By Krista Thurrott
An Instagram celebrity is coming under harsh criticism after sharing a video rant about new laws improving the rights of domestic workers.
Sondos Alqattan, a Kuwaiti makeup artist, shared her outrage around new legislation allowing maids to take one day off each week and to keep their passports in their own possession.
The labor laws were introduced to protect the rights of Filipino domestic workers in Kuwait, but Alqattan isn’t a fan.
“How can you have a servant at home who keeps their own passport with them?” asked Alqattan in a video that has since been removed. “What’s worse is they have one day off every week… If they run away and go back to their country, who will refund me? Honestly I disagree with this law. I don’t want a Filipino maid any more.”
Seated in her luxury car ranting to her more than 2.3 million followers, the beauty blogger sparked outrage in the Philippines and Middle East.
Migrante International, a Filipino advocacy group, likened Alqattan’s comments to those of a “slave owner” with an outlook “that literally belongs to the dark ages.” The group is calling on the social media star to publicly apologize for her demeaning comments.
The agreement between the Philippines and Kuwait came after months of strained relations. In February there was a temporary ban on Filipino workers traveling to Kuwait after a domestic worker was found dismembered in the freezer of a flat.
The agreement was signed to eliminate tension and improve the human rights of Filipino workers in Kuwait.
As for Alqattan, two major beauty brands have ended their contracts with her as a result of her rant. She continues to defend her position, sharing a follow-up post addressing the “rumors.”
She has since disabled comments on her social media accounts.
The outrage continues as people call for other high-profile brands that sponsor the influencer — most notably Max Factor and MAC Cosmetics — to cancel their contracts.
Hundreds of Mauritanian women trafficked to Saudi Arabia trapped in ‘slavery’
More than 900 Mauritanian women have been trafficked to Saudi Arabia in 2015, where they are trapped working in jobs they did not sign up for, a local activist has told Middle East Eye (MEE).
The women believed they were going to be employed as nurses or teachers, but on arrival in Saudi Arabia they were forced to work as domestic workers in homes across the kingdom, Elmehdi Ould Lemrabott, who is based in Mauritania’s capital Nouakchott, told MEE.
“Some of these women who objected were subjected to rape attempts, sexual harassment, physical abuse and starvation – as well as being confined to tiny rooms,” Lemrabott said.
Saudi Arabia began letting workers from Mauritania into the country at the beginning of 2015. Riyadh’s Ministry of Labour advertised jobs specified for men (drivers, waiters and domestic workers) and jobs specified for women (nurses, primary schoolteachers and domestic workers).
The opportunity attracted a high number of applications due to Mauritania’s high unemployment rate – currently above 30 percent – and widespread poverty, which is experienced by more than 40 percent of the North African country’s nearly four million people.
A black market quickly sprang up to take advantage of local interest in Saudi-based jobs, according to Lemrabott, which the government did not pick up on.
“A group of people opened secret employment offices not in accordance with the law and away from the sight of authorities,” Lemrabott said. “Women are being trafficked one by one secretly so the authorities do not take notice.”
Before the women travel to Saudi Arabia, they sign contracts that promise them a salary of 1,200 Saudi riyals per month ($320), more than double the average national wage in Mauritania. The contract includes a stipulation that the employee must repay their travel costs once in Saudi Arabia.
“This allows the manager of the employment office the right to receive the employee’s salary for the first few months of their employment until the money is repaid,” Lemrabott told MEE.
The salary is often much lower than the one originally promised, Lemrabott added, as on arrival the women have their identity documents seized and contracts “replaced with one that effectively turns them into slaves in the households they work in”.
MEE spoke to one woman who was trafficked to Saudi Arabia, but after a brief phone call she said that she was too scared of the repercussions to be quoted in the media.
Many of the women have desperately spoken out about their suffering, primarily to a new campaign group set up in the Mauritanian capital called the Popular Initiative against the Violation of the Haratin Women Workers’ Rights in Saudi Arabia.
The Initiative, of which Lemrabott is a member, says the workers in Saudi Arabia claim that they have been forced to work 18 hours a day with no breaks and are not granted time off at weekends or paid overtime. Others have accused their Saudi employers of physical abuse and sexual harassment, including attempted rape.
