US-based Bidoon poet, activist says Kuwait deporting her

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ROME — A Bidoon poet and activist who holds US citizenship said Tuesday that Kuwait planned to deport her against her will after she traveled to the oil-rich country to visit her family.

Mona Kareem, 35, told The Associated Press that she was sitting on the ground at Kuwait International Airport after being questioned after arriving on a flight from Beirut. She comes from Kuwait’s so-called Bidoon community, which is largely made up of descendants of desert nomads considered stateless by the government.

Kareem described herself as exiled from Kuwait since 2011 after being granted a scholarship abroad with temporary travel documents. She then obtained American citizenship and a passport while earning a doctorate in comparative literature at the State University of New York at Binghamton.

She said she was able to travel to Kuwait on her US passport last summer to visit her six siblings and parents who still live there. Americans can receive visas upon arrival in Kuwait, an autocratic nation ruled by a ruling emir slightly smaller than the US state of New Jersey and one of the world’s leading oil producers.

Kuwait’s Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Kareem said she earlier pledged not to engage in political discussions after being asked about her activism and the Bidoons. The Bidoons have long protested against the government which strips them of citizenship and rights. Bidoon is an Arabic word meaning “without”.

Kareem had run a website regarding Bidoon’s issues and had previously spoken publicly about their treatment in Kuwait.

“It’s such an extreme measure,” Kareem told the AP. “That doesn’t happen to American citizens.”

She said authorities told her to board a flight Tuesday night to Beirut or she could be jailed.

A call to officials at the US Embassy in Kuwait went unanswered, while the State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.

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