Mohammed Enwazi's Bidoon Background

Every day there are more and more irrelevant minor details published about Mohammed Emwazi, aka Jihadi John and unconfirmed reports about his so-called early terror connections. What I haven't seen is anything explaining why he would want to go live in Kuwait, when he wasn't a Kuwaiti citizen and could not become one, due to his Bidoon heritage, and given that the Bidoons are treated like an underclass in Kuwait.

I'd also like to know when his father moved from Iraq to Kuwait, and why. Did he want to take advantage of the increased business opportunities there in the 80's, or was he fleeing Saddam? Where in Iraq was he from? I've seen tweets Emwazi was a member of the Zuhairi tribe from Nasiriyah in southern Iraq, but no confirmation by a reliable source. If he was from that tribe, would he more likely be a Shi'a than a Sunni? If he was Shi'a, he must have renounced his faith and heritage in order to join ISIS, since ISIS doesn't view Shi'a as Muslims but apostates. [More...]

Emwazi's family reportedly are Bidoons, which is not the same thing as "Bedouins", it just means "stateless." His father isn't a Kuwaiti citizen and neither is he. Children born in Kuwait are not citizens of Kuwait unless their father is a natural citizen. Since Emwazi's father was from Iraq, Emwazi doesn't have Kuwaiti citizenship. He and his father, and perhaps his mother, were stateless until they got British citizenship.

At least until 2010, the Kuwaiti law provided:

Under Kuwaiti law a child has the nationality of its father only. Children born to a Kuwaiti woman and a Bidoon man are considered stateless. Kuwaiti women can pass their nationality on to children only when the father is unknown or has failed to establish legal paternity, when the couple are divorced, or upon the death of a stateless husband.

Here's a 2013 British court decision explaining the history of the Bidoons and how they went from trusted workers and legal residents to "illegal residents."

The position of tolerance towards non-citizens began to shift in 1980 when the war between Iran and Iraq threatened Kuwait’s internal stability and the country became a target of terrorist attacks....the ambiguous status of the Bidoon at that time provided a human pool into which Iraqi refugees, draft dodgers and infiltrators could easily blend after getting rid of their identity papers. In 1985 the then ruler of Kuwait escaped an assassination attempt when a bomb detonated in one of the cars forming his motorcade, and later that year the government changed the Bidoon’s status from that of legal residents without nationality to “illegal residents”. It is relevant, however, to note that during the 1980s the Bidoon constituted between 80% and 90% of the Kuwaiti army.

Bidoons can't get civil identification cards:

The key document in Kuwait is the civil identification card which Kuwaiti citizens and legal foreign residents receive. The Bidoon are not entitled to such cards. These cards are necessary in order to rent or purchase real estate or cars, open bank accounts, enrol in private universities and some private schools, hold legal employment, and receive birth, marriage or death certificates. ...the requirement of civil ID cards effectively bans the Bidoon from many forms of employment and public services.


From 1986 onwards the government began to restrict access by the Bidoon to passports, granting them only to individuals with official permission to travel abroad for medical treatment, education or religious purposes or to Bidoon serving in the army and the police. Later that year the authorities began to require that all government employees provide proof of Kuwaiti or foreign citizenship or lose their jobs.

In 1987 the Interior Ministry ceased to issue or renew driver’s licences to Bidoon except to those in police or military service and at the same time ceased to allow the Bidoon to register car ownership in their names. The kind of temporary passports currently granted to the Bidoon are only for the purpose of travel for education, medical treatment or religious pilgrimage, and typically remain valid only for the trip cited in the individual application. An individual who wishes for a passport must obtain clearance from the Bidoon committee.

...Prior to 1987 all Bidoon received free education at government schools and, until 1993, free healthcare on a par with Kuwaiti citizens. They had freedom of employment and formed a substantial part of Kuwait’s army and police forces. However, the position now is that in order to register in a government school or the state university or hold employment legally, an individual must present a civil ID card.

It was around 1985 that Kuwait terminated many Bidoon's civil service jobs:

Under Kuwaiti law only those with legal resident or citizen status can legally hold employment. It is said in the HRW report that the government has carved out limited exceptions and allowed Bidoon to hold certain government jobs but, although previously Bidoon men constituted a significant percentage of Kuwait’s army and police forces, these forces ceased to accept new Bidoon applicants in 1986. Some Bidoon officers already employed were permitted to keep their jobs whilst others lost their employment.

The Bidoon may not own property in Kuwait, as article 6 of Law No. 5 of 1959 states that any person seeking to register property ownership must prove their nationality either by producing their passport or through another valid document. This also causes difficulties for Bidoon who wish to own and operate their own businesses.

The media paints the family as wealthy or middle class because the kids went to college. Based on the treatment of Bidoons in Kuwait since the mid 80's, I don't see how the family could be wealthy. It seems likely his father lost his police job, and they held out until the free education and medical services were taken away in 1993. In Britain, his father started as a taxi driver. (He may ultimately have owned his business, I can't tell for sure.) The family reportedly received public assistance in Britain.

As for being suspected of collaborating with Saddam's regime, according to the court opinion, most Bidoons from Arab countries were suspected of that after Iraq invaded Kuwait. Many were jailed, some indefinitely. Others were killed.