The initiative is named after the Haratin ethnic group, which comprises 40 percent of Mauritania’s population. Many Haratins are descended from slaves – a practice abolished in 1981 and only criminalized in 2007 by Mauritania – but poor access to education has led to reports some have returned to their former masters out of necessity and been returned to slave-like conditions.
For the Haratin women who have sought a better life in Saudi Arabia, but been thrown into allegedly abusive conditions, they have fallen off the radar for Mauritanian authorities.
The workers are not registered with employment offices in Saudi Arabia, which means Nouakchott is not aware of their presence in the kingdom.
“This is due to the fact that the process is done individually and illegally by anonymous offices [on the Mauritanian black market],” Lemrabott said.
Out of the nine million migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, almost a third are undocumented. In 2013, the Saudi government embarked on a two-year long deportation campaign in which as many as half a million undocumented migrant workers out of nearly three million were kicked out of the country.
Despite migrant workers constituting over half the workforce in Saudi Arabia, they remain vulnerable to exploitation and abuse by their employers and are not protected by labor laws.
Many of these workers suffer from excessive working hours, wages withheld for months or years on end, food deprivation, and severe psychological, physical and sexual abuse.
When, or if, Mauritanian authorities try to confront alleged abuses of their citizens in Saudi Arabia, Human Rights Watch has warned it may be a significant challenge for such a poor country.
“It is cheaper for Saudi Arabia to import labour from countries such as Mauritania, who are poor and do not have the resources with which to protect trafficked citizens,” said Adam Coogle, Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“Whereas, with somewhere like the Philippines, we have seen the government successfully negotiate minimum salaries and improved working conditions for their citizens who are working in Saudi Arabia.”
After numerous reports of Filipino workers being abused in Saudi Arabia, authorities in the southeast Asian country moved to demand Riyadh uphold a minimum wage of $400 per month and safeguard living standards including a weekly day off and the right for workers to keep possession of their passport.
Although Saudi authorities banned all Filipino workers for one year, they eventually ceded to the demands.
For now, the newly established initiative to protect Haratin workers is calling on Mauritanian authorities to intervene and have the women trapped in Saudi Arabia returned home. A demonstration was recently held in front of the Saudi embassy in Nouakchott, but Lemrabott said the response was negative.
“It was suppressed violently by riot police, and a number of activists from within the initiative were arrested,” he said. “And the authorities have not responded to any of the demands.”
“The government is turning a blind eye to the issue,” he added, saying more protests are being planned for the future.
Local trade unions – including the General Confederation of Workers of Mauritania and the Najda Organization for Slavery – are also trying to pressure authorities into shutting down illegal traffickers. The unions have also called for an official process to be established protecting people who want to work in Saudi Arabia.
The International Trade Union Confederation, which receives daily reports on trafficking from their Mauritanian counterparts, has called on Nouakchott to confront the issue immediately.
“Mauritania needs to act immediately to free the women who have been trafficked to Saudi Arabia and trapped in domestic slavery there, and to stop the traffickers and bring them to justice,” Sharan Burrow, ITUC general secretary, said in a statement.
The Saudi and Mauritanian embassies in London did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.
Saudi Arabia: The Middle East’s Real Apartheid State By Daniel Greenfield
There is a country in the Middle East where 10 percent of the population is denied equal rights because of their race, where black men are not allowed to hold many government positions, where black women are put on trial for witchcraft and where the custody of children is granted to the parent with the most “racially superior” bloodline.
This Apartheid State is so enormously powerful that it controls American foreign policy in the Middle East even as its princes and princesses bring their slaves to the United Kingdom and the United States.
That country is Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia abolished slavery in 1962 under pressure from President Kennedy, who accomplished what the Ottoman Empire and the League of Nations had not been able to, but that hasn’t stopped its citizens from selling castrated slaves on Facebook or its princes from beating their black slaves to death in posh London hotels.
The Saudis had clung to their racist privileges longer than anyone else. When rumors reached Mecca that the Ottoman Empire might be considering the abolition of African slavery and equal rights for all, the chief of the Ulema of Mecca issued a fatwa declaring “the ban on slaves is contrary to Sharia (Islamic Law)… with such proposals the Turks have become infidels and it is lawful to make their children slaves.”
