In Arabic, Bidoon means “without.” Here in Kuwait, Bidoon is the word used to label the 100,000-150,000 stateless persons who are, indeed, “without” in every sense of the word.
|Small house, Bidoon community, Kuwait|
As part of our U.S. Embassy-sponsored three-day peace journalism seminar at the Arab Media Forum in Kuwait City, my reporter/students and I visited an 18,000 member Bidoon community about 45 minutes outside of the city called Al Sulabiya. This settlement includes 900 small, corrugated steel-covered, government provided houses, according to a spokesman from Project 29, an organization that advocates for the Bidoon population.
The dozen or so journalists from the workshop and I went to this community to tell humanitarian-themed stories about those who live here. Before today, several of the journalists had not been to this community. The Bidoon, who reside in Kuwait but are not granted citizen status, live at the margins of Kuwaiti society where education, jobs, and good housing are hard to obtain, according to those whom we interviewed. (For more about the Bidoon, click here.)
|Welcomed inside a Bidoon house, Kuwait|
We interviewed several teenagers on the streets, which were largely empty because it was 111 degrees the afternoon of our visit. We also visited the home of a married couple with four children in the Bidoon village.
In this reporting exercise, I challenged the journalists to produce stories that debunk the negative narratives about Bidoon which are the standard fare of Kuwaiti media. The reporters, based on their questions, were interested in a story angle about the marriage between a Bidoon man and a Kuwaiti citizen woman.
My hope is that the humanitarian stories produced about our visit to Al Sulabiya are only the first of many that will be told by these Kuwaiti journalists and their colleagues about the Bidoon and their plight.