Paris – The Francophone Association for Human Rights is following up on the ongoing suffering of at least 70,000 stateless people in Saudi Arabia, also known as the “Bidoon”.
The Bidoon community comprises mostly of tribes from “Qahtan, Hamdan, Bani Khalid and Anza”, and they reside throughout the Kingdom.
At the turn of the twentieth century, geopolitical conditions contributed to the “Bidoon” crisis, where the new political borders of the Arabian Peninsula surrounded and separated the tribes that depended on nomadic travel; and they failed to register for Saudi nationality.
However, even though the tribal members live within the Kingdom’s political boundaries, the Saudi authorities do not recognize them as citizens or legal residents, which means denying them their basic rights to education, health care and work.
Throughout the years and subsequent decades individuals from the “Bidoon” community, and human rights organizations have demanded a resolution to the legitimate grievances faced by this population through thousands of court cases, but to no avail and without any serious consideration by the authorities.
In contrast, the Saudi authorities have failed to meet their commitments to provide health care services, free education and employment opportunities to “Bidoons”.
Moreover, the Saudi authorities have done very little to provide Bidoons with basic services while their legal status is being considered.
The vast majority of the “Bidoons” reside in Al-Nazim, Nisim and Ganadriya districts in Riyadh, and in the northern border cities such as Hafral-Batin and the northern region of Rafha, Arar, Qaryat and Al-Jawf.
AFDH has received various testimonies from “Bidoon” people decrying their daily struggles as “non-citizens” within their own country. One of the respondents was a 50 year old man who stated “one cannot imagine what we suffer, we do not have any identity cards which means we have no rights whatsoever civil or otherwise”.
He added “we can’t even open a bank account or have any gainful employment due to our status. Even owning a mobile phone to stay in touch with our families and friends is impossible for us, since we need to show an identity card to purchase a SIM card. We are faced with a great injustice!”.
Using the hashtag “بدون حتى متى” (Bidoon till when) a female doctor working in a Saudi hospital tweeted her grievances, explaining that the nature of her work demanded that she participates in several professional and medical conferences which she was excluded from because her husband hails from the “Bidoon” minority. This means that neither her husband nor her daughter, have any official identity papers and both of them are considered illegal residents in the Kingdom.
The decades of long injustice towards the “Bidoon” community is an ongoing humanitarian crisis that needs to be finally addressed. International law is explicit on this point, i.e. all residents within a state must be provided with official status and documentation, including the right to a birth certificate, marriage contract and certificate of death.
Even the few individuals from the “Bidoon” community who have Saudi Citizenship, have been deprived of military and official posts, whereas Saudi citizens are granted full civil rights; in other words, “Bidoon” citizens are treated as second-class citizens.
International Law prohibits arbitrary deprivation of citizenship and demands states considering applications for naturalization of individuals, to examine their links with applicants, including social, cultural and economic links.
While the AFDH understands the geopolitical conditions that created the “Bidoon” crisis, it requests the Saudi authorities to implement the following:
• Stop the delay and procrastination with regard to the issue of “Bidoon” and fulfill its promises relating to the official recognition of them as full-fledged Saudi citizens.
• Create a rapid and transparent mechanism to review the nationality applications of Bidoons, in line with international human rights standards, taking into account the long-standing historical ties of “Bidoon” to Saudi Arabia.
• Allow judicial review of naturalization decisions, to protect applicants from procedural errors or abuse of confidentiality rules while reviewing these applications.
• Strive to safeguard the social and economic rights of “Bidoon”; including the right to education, healthcare and employment.
• Grant temporary legal residence to “Bidoon” as an intermediate solution,while their applications for Saudi citizenship will be reviewed.
• Guarantee the right of “Bidoon” civil documents; including birth and death certificates, marriage contracts and travel documents.