A British reporter who traveled to Kuwait right after Emwazi's name was revealed interviewed locals where the family had lived. One local told him Emwazi's father came to Kuwait in the 80's, married in 1987, had Mohammed in 1988, and moved from Kuwait in 1993. I think it's unlikely his parents traveled together from Iraq to Kuwait before being married, so I assume they met in Kuwait. (Also, I've read that the emigration policy of Iraq at the time didn't let families leave together.)

Did his mother also emigrate from Iraq, or was she born in Kuwait, and if so, was she Kuwaiti or Bidoon? It doesn't matter in the context of citizenship, since even if she was Kuwaiti, she couldn't pass citizenship to her children back then if their father was Iraqi, but it may bear on their economic status.

Many studies suggest children's personality traits are formed by age 3 or 5. His early life in Kuwait may tell us more about what radicalized him than second-hand gossip from Britain. Unfortunately, most of the Bidoons in Kuwait who would know aren't talking to the media.

Some questions I'd like to know the answers to:

  • Where did Emwazi get his first militant training after reaching Syria (or Iraq, if he went there first?)
  • What group was he first aligned with in Syria? Did he switch from al Nusra to ISIS, and if so, when? Was he trained by a Chechen group which had a lot of immigrant fighters from Europe?
  • Why do some media reports say he was known as Abu Abdullah al-Britani, while others say he was was known as Abu Muharib al-Yemeni? (I think it's Abu Marib al Yemeni since he looks nothing like Abu Abdullah al Britani who was a member of Rayat al Tawheed and is now dead.)
  • What training videos does he appear in?
  • Is it true he rapidly advanced up the ranks in ISIS? If so, who was his "rabbi" that backed his rise? Was it Omar al-Shishani or Amr al-Ibsi?
  • Is he an Emir? Where? Did he replace someone or was he made the emir of a new Wilayat? Is he on the Shura council?
  • Who are the other "Beatles", particularly George, who the hostages say was the leader? One reporter is now saying he is Emwazi's friend from London. Who were the Dutch fighters that guarded the western hostages in Aleppo?

Considering the ISIS executioners and torturing prison guards are still out there, and John Cantlie still needs to be rescued, I wish the media would spend more time trying to identify them and less time repeating unsubstantiated comments by unnamed schoolmates and disgruntled former ISIS fighters, hearsay reports about what his father told a supposed co-worker and his mother reportedly told his father, and snippets of intelligence reports leaked to provide cover to MI-5 for not having stopped his transit to Syria. I also haven't yet seen a cogent explanation for why he would be attracted to Somalia or al-Shabab before his Tanzania trip in 2009. Having friends who were doesn't mean he was. Just as having friends who were robbers doesn't make him a robber. If he was drawn to Somalia and al Shabab, why didn't he go to Africa from Turkey or Syria, instead of joining al Nusra or ISIS? Others like Abu Osama al Britani and American Abu Mansoor al-Amriki went to Somalia to fight for al Shabab (they were both killed there in 2013.)

So why would Emwazi want to return to a country where he's treated as an underclass, with all those restrictions? He reportedly traveled there on his British passport using a tourist visa. And how much was he affected as a young child by having lived his first 6 years as a "stateless person?" If anything was going to make him feel inferior, or in need of a group that accepted him, I can see it being his realization as a child he was considered "unwanted" and an "illegal resident" in his homeland. Surely he heard his parents discuss it.

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    Emwazi (none / 0) (#1)
    by MHAM on Sun Jun 24, 2018 at 04:23:23 PM EST
    Hi Jeralyn,

    sorry for the mix up but what I can tell you is....

    1. Mohammed emwazi is from the Zuhari tribe, a small bedouin tribe that is still found to this day between Iraq and Kuwait and even Saudi Arabia. So it is normal to find members of that tribe who hold these three nationalities.

    2. Most Bedoons in the gulf states are decendents of Bedouins who gave up nomadic life after the founding of Oil.

    3. Mohammed Emwazi father probably was born or moved to Kuwait after its independence as with most Kuwaitis to work in the armed forces. Kuwait at the time was a new country and relied heavily on neighbouring bedouin tribes for protection because of their warlike nature and knowledge of the area unlike townspeople who are of a more peaceful nature.

    4. Local tribesmen from neighbouring countries were invited from the 60s to the late 80s in kuwait to serve in the armed forces and Bedoons and Kuwaitis were treated for the most part the same and that is why many people like his father(Emwazi) probably took the opputurnity.

    5. I can tell you that his father probably had no links to Saddam as with most Bedoon who defended Kuwait and make up a third of Kuwaiti casualties of the Invasion. Kuwait after liberation tried to paint bedoons in a negative way in order to use them as a scrapegoat as the Nazis did with the Jews. Mostly Kuwaities and very few Bedoons collabrated with Saddam.

    6. Emwazis Zuhairi tribe is dominatley shia, but he may have been a convert to the Wahabi faith.

    7. People like Emwazi bring shame to Arabs and Muslims.

    8. Allmost all who died in the failed bomb attack against the emir during the 80s were bidoon who were in the Royal Amiri Gaurd. To this day their families have still not been given citizenship

    9. Emwazi most probably like many Bedoon did not hold no Iraqi or Saudi citizenship.

    hope this helps any other questions please do ask.