The privileged world that vacations in Dubai and takes selfies atop Burj Khalifa has not quite woken up to the atrocities committed on the almost completely foreign labor population in Middle Eastern countries.
Cases like that of the maid in Riyadh whose arm was chopped off surface once in a while, but fizzle out soon enough. These are not isolated cases, but are rooted in Saudi Arabia’s draconian laws regarding foreign labor.
People who toil in the oil fields and mammoth construction sites of Sheikhs, most of them Indians and Pakistanis, are deprived of their basic rights and even their passports.
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Recently, the world had to look up when this video started doing rounds on Facebook and Twitter.
The video features an Indian citizen, Abdul Sattar Makandar, who worked as a truck driver in the kingdom. Makandar claims he has been in KSA for 30 months, and in this time, his employer hasn't let him leave the country.
Despite having filed a leave application five months prior to the video, Makandar was told by an adamant employer that he will be kept in KSA for another three months. He complains he's not paid on time and, before joining, was tricked into signing a document that allowed the employer to deduct 100 riyals from each monthly salary. Tearfully, he pleaded to the activist to whom he sent the video to call him back to his country.
As the video sparked discussions on social media, it also prompted a response from his employer, Al Suroor United Group. They claimed Makarand was still six weeks away from his two-year mark, after which he could lawfully leave the country. To counter his claims, they released old photos of employees holding up placards, explaining why they loved the company.
The recruiting agency that sent Makarand to KSA, Discomb Gulf Travels, asserted that Makarand’s bank statement proves that he was paid on time.
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This all might just be a case of an employee trying to leave a job through fabrication. But the response of the Saudi government is baffling. After Makandar was suspended from his job, he was detained in an unknown location by the authorities.
The worker's current whereabouts are unknown.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Faisal Al Nasser