19 03, 2018

Guest Post: My First Step Towards Independence

2018-03-19T12:47:36+03:00Mar 19, 2018|31 Comments

sidewalk accessible to the blind

Last month a blind reader sent me an email, I had changed one of the settings on my blog and it was affecting his ability to read my blog and he was wondering if I could change the settings back. I told him I definitely would but that I also had sooooo many questions! Firstly I was curious to how I could improve the accessibility of my blog even further for my blind readers, and secondly what he was using to read my blog. Turns out he was reading my blog using the iPhone app Newsify, and when on his computer the software called NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access). For images, he was using this really fascinating application by Microsoft called Seeing AI. The app tries to describe the contents of a picture to a blind person which I think is such a feat I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of it before. We got to talking about accessibility in Kuwait vs accessibility in the US where he studied for a short period of time and I thought that might be an interesting subject to post about on the blog. So I asked him if he’d be interested in writing an article about it which he was and he did. It’s a great read so check it out below:


Hi all,

When Mark told me to write an article on here, I was unsure about how I was going to start it. The beginning of most important things is always a challenge, and the beginning of my life was no different. I was born prematurely, and as a result, I was put in an incubator. The oxygen that was provided to me was more than the required amount and, subsequently, I lost my sight. Of course, it was hard on my family in the beginning to raise a blind child. They had to research and improvise new ways to teach me things that they already knew how to teach a sighted individual. I went into school, graduated from high school in 2013, joined university in the same year, and I graduated last semester. I won’t be talking about my life in this article. Instead, I’ll be talking about an experience that I had when I was in university.

Last summer, I had the chance to study a summer course in the US at the University of Missouri in St. Louis (UMSL), on scholarship. Of course, I was afraid in the beginning because I thought that my blindness would be an issue and that it would be an obstacle to my experience in the US. The Dean of Student Affairs at GUST here in Kuwait assured me that everything would be ok. Before going to UMSL, I was contacted by the International Liaison Specialist at UMSL to figure out what they can do for me in order for them to meet my needs as a blind person. I went to the US and my stay there was perfect. Learning how to depend on myself was hard in the beginning yet, it got easier as time went on. Moreover, the group that I traveled with was very helpful as well as the team that was working with us from UMSL.

Doing simple things such as learning how to use the microwave for the first time as well as making instant coffee felt amazing. You could say that for the first time in my life, I felt completely free. I felt like I could depend on myself completely. Thanks to the International Liaison Specialist, I was able to achieve one of my dreams while in the States, which was learning how to use the white cane. She got in contact with the St. Louis Society for the Blind and Visually Impaired and they put me in contact with a guy there who used to come to me twice a week to train me. The professors there were also very helpful, as well as my note taker in class who became a close friend of mine by the end of the trip. I felt like my blindness didn’t matter there. I did things that I didn’t expect myself to do, such as zip lining and fishing. If we compare this experience to my experience in Kuwait, I’d say that in my opinion, GUST compares to UMSL when it comes to providing assistance for people with disabilities. The professors and students that I’ve worked with at GUST were extremely helpful. However, when it comes to other amenities such as navigation, transportation, housing, entertainment, and others, unfortunately, Kuwait is very far behind.

First of all, there are no sidewalks that can assist the blind when walking from one place to another. Moreover, we don’t have people who can teach us orientation and mobility skills. I haven’t even heard of any houses that are accessible for wheelchair users. The education in Alnoor School for the Blind needs improving and we don’t have audio descriptions in cinemas. The list goes on and on. However, I have hope. There are organizations who are trying to advocate for our needs such as Training Gate International and KISR.

In conclusion, I’d like to thank Mark for giving me the opportunity to express myself on here, and I’ll leave you with a question. I believe that in order for us to contribute to the society, the society should change. Instead of viewing us as people with disabilities, why don’t they view us as a normal person like everyone else?

– Ahmad Albahar

9 03, 2015

Kuwait Law: The Cannabis Post

2015-03-09T10:32:08+03:00Mar 9, 2015|45 Comments


From a legal stand point, cannabis and its legalities is very interesting to look at. The decisions towards cannabis seem to be changing rapidly in the west, now whether it should or shouldn’t be legal (I will leave that for the internet people to argue) I am just going to discuss the legalities of cannabis here in Kuwait.

