A few months ago I had the honor of collaborating with a bidoun called Hussein Al-Shammery – aka Slash. For those of you who don’t know, a bidoun is a stateless person, a fateless person. A bidoun can also be considered a mate-less person, too (that is, if we are going to keep up the rhyme and reveal how some of them have to pay for marriage certificates). But, I am going to restrain myself because I do not want to go into detail about something that is beyond my field of expertise.
I do, however, want to share with you how befriending Slash opened my eyes in many ways. You see, I have a confession. As a Kuwaiti, I had never actually socialized with a bidoun before meeting Slash. Our encounter was serendipitous and led to a creative collaboration. We met to discuss our project and after a cup of coffee, he mentioned a video he had recorded about statelessness. When he revealed that he, himself, was a stateless person I was taken aback. Our conversation made me realize that though I had bumped into stateless people running errands here and there, I had never actually befriended a stateless person before.
After raising the subject with others in my community, they were just as guilty of this social crime as I am. Many of us have ostracized an integral part of our community. We imagine the bidoun working dead-end jobs and returning to their homes in the peripheries of the desert. But, when we wake up and look around, we will see that the bidouns are everywhere. They are defending our country, as active participants in the military and police force.
They are artists, poets, writers, fighters. They are husbands, wives, children. Just like us. Having to actually state these facts is humiliating beyond words, because it reflects the bubble of ignorance we inhabit. And for those of us who have happened to bump into them, notice how after any encounter with a bidoun, there is always someone who will empathetically whisper to you: He/she is bidoun, as though it were some dirty, little secret we had hung up to dry with our dishdashas and abayas.
Humans live in a self-inflicted matrix of polarities and divisiveness. We cannot change the outer manifestation without looking within ourselves. We always blame governments, corporate institutions, the military. Anyone but ourselves. If we cannot change the outer system, we can surely change our inner paradigm. Many bidouns have given up on citizenship, so the only gift we can give them, for now, is acceptance, love. This can only be done by expanding our consciousness and being more tolerant and kind to people who do not share our social credentials.
Let’s face it: having no nationality in a world that prides itself on labels is embarrassing. No matter how big their hearts and smiles are, they are hurting inside. And since many of us in Kuwait – both locals and expats — are empathetic to their cause, all we can do, as residents of this country, is welcome them into our hearts and homes. I sincerely hope that the bidoun issue is resolved sooner rather than later. But, for now, it won’t take a sheet of paper to prove to me that they, like us, are Kuwaitis.
Author - Nejoud Al-Yagout (Kuwaiti Poet)
Source - Arab Times