But Saudi Arabia’s oil wealth eventually made slavery economically unnecessary. Early on, African slaves worked for foreign oil companies which paid their masters, but they were a poor fit for the oil economy. The Kingdom no longer needed agricultural slaves and pearl drivers; it needed trained technicians from the West and international travel made it cheaper to import Asian workers for household labor and construction than to maintain its old trade in slaves.
The Saudis replaced the 450,000 slaves of the 1950s with 8.4 million guest workers. These workers are often treated like slaves, but they are not property and are therefore even more disposable than the slaves were. Exact numbers are hard to come by, but Nepal alone reported 265 worker deaths in Saudi Arabia in a single year.
Human Rights Watch has described conditions for foreign workers in Saudi Arabia as resembling slavery.
Meanwhile the three million Afro-Saudis are denied equal rights, prevented from serving as judges, security officials, diplomats, mayors and many other official positions. Afro-Saudi women are not allowed to appear on camera.
“There is not one single black school principal in Saudi Arabia,” the Institute for Gulf Affairs, a Saudi human rights group, reported.
Kafa’ah, equality in marriage, is used to establish that both sides are free from the “taint” of slave blood. The blood of Takruni, West African slaves, or Mawalid, slaves who gained their freedom by converting to Islam, is kept out of the Saudi master race through genealogical records that can be presented at need.
Challenges to the Kafa’ah of a marriage occur when tribal members uncover African descent in the husband or the wife after the marriage has already occurred. The racially inferior party is ordered to present “proof of equality” in the form of family trees and witnesses. If the couple is judged unequal, the Saudi Gazette reported, “Children’s custody is usually given to the ‘racially superior’ parent.”
These Saudi efforts at preventing their former slaves from intermarrying with them have only accelerated their incestuous inbreeding. In parts of Saudi Arabia, the percentage of marriages among blood relatives can go as high as 70%.
Saudi Arabia has the second highest rate of birth defects in the world, but a Saudi Sheikh blamed this phenomenon on female drivers, even though women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.
Equality has always been a foreign concept to the Saudis whose tribal castes determine the right to rule. In Saudi Arabia everyone has their place, from the Afro-Saudi, to the non-Muslim guest worker to the Saudi woman.
On the road to Mecca, a sign points one way for “Muslims” and another for “Non-Muslims.” Only Muslims are allowed into the holy cities of Islam. A Christian truck driver from Sri Lanka who wandered into Mecca was arrested and dispatched for trial to a Sharia court of Islamic law.
Likewise, women are barred from many jobs, kept from driving and even electronically tracked to prevent them from leaving the country. Guest workers in Saudi Arabia are treated as slaves, their identity papers held by their employers, preventing them from leaving without permission.
The guest workers however, if they survive the witchcraft accusations and sexual assaults, will escape back to Ethiopia, Sri Lanka or the Philippines with a fraction of the money that they were supposed to earn. The Afro-Saudis however have nowhere to return to. Saudi Arabia is the only home they know.
The Arab slave trade was longer, crueler and far more enduring than anything Europeans and Americans are familiar with and left behind large numbers of Afro-Arabs across the Middle East and Afro-Turks in Turkey. While African-Americans are prominently represented in American life, Afro-Arabs and Afro-Turks suffer from an inferior status which keeps them away from political power and out of public view.
American soldiers in Basra were surprised to discover large numbers of Afro-Iraqis. The hundreds of thousands of Afro-Iraqis are a legacy of the Zanj slave rebellion when 500,000 African slaves rose against their Arab masters. The Afro-Iraqis are free, but relentlessly discriminated against. In Gaza, 10,000 Afro-Arabs face daily discrimination. But it is the Afro-Saudis who are the Middle East’s best kept secret.
Nawal Al-Hawsawi was dubbed the Rosa Parks of Saudi Arabia when she took three women to court who insultingly called her “Abd” or slave. Nawal dropped the court case after she received an apology, but the taunt of “slave” is one that Afro-Saudis have to live with daily in Saudi Arabia.
