An Impossible Home: Second-Generation Palestinian Migrant in Kuwait

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Apr 12 2014

It is not easy trying to sum up a lifetime of experiences into one essay.

I was born in Kuwait, during Iraq's invasion. My family has lived here since the 1950’s. The invasion of Kuwait by Iraq has changed Kuwaitis more than it has changed Kuwait. The country's economy and infrastructure bounced back quite smoothly and today the physical signs of the invasion are non-existent.

I've grown up listening to my father's and mother's stories about Kuwait. My father came to Kuwait at the age of seven and my mother was born in Kuwait. I heard stories when what mattered was how much one appreciated Kuwait and strived to make it better. I heard stories of how my family truly felt that Kuwait wanted them to be here.

The Kuwait my father and mother grew up in is not the Kuwait that I grew up in. It breaks my heart knowing that all this time spent in Kuwait, all the years of work and sweat my parents gave, all the love we planted is not of importance because we are not of importance in the eyes of Kuwait. It breaks my heart that years from now I won't be in Kuwait and probably none of my family members will be in Kuwait and the fact that Kuwait was home for so many years will be a distant memory.

I have definitely felt ostracized and denied. My family has been in Kuwait for a long time, through thick and thin. We are and have been a part of Kuwait yet we are still treated as second-class citizens. In every aspect of life; whether it be that if I were a Kuwaiti then my education would be paid for by the government but since I'm not, I have to pay out of pocket the equivalent of 23,000 dollars a year. Maybe it is the fact that my family has to pay rent because we are not allowed to own property in Kuwait, unless it is shared with a Kuwaiti who will hold 51 percent of the property. Every interaction with police holds a little scare because you know you might be belittled and if you respond you could be punished.

Kuwait to me, is home away from home. I'm bound to leave but it is home. I want it to be the best it could be. This is why I'm writing this, outlining what I see and what I see it do. How it classifies people by financial status. How when opportunities are granted to only a segment of society, a divide is created.
Kuwait and Kuwaitis are not always one and the same. I never classify people by the actions of their government; I do however assess their character by how much they resist those actions and how much they endorse them. It seems that every few months some government official is calling for some form of punishment towards non-Kuwaitis. Whether it be a politician calling for legislation that would reduce the non-Kuwaiti population by 280,000 annually because they are viewed as a demographic threat, or the fact that you can be deported for traffic violations, or another politician stating that there should be a five year cap on residency for non-Kuwaitis. Those factors and the language they are framed with are threatening to non-Kuwaitis, even though they eventually are not enforced; what they do is send a message, a message that states that we are an unwelcome burden.

It is hard to call Kuwait home when it tells me how unwelcome I am every few months. My parents stayed here after the Iraq-Kuwait war because they knew that Kuwait is a perfect place to call home, make a living and raising their kids. Now it is no longer easy to call Kuwait home, it is in fact hard. Factors like the rising living costs and the continued labelling of non-Kuwaitis as a demographic threat rather than contributors to Kuwaiti society make Kuwait a very bleak place to live and raise your children in.

Am I in fault to want to be treated equally? Am I wrong to think that Kuwait owes my family gratitude? Am I wrong to think that Kuwait is becoming or has become an ethnocentric state, a state just for Kuwaitis?

Many might view this piece as being hateful, or vengeful but the reality is that I don't feel any hatred for Kuwait; I don't feel that am in need for some sort of revenge or vengeance. What I feel is disappointment and sadness. Kuwait is home, but only for a while, for it keeps reminding me that I will eventually leave either by will or by force; I am always considered ‘temporary.’ I will always love Kuwait even though Kuwait rarely loved me.

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East