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Kuwait: Flip Your Avatar, Show Support to the Bidun!

This post is part of our special coverage on Refugees.

Do you know what stateless (Bidun) means in Kuwait? It means you do not exist. You have no access to public education or health care, no chance of employment in the government sector, no certificates for marriage, divorce, birth, death and no civil identification papers, driving license, passport, and definitely no citizenship.

Many of those people have been in the country for three generation, some are the sons and daughters of martyrs – people killed during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait – yet they are not Kuwaiti and they have no papers.

Last February, after a long period of silence, the Bidun of Kuwait decided to take the streets. Although they number around 100,000 in the country, only 1,000 had the courage to go there and face police brutality, and afterwards, the disrespect and discriminatory remarks from the society and mainstream media.

The flipped avatar of Ahmad AlKhulaifi, the man who started the #EQLB hash tag in support of Bidun rights

The flipped avatar of Ahmad AlKhulaifi, the man who started the #EQLB hash tag in support of Bidun rights

Unfortunately, not many Bidun have previously used social media; they are more active in websites, forums, and just few of them blog, but this is not the case anymore, especially after the popularity that the Arab Spring of revolutions brought to Facebook and Twitter.

Flip your avatar!

The Bidun now are active on both Facebook and Twitter and in addition to tweeting, they came up with the simple idea to “flip your avatar upside down to remind people of our rights.” It is all expressed in the hash tag #EQLB meaning “flip”.

Ahmed Al-Khulaifi (@A7md_Alkhulaifi) is the Twitter user who came up with this idea by starting the hash tag. He wrote:

دعوه للفلورز من اجل الانسانية المشاركة بحملة اقلب علي التويتر بقلب الصوره من اليوم لثلاثة ايام البدون من سئ الى اسوأ #النصرة

@A7md_Alkhulaifi: An invitation for followers to participate in the Twitter campaign to flip your avatar for three days. The Bidun status is getting worse #Solidarity

Saadiah Mufarreh (@saadiahmufarreh) a poet and journalist, is one of the notable Bidun of Kuwait who has been active on Twitter. She showed support to this idea by flipping her avatar and tweeting the following:

لاأؤمن كثيرا بمثل هذه الحملات،لكني سأقلب صورتي..فقط حتى لايموت الأمل في قلوب الشباب البدون. فما أضيق العيش لولا فسحة الأمل. تفاءلوا

@saadiahmufarreh: I do not believe much in those campaigns, but I will flip my avatar, only so hope won't die in the hearts of Bidun youth. How hard it is to live without hope. Be optimistic.

A young Saudi Twitter user named Fouz Abdullah (@FouzAbd) who has been active in the Saudi women driving campaign, has also tweeted in favor of the #EQLB hash tag. She also raised an important point saying that Bidun also exist in her country, Saudi Arabia:

@FouzAbd: I flipped my avatar to show support to those who don't have nationalities in Kuwait and Saudi

Kuwaiti Law student Ahmad AlHammadi (@el7ammadi) also showed support in this hash tag saying:

دعما لاخواني البدون ابناء وطني المظلومين و المحرومين من الحياة الانسانية الكريمة ساقلب صورتي

@el7ammadi: In support of my Bidun brothers, the sons of my country, the oppressed and deprived from living in dignity, I will flip my avatar

Another tweep named Dhari Mefreh (@dharimefreh) wrote his own interpretation of this hash tag saying:

الحياة مقلوبة والصورة معتدلة نقلب الصورة ربما تعتدل الحياة

@dharimefreh Life is flipped but a picture is not, Let's flip the picture maybe life would sit right!

Khalid Al-Rishidi (@bowaledan) tweeted some news about a planned protest this coming Friday organized by the Bidun of Kuwait and he supports it saying:

سمعت ان يوم الجمعه القادم..جمعه سلميه للبدون في ساحة الاراده..اتمنى ذالك فعلا.. فهم اولى من الاخوان السوريين

@bowaledan: I heard that in this coming Friday, there will be a peaceful protest for Bidun in Irada square. I hope so, they have the priority over our Syrian brothers.

Aonther Kuwaiti Twitter user, named Bo Khalid (@iBoKhaliD), criticized the way Kuwaiti parliament members deal with the cause of the Bidun:

نوابنا عبرو القارات اعمالا لواجبهم في نصرة اخواننا في سوريا ،، الا انهم لم يكلفوا أنفسهم عناء الانتقال للجهراء نصرة لاخواننا البدون

@iBoKhaliD: Our MPs cross continents to do their duty of supporting our brothers in Syria, but they did not make the effort to go to the area of Jahra to support our Bidun brothers.

Another nicknamed user called Abu Youssef (@abuyoussef_h) drew question marks regarding the situation of Bidun in Kuwait saying:

أستغرب! دولة تعاني من كون مواطنيها أقليه داخل أراضيها بأي منطق ترفض تجنيس أجيال كامله ولدت وتربت في أراضيها وهم لايعرفون غيرها وطن

@abuyoussef_h: I really wonder why would a country let a minority of its people suffer in their home, what logic refuses naturalizing generations that were born and raised in this country and know nowhere else.

Aziz Fahad (@azfafa) tried to describe how it feels to live like a Bidun in Kuwait:

الوقت في حياة البدون لا يتعدى كونه ليل ونهار أو صيف وشتاء أو عمر انقضى وعمر سينقضي جعلونا كالشجر اليابس في الصحراء جسد لا حياة فيه

@azfafa: Time in a Bidun's life does not mean anything but day and night or summer and winter, or even a life that passed or will pass. They made us like dead trees in the deserts, bodies without life.

Jamal AlEnezi (@Jenezi), another Kuwaiti who showed his support for Bidun and their struggle to get their basic human rights, wrote:

مع حق البدون الإنساني في التعليم، الزواج، العمل، العلاج وغيرها من حقوق مدنية تكفلها جميع الديانات والأعراف والمواثيق الدولية

@Jenezi: I am with the human rights of Bidun for education, marriage, work, medication and other civil rights that are reserved by all religions, traditions, and international laws.

On the other hand, some other Twitter users were not in favor of this hash tag like this Kuwaiti girl called Danah Al-Rishidi (@do0ony88) who wrote:

طلعوووووووا جناسيكم وفكوناااااا مأكو أحد بدون بسكم طمع بالديره

@do0ony88: Pull out your hidden citizenships and stop bothering us, no one is stateless, stop being greedy

Another tweep named Saud Al-Amer (@BO3AZ0Z) wrote against the Bidun cause too saying:

والله لو مو تقلبون ! لو تكوكسون ماكو فايده.. فعلا في بدون مظلومين لكن الاكثريه نصابين ومزورين

@BO3AZ0Z: Flip or roll over, there will be no use. It is true that there are some Bidun who haven't received justice, but the majority are liars and forgers.

This post is part of our special coverage on Refugees.

3 comments

  • […] month ago, the stateless community of Kuwait started a 3 day-long campaign of “flipping your Twitter avatar” to catch the media's attention and highlight their […]

  • […] as Kareem and others have raised the problem of statelessness before, but in June Global Voices reported on how Bidoun were increasingly turning to social media to advance their demands for citizenship rights. Mona Kareem can be followed on Twitter at […]

  • […] diversity of topics covered by Global Voices: For 2011, my favorites are: the blogpost about the “Bidun” in Koweit (I was unaware of both the term and the phenomenon), another on homosexuality in Ghana (which, in […]

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