“The monarchy’s religious tradition still views blacks as slaves,” Ali Al-Ahmed, the Director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, wrote in Foreign Policy Magazine.
The Institute blames Deputy Saudi Foreign Minister Abdul Aziz Bin Abdullah, the son of the Saudi king, for being the architect of the Saudi apartheid state, but Saudi apartheid predates any one man.
Saudi slavery was intertwined with Islam, receiving sanction from the Koran and the Hadiths while relying on the Saudi role as the guardians of Mecca and Medina to lure African Muslims into slavery. African Muslims who made the pilgrimage to Mecca were defrauded and forced to sell their children into slavery to afford the return trip home. Slave traders lured African Muslims from Sudan, Mali and Burkina Faso by promising to take them to the holy places of Islam and teach them to read the Koran in Arabic.
Sheikh Saleh Al-Fawzan, a leading authority on Islam in Saudi Arabia, bluntly stated, “Slavery is a part of Islam. Slavery is part of jihad, and jihad will remain as long there is Islam.” The linkage between slavery, Jihad and Islam dates back to Mohammed whose followers were compensated with human property.
In The Legacy of Arab-Islam in Africa, John Alembillah Azumah writes that, “In pre-Islamic Arabia blacks were held in high esteem and did marry Arab women … the discrimination on account of the colour of their skin is a development within the Islamic period.”
Racism was a necessary prerequisite to the expansion of Islam through Jihad. The land that is today known as Saudi Arabia was at the center of those conquests, growing rich in slaves and loot. Today it is once again at the center of the new Jihad, its every atrocity justified by its role in the holy wars of Islam.
Saudi Arabia is a destination country for men and women trafficked for the purposes of involuntary servitude and, to a lesser extent, commercial sexual exploitation. Men and women from Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Sudan, Ethiopia, and many other countries voluntarily travel to Saudi Arabia as domestic servants or other low-skilled laborers, but some subsequently face conditions indicative of involuntary servitude, including restrictions on movement, withholding of passports, threats, physical or sexual abuse, and non-payment of wages. Women, primarily from Asian and African countries are also believed to have been trafficked into Saudi Arabia for commercial sexual exploitation; others were reportedly kidnapped and forced into prostitution after running away from abusive employers.
Some Saudi men have also used legally contracted “temporary marriages” in countries such as Mauritania, Yemen, and Indonesia as a means by which to sexually exploit migrant workers. Females as young as seven years old are led to believe they are being wed in earnest, but upon arrival in Saudi Arabia subsequently become their husbands’ sexual slaves, are forced into domestic labor and, in some cases, prostitution. – U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June, 2009 [full country report]
Countries in the Middle East have been named as the worst culprits of human trafficking.
A new report by an international trade unions’ umbrella organization says Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen are notorious destinations for women trafficked from Kenya.
Its report, ‘Trafficking in Persons — The Eastern Africa Situation’, notes that women and children were favorite targets for well-organized trafficking rings, which operate freely for lack of solid laws against the vice.
The Saudi government has denied a recent report released by the US Department of State ranking the kingdom as one of the largest human traffickers in the world.
Indian girls held captive for sex trade in Saudi Arabia
More than fifty-six Indian girls have been cornered in the sex and slave trade in Saudi Arabia capital Riyadh, revealed a victim who succeeded to escape and returned to India. According to media reports, most of the victims are hailing from Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong and Nepal. All these girls were sent for jobs in Saudi Arabia during the last two months through several job consultant agencies. Nish Rai, hailed from Darjeeling somehow stole her passport and succeeded in returning to India. The escaped girl alleged that the girls underwent sexual, physical and mental tortures and were forced into prostitution.
Meanwhile, Darjeeling cops said that West Bengal CID and state government would launch an investigation into the case with the help of the External Affairs ministry. Moreover, police are now trying to trace the families of the captive girls in Saudi. Police also detained two job consultants to get some clues into the matter.
Iraqi Militia Finds Horrifying Pics of Slave Market in Saudi Arabia
Fighters of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) seized a jihadi’s phone after he was killed fighting in the Iraqi town of Al-Shirqat. On it they found a picture of a young woman, believed to be a Yazidi, kneeling on the floor in front of a crowd of men.
