Kuwait Considers Bidoon Law; Qatar Expands Regional Influence
A bill that would grant Kuwaiti citizenship to 4,000 stateless people, known commonly as bidoons, passed the first round of voting on Thursday. Another vote will be held later this month and, if passed, will require the signature of the country’s emir. Kuwait hosts approximately 106,000 people who are denied citizenship despite being born and raised in Kuwait. The government claims that only 34,000 of them qualify for consideration. The government denies citizenship to the bidoons because they claim their ancestors destroyed passports in order to gain citizenship and qualify for the oil-rich country’s state-provided benefits.
In a piece on Qatar, Hanin Ghaddar, a public policy scholar at the Wilson Center’s Middle East Program, describes the country’s growing influence in the Arab world. “Before the Arab uprisings,” she says, “Qatar’s regional strategy was similar to Turkey’s “zero problem” foreign policy.” The new approach came about almost two years ago when Qatar supported a NATO intervention to help the Libyan rebels, and since then the gulf country has “seized the opportunity of the Arab uprisings to expand its influence across the region.” Similarly, Ghaddar notes, Qatar has extended its support to many Islamist organizations including the Muslim Brotherhood in five countries, and claims possible support to Islamists in Mali. She also notes that the Qatari-owned news network al-Jazeera “now favorably covers Islamist parties across the region.”
Ghaddar writes that in the past Qatar played the role of mediator, becoming involved in many regional conflicts throughout the years. This has shifted with the Arab Spring as Qatar sees an opportunity to expands its influence beyond the region. The strategy is not without risk however, and Ghaddar stresses “its vision for the region may conflict with U.S. interests.” Also, if the Islamist parties Qatar supports fail to gain or stay in power, Qatar “may not attain the kind of influence and leadership it seeks in the Arab world.”