'Suicide of 11-year-old Kuwaiti Bidoon child' after father couldn't afford to fix games console

'Suicide of 11-year-old Kuwaiti Bidoon child' after father couldn't afford to fix games console
The alleged suicide of 11-year-old Khaled Alshammari has brought the plight of the impoverished, stateless community to the fore in Kuwait.
3 min read
24 February, 2021
The boy was discovered hanged in his room [Twitter]

A 11-year-old boy from Kuwait's stateless "Bidoon" community has allegedly committed suicide after his father could not afford to repair his games console, sparking anger on social media.

It follows a string of attempted immolations over the past year, thought to be driven by the discrimination and dire living conditions faced by the stateless population.

The hashtag #suicide_of_a_bidoon_child was a top trend among Kuwaiti social media users on Tuesday, after details emerged surrounding the alleged suicide of the boy in the Sulaibiya region.

Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai carried a report featuring quotes from the family of the boy, named as Khaled Al-Shammari.

"Khaled used to see me get upset when him and his siblings would ask me to buy them games, clothes, phones and iPads, like their peers owned. Pain would fill my heart as I would reply: I've no money," the boy's father was quoted as saying.

He told Al-Rai that he had not received his monthly salary of 150 dinars (£350) for three months, which he used to support a family of six.

On the day before his suicide, his son asked him for 12 dinars (£28) to repair a games console, which he told him he did not have.

"Dad, I know you work hard and struggle for me and my brothers, and often say poverty has broken you, but God-willing, I'm going to make sure you are no longer in need," he said.

His body was discovered by his siblings, who found him hung by electrical wires in his room.

The boy's uncle, who described him as a well-behaved high-achiever in school, told Al-Rai he was rushed to a local hospital but was declared dead on arrival.

Read also: Stateless Bidoon suicide attempt prompts outcry in Kuwait

According to official figures, some 100,000 Bidoon - whose name literally translates as "without" - live in Kuwait without passports and other paperwork needed to access public services. Other estimates put that figure as high as 225,000.

Activists and human rights groups say the Bidoon suffer severe and systematic discrimination, and are denied access to healthcare and education.

The government claims that the Bidoon, or their ancestors, came to the Gulf state illegally, but members of the community say they are indigenous to Kuwait.

The Bidoon often lived in remote rural areas when Kuwait gained its independence from the UK in 1961 and were unable to register for citizenship.

Activists claim they have been denied the right to citizenship and other civil rights ever since, such as healthcare, education, and employment.

Many Bidoon are illiterate or have chronic, easily treatable conditions like asthma which they say they have never received medical attention.

The social media outrage surrounding the boy's suicide brought some of those issues to the fore.

"A Bidoon does not die once. The first time a Bidoon dies is at a birth without citizenship. The second time is through being deprived of the means of good health. The third time is through illiteracy", wrote one Kuwaiti user.

One user
suggested government negligence was tantamount to complicity in the boy's death.

"We repeat and reiterate. Suicide does not mean there is no murderer."

Another shared a video of another Bidoon child discussing his harsh life and lack of access to school.

"Bidoon children raised their voices repeatedly but unfortunately there was only silence from officials and religious figures," read the caption.

The suicide has renewed calls for lawmakers to grant citizenship and other rights to the Bidoon.

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