talk or to express true feelings. But regardless, I have always tried to remain positive for the sake of my family.

Our waiting for solutions has turned to years and now decades.

I am trying now to reach the wise people and peace-makers of the world with this letter. To ask someone to help us. With this I’m looking for a mediator between me ‘my family’ and the Government of Kuwait. Our life’s hope is to finally resolve our issue in Kuwait’s courts, and soon.

Best regards.

Ms. Khawla al Suwaidi


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Ms. Khawla al Suwaidi is living with her mother and sisters in Kuwait City. She, along with the female members of her family, are still waiting to receive citizenship and all the privileges it provides in Kuwait.


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