Kuwait has very strict laws when it comes to drug abuse, but what does it say in regards to “smoking up?”

Kuwait’s Penal Law which speaks about crimes in general (and btw has been there since 1960!) states the following:

Article 208:
– Penalized for a period not exceeding 2 years in jail and/or a fine not exceeding KD2,000 for personal use (in a private place)

Article 207
– Penalized for a period not exceeding 7 years in jail and/or a fine not exceeding KD7,000 for drug dealing, or made it easier for another person to use drugs

This means that even if a person does not smoke up but facilitates for another person an environment to smoke up, they can get more years in jail. Let me re-explain this, if I let Mark smoke up in my living room but I don’t smoke up, I can get more years!

There are a lot of other things that come into account when the court looks at weed cases, there are also more detailed charts of each drug and its consequences, so please stay legal people.

Feel free to email me ask@fajerthelawyer.com with any legal questions. I do not have the capacity to answer everyone for free (but I try), and I am happy to annanounce that I am currently working with a great team and therefore we are able to reply back to all emails with a reasonable time frame.

Post by Fajer Ahmed – Legal Counsel
The legal opinions expressed in this post are those of the author Fajer. Opinions expressed by Mark or any other writer on 248am.com are those of the individual’s and in no way reflect Fajer’s opinion.

Photo by Prensa 420

15 12, 2014

Mondays with Matthew: Open for questions – Ask Me Anything

2014-12-15T18:15:36+03:00Dec 15, 2014|49 Comments


Today I thought we’d try something different – and throw conversation open for all of you to Ask Me Anything. For those of you familiar with reddit, you may recognize the idea.

I’m happy to take questions on any subject you want. If I can’t answer openly (which I will always try to do) I shall say so.

Please ask away – it’s good to talk!

Post by Matthew Lodge
British Ambassador to Kuwait
Instagram: @HMAMatthewLodge Twitter: @HMAMatthewLodge

Update: AMA session is now closed

9 12, 2014

Mondays with Matthew: A level playing field and an honest game

2014-12-09T11:20:50+03:00Dec 9, 2014|27 Comments


Today – 9 December – is United Nations’ World Anti-Corruption Day. Is this just another “World Day”, or is it something that really matters and that we should take an interest in?

Before you answer that, let me note a few things about Kuwait that I have learned or have been reminded of since arriving in the summer:

Kuwait is an open society, with a rich history built on trade and commerce. Kuwait’s political system is more open and genuinely democratic than almost all of its neighbours in the region. This is a society with an independent judiciary, where Kuwaitis believe in the rule of law, value their rights and cherish their ability to express their views openly and freely. Kuwait is also a rich country – with abundant wealth which the Government uses to provide extensive, high quality services for Kuwaiti citizens. Kuwaiti assets are invested across the world and in international markets. But not all Kuwaitis are rich. Kuwait, like all societies in the modern world, needs to think about how best it can maintain social harmony and address the legitimate expectations of all its people.

True? I believe so. You may argue some points of detail, but the key elements are accurate.

So let’s now turn to corruption, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said:

“Corruption…undermines democracy and the rule of law, leads to violations of human rights, distorts markets, erodes the quality of life and allows organised crime, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish…corruption hurts the poor disproportionately by diverting funds intended for development, undermining a government’s ability to provide basic services, feeding inequality and injustice”

Undermining democracy? Distorting markets? Undermining a government’s ability to provide services? Feeding inequality and injustice?

Left unchecked, those strike me as pretty serious risks for any society. I would argue that tackling corruption is something that should matter to us all – British, Kuwaiti or whatever our home or nationality. No country is immune. Corruption is present in every society.

Some may argue that it is part of every-day life, necessary to get things done. Even if it is, sadly, true to say that a favour here, a back-hander there can help to get things done, that doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t change the fact that corruption erodes trust between people, within societies, between businesses and amongst nations. Corruption diverts resources from where they are most needed, fuelling inequality and holding back development. Corruption also stifles economic growth and investment, and it increases the cost of doing business.

So what are we going to do about it?

