As Two Egyptian Celebrities Get Saudi Citizenship, When Will the Bidoon Population Have the Same Rights?

The Saudi authorities recently declared with pride that Mohamed Henedy, an Egyptian artist, had been awarded Saudi citizenship in recognition of his artistic and cultural contributions. Amr Adeeb, an Egyptian journalist, had also been granted Saudi citizenship a few months prior, making both of them Saudi citizens enjoying full Saudi rights. Egyptian artist Angham was also granted golden residency in the Kingdom.

Honoring intellectuals and artists and celebrating art and culture is certainly welcome, regardless of whether they have actually contributed to the advancement of the country or not. However, it is unacceptable and completely unacceptable to apply double standards and deny the people of the country their rights for no legal reasons.

The citizenship of Mohamed Henedy and Amr Adeeb, as well as Angham’s golden residence, thrust the long-standing problem of the Bidoon and stateless individuals living in Saudi Arabia back into the public eye.

The Bidoon population, also known as “stateless people,” are made up of offspring tribes that were displaced for many decades. They are denied refugee rights in addition to citizenship rights.

Thus far, Saudi Arabia has declined to acknowledge “refugees.” It did not ratify the Refugee Convention in the 1950s, and it does not permit any refugees to reside on its territory, not even those brought in by dire situations in their home country, as they are not granted any official rights, identity papers, or citizenship rights. They are denied identity documents, prevented from assimilating into society, and subjected to racism and discrimination in terms of treatment, education, and employment.

The Bedouin population in Saudi Arabia can be classified into three groups: first, Bedouins who were displaced from their nomadic tribes and moved between Saudi border regions; second, Bedouin communities from Asia who settled in Mecca, Medina, Taif, and Jeddah as a result of unrest in their home countries; these groups include the Baluchi, Bukhari, Turkestans, Burmese, Indonesian, and some Arab and African communities who came to the Kingdom for many years after performing the Umrah and Hajj.

Some of the Bedoons whom the Saudi authorities have granted citizenship are considered second-class citizens, as Article 9 of Saudi law stipulates that their children are not allowed to work in the military or hold official positions, they are not allowed to receive education or medical treatment, and banks are not allowed to cooperate with them.

In this regard, we join the chorus of voices demanding that the suffering of the “Bidoon” and stateless people in Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states—Bahrain and Kuwait in particular—be taken into account, and that they be granted all the rights that are due to every human being on the planet. We also call on the UN, the High Commissioner for Refugees, and the International Organization for Migration to step in and find ways to resolve the Bidoon crisis, guarantee their resettlement, and grant them all their rights.

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