Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Kuwait Ministries Ban Photography?

I am in total shock.

Thank you, Bit Jockey, for sending this to me, an article from the Kuwait Times.

We had so much fun! We had photo challenges, Kuwait sunsets, National Day Celebration photos, so much fun. And now, you can get arrested for taking photos? Not of military or political or sensitive buildings, not for reasons of national security, but . . . just because?

Most photographers in Kuwait are careful not to photograph women, or any citizens without their permission. Why on earth was this ban created?

How on earth will they enforce it? What are the penalties?

KUWAIT: After the ban three ministries placed on photography, most Kuwaiti youth are a bit confused about what to do with their cameras if they can’t use them in public and why such laws were implemented in the first place. The Ministry of Information, Ministry of Social Affairs and Ministry of Finance recently came to the conclusion that photography should be used for journalism purposes only. This has resulted in the ban of Digital Single Lens Reflex Cameras (DSLRs) in public, on the streets and in malls

What most Kuwaiti photographers have come to wonder is how such a decision could be reached by authorities, especially considering that digital cameras and cell phone cameras have the same abilities. What most people think of photography as a hobby has become a bit misguided due to the fact that the country has so little exposure to art. While using a DSLR, passersby may wonder if the camera is being used for the wrong reasons.

Mohammed Al-Eisa, who picked up photography as a hobby more than 10 years ago, said that he has decided to take photos of animals or still life due to the fact that these subjects don’t mind having their picture taken and don’t make a scene. “I started facing problems the very first day I bought my camera,” Mohammed added.

What often happens is that a big black camera tends to worry people. Taking a picture of a stranger would seem like much less of an issue if you were using a more discreet camera or even a cell phone. Mariam Al-Fodiry said that she has faced similar problems with her hobby and that being a girl doesn’t help at all. She said that in some cases it makes the problem even worse. “Switching to abstract and landscape photography was one the options I considered after getting into enough trouble,” Mariam said.

Majed Al-Saqer said that sometimes people stop him while he is in his car with his camera, as if he were planning to kill someone with it. He said that he isn’t sure what the real problem is, whether it is people taking photos of each other or the size of the camera.

November 20, 2010 - Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Blogging, Bureaucracy, Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Photos


  1. :(( i mean, this is totally baseless and meaningless, in a country where they want modernity in stuff and not in mindset! sorry if i sound too outspoken, but carrying a camera and clicking pictures is one of the rare pleasures we derive here…and to snuff it off..

    Comment by onlooker | November 21, 2010 | Reply

  2. Firstly, we have to be sure it’s true… It’s Kuwait Times not a holy book šŸ™‚ Secondly, if it is true, it will only be enforced for a week – maximum! and finally, I will keep taking photos without (too much) hesitation. Others I know will be doing the same…

    Comment by Bu Yousef | November 21, 2010 | Reply

  3. Onlooker – I might be tempted to shoot first and ‘take the spank’, i.e. plead ignorance. šŸ™‚

    LOL, Bu Yousef, I totally forgot that aspect, that it may not be true. And that it may be true but I’m pretty sure it is unenforceable. How is the ban on using cell phones while driving enforced these days? Or the red-light-jumpers? Or the speed restrictions?

    Comment by intlxpatr | November 21, 2010 | Reply

    • Mobile phone use is still a joke. I’m sometimes guilty myself šŸ˜¦ As for red lights and speeding, we should see a change. Apart from outside city routes, the red light jumping is almost gone. For speeding, average speed cameras are being introduced so this should change drivers’ habits.

      Comment by Bu Yousef | November 23, 2010 | Reply

      • Wooo HOOO, Kuwait! Accountability in traffic laws! Yes, those cameras help keep things fair, as long as people are equally charged when evidence shows they have broken the law.

        Kuwait is ahead of Pensacola with the mobile phone ban. There is no ban here, except on the military bases, which do enforce the ban.

        Most of all, I am delighted to hear that the red light jumping is a thing of the past. So many lost lives, so many serious accidents . . .

        Comment by intlxpatr | November 23, 2010

  4. šŸ™‚ i guess so as buyousef has said it cannot poosibly last long, and as for taking the spank, well my husband has to literally wrench the camera off my hands, for he gets so sick and tired, as according to him i am more into clicking, than enjoying the moment!

    Comment by onlooker | November 22, 2010 | Reply

  5. will never happen…lawmakers fully understand the public’s will to revolt. they just pull these little stunts to distract us from their real underlying intentions.

    i shall mount a camera on my head and have it take photos randomly every few minutes. i would love to be ‘arrested’ for that!

    Comment by Mrm | November 22, 2010 | Reply

  6. Onlooker, I have been accused of the same thing. Actually, there are times i leave the camera at home now, to focus on the moment, not the photo. šŸ™‚

    Mrm, LLOOLL, the visual image just cracked me up. šŸ™‚

    Comment by intlxpatr | November 22, 2010 | Reply

  7. Nothing is going to stop me from taking pictures outdoors in Kuwait. I’m not doing anything wrong.. I also think this ‘law’ is unconstitutional.

    Comment by Yousef | November 22, 2010 | Reply

  8. Yousef, others have reminded me that it might just be one of those rumors that go around Kuwait. What are you hearing? Is this truly a law???

    Comment by intlxpatr | November 22, 2010 | Reply

  9. I read it in an arabic newspaper too a couple of days ago. I don’t think it’s a rumor.

    Just thinking about it makes me sick.

    Comment by Yousef | November 23, 2010 | Reply

  10. The guardian:

    they’re quoting Kuwait Times though

    Comment by Yousef | November 23, 2010 | Reply

  11. LOL, Yousef, have you found it on any of the official Ministry websites? Other than that, it’s like chasing your own tail, the way the stories are all relating to that Kuwait Times story, and no one seems able to verify that story . . .

    Comment by intlxpatr | November 23, 2010 | Reply

  12. Kuwait Times issued a retraction:

    No such ban existed in the first place :\

    Comment by Yousef | November 27, 2010 | Reply

  13. Wow. Yousef, that is absolutely fascinating. It seems to me that in Kuwait, sometimes ideas are floated to see if anyone will protest. Remember the ban on women working after 8 at night? But the exceptions excepted almost everyone? I am betting there was a movement to ban the cameras, but the swell of opposition quelled the proposal. What do you think?

    Comment by intlxpatr | November 27, 2010 | Reply

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