Using location tracking data from the phone the militia identified the event as a slave auction in Saudi Arabia.
“Our investigation officer was appalled at the set of images involving what we believe to be an Iraqi Yazidi woman taken as a sex slave,” a spokesperson from the PMU told the Sun Online.
The Yazidis are an Iraqi ethnic group with their own religion, who have been persecuted by the Islamic State who regard them as devil worshippers. Many Yazidi women and girls were kidnapped in 2014 and taken into sex-slavery.
There were “images were of the auction in Saudi Arabia of the woman and sexually explicit materials of the fighter and the woman in a hotel. Location data was observed on the image file as enabled by default on many smart phones,” he added.
Of course, you never hear of Saudi Arabia being involved in the purchase of Yazidi sex slaves, but I’m willing to bet there are hundreds of Yazidi girls living as slaves in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. This heinous act needs to be investigated as a crime against humanity, but with Saudi Arabia’s overreaching influence in the UN, that will never happen.
Faisal bin Hassan Trad, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador at the UN in Geneva, has been elected as chair of a panel of independent experts on the UN Human Rights Council. That’s like electing Hitler to lead the Palestinian peace initiative. Another nail in the coffin of redundancy for the UN. Actually, redundancy might not be the right word; ‘malignancy’ might be more accurate.
“Further images involved ISIS members in Iraqi-areas occupied by ISIS including Mosul and Baiji, which indicates this fighter has been with ISIS for a long period of time as Baiji was liberated by us months ago,” he said.
The misdeeds and human rights violations by Saudi Arabia are astonishing, but do not stop Britain and the Trump Administration from supporting this hardline Islamic state.
Wealthy Saudis have been accused of sponsoring the terror group [IS] for years…..
The kingdom has also faced numerous accusations of human rights abuses, including torture, degrading punishments and savage executions [in Yemen].
Britain has been selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, despite concerns about the kingdom’s war crimes in Yemen, and it seemed “inevitable” that those war crimes involved UK weapons, “according to a report leaked.”
Beyond providing weapons, Britain has stunned human rights groups by blocking efforts by the EU to establish an independent international inquiry into the alleged war crimes in Yemen.
Yemen has been so brutalized by Saudi Arabia that teams of Doctors Without Borders (DWB) have been forced to evacuate, leaving citizens without care.
In April a hospital run by DWB – which included a maternity ward — was bombed. According to the New York Times:
American officials have publicly condemned the hospital bombing — and the bombing of a school two days earlier — but the Pentagon has given steady support to the coalition led by Saudi Arabia, with targeting intelligence and fuel for the Saudi planes involved in the air campaign.
So it isn’t just the UK that is supporting the cause of jihadists and their atrocious human rights abuses; so is the Trump Administration. Over $350 billion in arms sales to the kingdom have already been approved by the Trump administration.
Now, adding to all that this latest news about sex slaves captured by the Islamic State and “being sold at sickening auctions in Saudi Arabia,” how can the current leadership of these countries be trusted to protect their own citizens from jihadists and defeat the global scourge of jihad terror?
Even on American soil:
As part of its massive PR offensive, the House of Saud is trying to convince the world that its treatment of women is improving. But a first-hand witness would see a far different reality: women who are literally locked inside homes, paid little or nothing as domestic servants, worked up to 20 hours per day, and verbally and physically abused. This sad state of affairs exists not just in Saudi Arabia, but in Saudi homes right here in the United States. But there are people who know all about it, and even allow the practice to continue unabated on American soil: the U.S. State Department.
Women abused in Saudi homes on American soil receive no assistance from the State Department—even though officials there know what happens behind closed Saudi doors.
Diplomatic Security (DS), State’s law-enforcement arm, has received “many” calls from police stations over the years about Saudi diplomats abusing domestic workers, says a DS officer who spoke on condition of anonymity. But State has yet to provide oversight or inform domestic workers of their rights. Notes Keith Roderick, president of the Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights, who personally helped a woman escape a Saudi home: “When you meet these women and hear their horror stories, it breaks your heart. But after you think about it, it gets you angry, really angry—because State should be doing something about this, but then they turn a cold shoulder to women who want nothing more than to live free.”
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