Kuwait signed the United Nations Convention against Corruption in December 2003, and today the Kuwaiti Government is taking concrete steps with the establishment of Kuwait’s Anti-Corruption Public Authority. This body – and the wider fight against corruption – deserves our full support.

What are you going to do? Do you think corruption is a problem? Do you even have a clear view on what is and isn’t corruption? How do you think we can help combat it? It’s down to each of us individually to take a stand, and try to make a difference.

Post by Matthew Lodge
British Ambassador to Kuwait
Instagram: @HMAMatthewLodge Twitter: @HMAMatthewLodge

8 12, 2014

Kuwait Law: Contractors

2014-12-08T11:19:08+03:00Dec 8, 2014|14 Comments


I decided to be a lawyer because I strongly believe that if more people have their rights and get justice, kuwait would be a better place. Even though I am not really helping much, I am still humble and grateful that I get a chance to post here and create some sort of awareness (thank you kindly Mark). I know my topics might be negative lately, but remember I get inspired to write by the cases I have and the emails I receive.

Some of the companies out there are MONSTERS (not the cute ones like monster inc but more like I don’t know I am not really into sci-fi) but seriously some companies are evil.

I have noticed in the past few years an increase in cases dealing with contractors. Contractors are brought to Kuwait from their home country and put to work doing various jobs for companies or entities that are from their home country. These contractors are told that because they work for their countries Army or Navy or whatever, then Kuwaiti Labor Law doesn’t apply to them but their countries law does. NOT TRUE YOU EVIL ******!

If you are working as a contractor for I don’t care who in Kuwait, it doesn’t matter if it’s for the King of Utopia or Queen Elizabeth. If you have a working permit and you are registered under the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour then Kuwait Labour Law applies to you. So what does that mean?
You get paid overtime! I have noticed that some contractors have signed a contract that says they are willing to work 12 hours a day. Fortunately though, the law clearly states that the employee can not agree on something different than what the law states unless it’s beneficial for the employee (contractor). The law states maximum 8 hours, so unless you think working 12 hours a day without overtime is beneficial for you, you can ask for compensation for all your hard work. Also:

– The law also requires the sponsors to open a Kuwaiti bank account for contractors and transfer the contractors salary to the bank account. These sneaky companies pay the contractors in their bank accounts back home and deposit small amounts of money in a Kuwaiti bank account, making the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor believe that the contractor’s salary is a lot less than what they really make. Since compensation is based on salary, these contractors won’t be getting compensated fairly.

– Termination indemnity, yes you heard it right, contractors deserve termination indemnity in accordance to Kuwaiti Labor Law.

– Days off in accordance to Kuwaiti Labor Law.

– All other rights in accordance to Kuwaiti Labor Law (please read my labor law post for more information).

If you are a contractor and you are being mistreated and you want your rights, please let me know ask@fajerthelawyer (or any other legal questions). I do not have the capacity to answer everyone for free (but I try), and I am happy to announce that I am currently working with a great team and therefore we are able to reply back to all emails with a reasonable time frame.

Post by Fajer Ahmed – Legal Counsel
The legal opinions expressed in this post are those of the author Fajer. Opinions expressed by Mark or any other writer on 248am.com are those of the individual’s and in no way reflect Fajer’s opinion.

2 12, 2014

Kuwait Law: We are all equal

2014-12-02T11:29:42+03:00Dec 2, 2014|187 Comments


The fact I have to write this post is a disgrace! It’s embarrassing that as a lawyer I have to be preaching about essential human behavior instead of doing plain old legal work. People need to be more tolerant towards each other in Kuwait. I have hope that this attitude will change.

I always knew that being a lawyer wouldn’t be easy, the job requires you most of the time to deal with negative explosives. You know what they say, when the tough gets going, the tough gets a lawyer. I wasn’t expecting people to come to me with celebrations but everyday emails and emails flow into my inbox (and sometimes into my junk folder, I apologize) filled with words describing emotions, most of which is anger. Why? One word; inequality.

The Kuwaiti Constitution clearly states in Article 29 that we are all EQUAL
Article 29 [Equality, Human Dignity, Personal Liberty]
(1) All people are equal63 in human dignity and in public rights and duties before the law, without distinction to race, origin, language, or religion.
(2) Personal liberty is guaranteed.

