The stateless (bidun) of Kuwait represent around 10 per cent of Kuwaiti nationals - approximately 100,000 people. With their origins in the tribes of the northern Arabian deserts (spanning today's Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the Levant), they are, for most outsiders, indistinguishable from Kuwaitis. After a period when the state condoned the presence of people with an undefined status on its territory, the biduns were classified as 'illegal migrants' in 1986. As such, they were gradually deprived of all their rights: from access to the job market, health and education to the issuing of birth, marriage or death certificates. Claire Beaugrand argues that far from being an anomaly in the state system, the position of the bidun is of central importance to any understanding of the state formation processes in the Gulf, and the ways in which identity and the boundaries of nationality are negotiated.
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Claire Beaugrand is Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the French CNRS currently based at the Institut Francais du Proche Orient (Beirut). She holds a PhD in International Relations from the LSE.
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