How Kuwait Media Vilifies Bedoon

Stateless Arab, known as bidoon, take part in a protest to demand citizenship and other basic rights in Jahra, 50 kms (31 miles) northwest of Kuwait City, on November 9, 2013. AFP PHOTO/YASSER AL-ZAYYAT

The history of Bedoon people in Kuwait started along with the history of modern Kuwait. Although they represent around 10% of Kuwait’s population, they were not represented in any sort of media properly. Many Kuwaitis who do not have a direct relationship with Bedoon get their information about them through local Kuwait media. Thus, the role of media becomes crucial to the issue of Bedoon.

In newspapers, Bedoon news are either on the accidents page or on tabloid newspapers. The last page of each and every local newspaper is filled with accidents and crimes done by Bedoon.  The title of each incident, in which a Bedoon is involved in, stresses and highlights the involvement of the Bedoon by writing the word Bedoon between each two parentheses. Even if the incident or the crime involved another person who is not Bedoon, the title does not change and the parentheses remain to highlight it. Writing the news in such a way tells us a lot about the rhetoric of dealing with the issue of Bedoon in a way of security. As a result, Bedoon were associated with crimes for many Kuwaitis although the latest report of Ministry of Interior indicates that Bedoon committed the least crimes during 2010. In case any of the MPs make statements about Bedoon, the news take its place in the very first page of the newspaper in order to show readers that government along with parliament are working towards solving the issue.

Al-Wattan newspaper: "Bedoon steals cars and burns them"

Although Kuwait’s production of soap operas is one of the most active in the gulf area, Bedoon were not represented through this sort of presentation until lately. Most of the earliest Kuwaiti shows ignored the issue of Bedoon although they were trying to represent the problems that Kuwait suffers from. Some of the shows, especially comedies, hint about it without talking directly. However, one of the first Kuwaiti series that represent a Bedoon was Thaman ‘Omri by the pioneer Kuwaiti actress Hayat Al-Fahad. The representation of the Bedoon family in this soap opera was not based on real knowledge about the nature of Bedoon. They were represented as an ignorant family that their poverty makes them do whatever they can in order to get what they want. They are thus portrayed as those low class opportunist villains. This soap opera, like other following ones, feed the stereotypes of Bedoon such as giving them thick accents and make them poorly dressed. Worth mentioning that the shows do not indicate that this family is Bedoon, but the viewer understands it from the conversations between the characters.

Al-Wattan newspaper: "Bedoon stabs his girlfriend"

Addressing the way media in Kuwait portrays the Bedoon is worth studying and unfortunately foreign media and international organizations are not doing so most probably because they are not aware of it or are not willing to dedicate some work to an issue that they see comparatively marginally, unfortunately. Following the Bedoon protests over the past year and the way their struggle got international attention, we are now set to observe how media representations will or will not change.

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