None of us, none of you, no matter how rich or poor, fat or thin, tall or short, smart or dumb, want to be treated unfairly. Yet, in the emails, the employer isn’t respecting his employee, the parent isn’t tolerant of his gay child, house help are being tortured and turned into slaves, religious debates are nothing but aggressive personal attacks and expats are being told to f*** off.

Recently though I got an email from a homosexual young man. The way he is being treated by his environment is not acceptable so I decided to write about it in this post, not just for intolerant people in general in the hopes they will be more tolerant, but for all the homosexuals in Kuwait to understand that it is their choice.

Being homosexual is not illegal. Your thoughts are yours, no one can punish you for your identity. Who you prefer to be with is up to you. Now some acts, might be illegal, please check my two previous posts:

Kuwait Law: Sexual Crimes
Kuwait Law: Indecent Acts

And please before you go on to “accuse” me of being gay myself, if I was I would let you know, but I am into straight non-blonde tall men, from western (in it’s broad meaning) or/and south East Asian descent, preferably with a good sense of humor and an Irish accent! And yes I am a female (so please, I beg you please, stop emailing me with Dear Mr. Fajer)

Just remember, if it wasn’t for your employees your company wouldn’t function, if it wasn’t for your house help you wouldn’t have a clean home and a hot meal. Just remember, your son did not chose to be gay. Your religion doesn’t make you a good or bad person, your actions do and all religions are lovely in one way or another.

So be tolerant and be patient with each other, for your sake and for your communities’ sake. You never know when you will be sick and you will need that Jewish doctor, you will get into legal trouble and need that homosexual lawyer, or your child will need that atheist teacher.

Feel free to email me ask@fajerthelawyer.com with any legal questions. I do not have the capacity to answer everyone for free (but I try), and I am happy to annanounce that I am currently working with a great team and therefore we are able to reply back to all emails with a reasonable time frame.

Post by Fajer Ahmed – Legal Counsel
The legal opinions expressed in this post are those of the author Fajer. Opinions expressed by Mark or any other writer on 248am.com are those of the individual’s and in no way reflect Fajer’s opinion.

1 12, 2014

Mondays with Matthew: Flowers of Scotland

2014-12-01T12:41:34+03:00Dec 1, 2014|13 Comments


If you were passing by the British Embassy yesterday you may have noticed that we were flying a different flag. 30 November is St Andrew’s Day – the national day of Scotland. We were proud to raise the Saltire – the flag of Scotland – and delighted to see it flying in the beautiful Kuwaiti sunshine. As well as being a part of the United Kingdom, Scotland is part of our identity, part of my identity. Here at the British Embassy in Kuwait we have a number of staff who enjoy Scottish heritage, family connections or both. I am one of them. I am proud to be British. I am also proud to represent Scotland, alongside England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
So how much do you know about Scotland?

St Andrew’s Day is a good moment to remind ourselves of the impact Scots and Scotland have had on the world. Did you know that James Bond is a Scot? Or that penicillin was discovered by a Scot, and that television and the steam engine were invented in Scotland too?

Scotland today has a huge amount to offer whether you are a tourist, a student or looking to do business. Take a look at www.VisitBritain.org for an idea of what Scotland has to offer for visitors. This year looks like being a record year for tourism, but in a usual year, 20 million people can be expected to visit Scotland, four times more than the entire Scottish population!

Visitors come for Scotland’s mix of vibrant, cosmopolitan cities; the biggest arts festival in the world; the beautiful, clean and unspoilt scenery, with thousands of historic castles, houses, battlegrounds, ruins and museums, and don’t forget Scotland’s contribution to global fashion. You can also enjoy Scotland’s food and drink, famed around the world, and the great outdoors. So, if you want a change from Kuwaiti heat, sunshine and sand, Scotland can offer something different!

And 40,000 overseas students (including quite a few Kuwaitis!) travel to Scotland every year to seek an education fit for a King. It was, after all, at one of Scotland’s world-class universities, St. Andrews, that HRH Prince William studied and where he and the Duchess of Cambridge met.

