July 30, 2012

Poverty in the Gulf; reversing stereotypes

Having lived my whole life in Kuwait, I was faced with two stereotypes by other Arabs whom I went to school with or worked with. The first, if they thought I'm Kuwaiti, they would think am rich and have "access" to power that might screw them over somehow. The other stereotype comes when they know am a stateless of Kuwait, they think exactly the opposite and some would even look down at me being from a community that faces unemployment, lack of education, and powerless, as the government has planned for us. In both cases, the stereotypes have enraged me. 
When I traveled to Cairo, being someone who comes from the Gulf, the stereotype was that "I have an oil well in my backyard" and thus I should help find them a job or I should over-tip them. In the US, many Arabs I met, including people of the Maghreb, have depicted me as the spoiled rich girl from the Gulf coming, with no worries, to study and enjoy her time.
Long story short, every person from the Gulf is stereotyped by their oil image. It really enrages me the most because of several reasons: 1) are we expected to give up the oil, so you would like us? 2) what are you blaming us for really? 3) NOT ALL OF US ARE RICH! This is why I decided to put together some pictures, videos, and links showing poverty in the Gulf; a way to reverse stereotypes.

I am a stateless of Kuwait, and alongside Asian migrant-workers, my community faces the hardest living conditions. All Bedoon work in hard labor or low-paid jobs. It is fascinating how many big Bedoon families are surviving on the salary of one or two of their sons; we are speaking about an expensive country and a bad education that is not affordable for the majority of Bedoon. The crazy stories of poverty about Bedoon are countless and show up everyday. Few weeks ago, a man was found living in the desert alone for years and few days ago a family of nine kids and their mother were found living in the STABLES! Here's a video report on this family: 

Here is a picture from Sulaibiya, the area most populated with Bedoon. The government gave small houses to Bedoon in cheap rates in this area to isolate them from the society: 

Many of Bedoon kids are denied education because they have no documents and/or money to enroll in schools. They get forced into selling copied DVDs, CDs, perfumes, food, toys etc. If you go to Kuwait, stop by a traffic light, and you will see Bedoon kids trying to sell you something. Here are two pictures I found of them: 

Of course, the Bedoon have been protesting for two years now, and when they arrest protesters, this is what they do to them to portray them as thieves and protesters who attack police: 

They also get their share of being beaten, arrested, tortured, and sent to trials: 

Saudi Arabia
For a country as rich as Saudi Arabia with all its constant decisions to give away money here and there, one can't imagine how poor thousands of Saudis are. The issue of poverty in Saudi Arabia is very serious and it effects a lot of Saudis; not just migrant workers or stateless people. Saudi prominent blog "Green Dream" is the leading source for this topic as the blogger dedicated years of blogging to unveil this issue. In a post entitled "suicide in Saudi Arabia", Alasmari puts over 30 pieces from Saudi newspapers documenting cases of suicide and he says they are cases due to poverty.
For the typical image of the Gulf, others won't imagine that there are citizens working as cleaning workers. Well, it happens in Saudi Arabia and this video shows workers who only dream of getting paid 400$ a month; a payment that really has no value considering the expensive living conditions in an oil country: 


Another story comes in the video of a Saudi man who wants to pay off his debts and decides to sell his kidney but doesn't get paid for 5 months:

Last year, a group of Saudi vloggers were arrested for making an episode about poverty in Riyadh. Here's the video for you to view: 


Another video from the same blog shows a man with disability living in a tent in the desert: 


Surely there is no country in the Gulf in crisis like Bahrain. Many Bahrainis face unemployment, sectarian discrimination, and poverty. Since February 14th last year, the country has been in protests and hundreds are in jails getting severely tortured and tens were killed during the uprising. Here are pictures and video reports about poverty in Bahrain: 



UAE, Oman, Qatar
For those countries, there aren't much information on poverty. All three have stateless communities and have migrant workers living in bad conditions. According to a 2009 report, UAE has 16.9% poverty that effects 7.2% of citizens and 13.9% non citizens. UAE is absolutely extreme in blocking any negative information about violations of human rights and bad living conditions. Lately, a Bedoon activist was sent to exile for his activism, and here's his blog. In this interview, UAE activist Ahmed Mansour speaks about the status of Bedoon in his country: 


Qatar hasn't witnessed any strikes or protests but Oman faced many protests since the Arab Spring calling for better salaries, living conditions, and more representation of the people. Riot police have killed some protesters and still arrests tens of them. 

It is no heaven; they just want you to believe so!


  1. Fantastic. I love the anti-sugarcoating of the Gulf.

  2. Great. it's really not heaven ! I really hate being from an oiled country. And I hate when others thinks that we are so rich and there's no poverty in our country because of our oil. in fact we may have a number of poverty more than they have !

  3. Mona this is very good what you wrote. Keep writing about bedoon and those with no rights in the Gulf

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