2014 has been Scotland’s year. The Commonwealth Games brought 6,500 athletes to Glasgow. They came from 71 nations and territories, representing a third of the world’s population, to compete in 17 sports over 11 glorious days. Over a million people filled Glasgow’s sporting arenas, and over a billion more were willing on the athletes from their homes. A short while later, the eyes of more than half a billion viewers in 183 countries turned to Gleneagles as Europe’s and America’s best golfers battled it out for the glory of winning the Ryder Cup.

2014 was also the year that the United Kingdom demonstrated that values aren’t just something we talk about abroad – we live by them at home. In a defining moment in British history, and by a decisive majority, the people of Scots voted to remain part of the United Kingdom, one of the most durable and successful political unions ever seen.

In a world where separatism all too often leads to conflict, the Scottish referendum demonstrated Britain’s confidence in her own democratic institutions and processes.
A free and open debate electrified the nation; a peaceful, lawful and democratic vote drew admiration from around the world; and, with a record turnout, the settled will of the Scottish people was determined.

So when you think of Scotland, I hope you think of all the above and more. Scotland has an enormous amount to be proud of, and we have an enormous amount to celebrate with Scotland as part of the United Kingdom.

Post by Matthew Lodge
British Ambassador to Kuwait
Instagram: @HMAMatthewLodge Twitter: @HMAMatthewLodge

25 11, 2014

Mondays with Matthew (on Tuesday): Sport – let the games begin

2014-11-25T10:18:14+03:00Nov 25, 2014|19 Comments


The United Kingdom has a new champion! Formula 1 racing driver Lewis Hamilton was crowned world champion at the end of yesterday’s end of season Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi. British newspapers are full of images of a jubilant Hamilton and headlines such as the “Start of something special” and “Best day of my life”. Perhaps the fact that he beat his team-mate and long-term rival, German driver Nico Rosberg, makes the victory seem even sweeter. For the UK, our rivalry with our European friends always adds an extra twist to the competition.

So what if journalists play down the fact that Hamilton and Rosberg both drive for a German team? Painful memories of England’s exit from this summer’s FIFA World Cup, and Germany’s victory, are long forgotten. Glory is in the moment and the victor enjoys the adulation. Who cares if Germany won the World Cup, we have Lewis!

Well, lots of people care, and not just 80 million justifiably proud Germans (congratulations mein Freund), but that was last summer.

Today, I feel Kuwait’s pain. Losing 0-5 to Oman last week appears to have caused a national shock. As a Briton, I’m not unused to sporting disappointment. Don’t misunderstand me, I am no football expert. I enjoy a kick-around with the kids, but that’s it for soccer. However, I learned a few years ago that it’s very difficult for a British Ambassador not to take an interest in sport, and football in particular. This initially posed a problem for me. Apart from my rather limited ball-skills, I had grown up playing rugby, hockey, and athletics. I have always enjoyed watching the World Cup and European Championships, but not much more. Suddenly I needed a “team”. Naturally, I chose Liverpool. I was born there. I also remember Kevin Keegan, John Toshack and Kenny Dalglish. So I have become a Liverpool supporter. At least I’ll never walk alone.


Except, here in Kuwait, I keep meeting Arsenal or Chelsea fans. Why is that? Where are all the Liverpool supporters? I did meet a Tottenham supporter the other day. And of course, I know about Kuwaiti links with Nottingham Forest and Ebbsfleet United. I’ve even met some enthusiastic Kuwaitis who fly to the UK to watch the occasional match before heading home again the following day. That’s more dedicated than I’d ever be, but it’s great to know that football is so popular here. It has also been good to learn about other Kuwaiti sporting interests – and successes: the shooting team and other medallists at the Asian Games in South Korea this autumn; the early morning cycling clubs out on the Gulf road every Friday; the numerous youth football clubs playing across the city; and the Triathlon that took place last month. People taking part in these activities may have been disappointed too by last week’s score. But they keep training, enjoy the competition, and play for the fun and thrill of the game.

People always rediscover their love of sport. Anyone and everyone can have a go. It brings people together. What do you think of sport in Kuwait today? Can more be done to help people enjoy the benefits it brings, and the joy it can give?

Post by Matthew Lodge
British Ambassador to Kuwait
Instagram: @HMAMatthewLodge Twitter: @HMAMatthewLodge