The Slaves of Kuwait

Terror against domestic servants: maids from Sri Lanka, Thailand & Indonesia are starved,  bashed, beaten, raped and abused. Those who manage to escape are framed  and thrown in prison for theft. An ever increasing number of maids come home in body bags. The situation is scandalous, but the impoverished nations who allow their women to be sold into servitude to  Arab masters are complicit in covering this up.

Just yesterday we posted this about Saudi Arabia:

Saudi Solution to Runaway Maids: Iron Bars & Cameras…

Thanks to the RoP

JEDDAH: It is claimed that the rate of housemaids running away from their sponsors usually increases as the holy month of Ramadan approaches.

“The housemaids will continue to run away even if their sponsors are regularly paying them their monthly salaries,” (what’s that?  Arab News telling us they’re not getting paid regularly?)

“There are some Saudis who mistreat their housemaids, compelling them to run away,” (Any idea why that is?)

Domestic workers living in a makeshift shelter at the Philippines Embassy in Kuwait City


KUWAIT — With nowhere else to go, dozens of Nepalese maids who fled from their employers now sleep on the floor in the lobby of their embassy here, next to the visitors’ chairs.

In the Philippines Embassy, more than 200 women are packed in a sweltering room, where they sleep on their luggage and pass the time singing along to Filipino crooners on television. So many runaways are sheltering in the Indonesian Embassy that some have left a packed basement and taken over a prayer room.

And in the coming weeks, when Ramadan starts, the number of maids seeking protection is expected to grow, perhaps by the hundreds, straining the capacity of the improvised shelters, embassy officials say. With Kuwaiti families staying up into the early hours of the morning, some maids say they cook more, work longer hours and sleep less.

Rosflor Armada, who is staying in the Philippines Embassy, said that last year during Ramadan, she cooked all day for the evening meal and was allowed to sleep only about two hours a night.

“They said, ‘You will work. You will work.’ ” She said that she left after her employers demanded that she wash the windows at 3 a.m.

The existence of the shelters reflects a hard reality here: With few legal protections against employers who choose not to pay servants, who push them too hard, or who abuse them, sometimes there is nothing left to do but run. The laws that do exist tend to err on the side of protecting employers, who often pay more than $2,000 upfront to hire the maids from the agencies that bring the women here.

The problems in Kuwait, including a lack of legal protection, are hardly unusual or even regional; this summer, New York became the first state to grant workplace rights to domestic employees in an effort to prevent sexual harassment and other abuses. But human rights groups say the potential for mistreatment is acute in several countries in the Middle East, especially those with large numbers of migrant workers who rely on a sponsorship system that makes employers responsible for the welfare of their workers.

That system is particularly entrenched in Kuwait, where oil riches allow many families to have several servants, human rights advocates say. And conditions for some workers here are bad enough that the United States Department of State in a 2010 report singled out Kuwait, along with 12 other countries, for failing to do enough to prevent human trafficking.

The report noted that migrants enter Kuwait voluntarily, but “upon arrival some are subjected to conditions of forced labor by their sponsors and labor agents, including through such practices as nonpayment of wages, threats, physical or sexual abuse, and restrictions on movement, such as the withholding of passports.”

The informal shelters here are open secrets and touchy subjects.

Embassy officials are loath to talk about them and generally do not allow visitors, citing concerns about the privacy of the women and a reluctance to antagonize Kuwaiti officials, whose cooperation they need in order to repatriate many of the women. The government runs a shelter for about 50 women, but few domestic workers know about the place, according to their advocates.

Kuwaiti officials say that an overwhelming majority of the country’s approximately 650,000 domestic workers are treated well and are considered part of the families that employ them. Some bristle at the notion that Ramadan is more taxing.

Mohammed al-Kandari, under secretary in the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, said many maids received extra money from their employers during Ramadan.

“They get benefits. Their expenses and food is paid for, and they don’t spend anything,” he said. “They send their salaries to their families. Some work here for 15, 20, 25 years.”

But even many of those who are not abused can lead lonely, Spartan lives with little time off. Some employers forbid the women to socialize with friends, and the women themselves are often loath to spend much money in their free time so they can save cash for the families they left behind in their home countries.

The perils faced by many domestic workers were brought into sharp focus in recent weeks, when the local news media reported that a Sri Lankan maid who fled to her embassy said she had been imprisoned by her Kuwaiti employers, without pay, for 13 years. The Sri Lankan ambassador, Sarath Dissanayake, refused a request to interview the woman and said hers was an isolated case.

Also last month, the news media reported that a Filipino maid was allegedly tortured and killed by her employers, who the media said ran over her body with a car in the desert in order to make her death look like an accident.

Human rights advocates say the problem of abuse persists because it is rarely punished. Domestic workers are told to report offenses to the police, but the advocates say some employers quickly file countercharges, accusing the maids of such offenses as stealing.

Lawmakers have been discussing new provisions to protect the workers, including a law that would require employers to deposit salaries directly in bank accounts, but they have yet to act.

Talk of building a large shelter has circulated for years.

For now, the women rely on their embassies for shelter, along with some Kuwaitis and expatriates who risk prosecution to house them.

In 2009, embassies in Kuwait received more than 10,000 complaints from domestic workers about unpaid wages, long working hours and physical, sexual and psychological abuse, according to Priyanka Motaparthy of Human Rights Watch, who wrote an as yet unpublished report on the conditions of domestic workers in Kuwait.

Workers who flee harsh work conditions face the risk they will be charged withimmigration violations and imprisoned, or face prolonged detention or deportation, Ms. Motaparthy said.

Alida Ali, a 22-year-old from the Philippines, described a different kind of punishment. She begged her agency to move her from an abusive family, and when her employers found out, she said, they threw her out of a third-floor window, breaking her back.

Ms. Ali recently had a metal rod removed from her spine. She has been in the shelter in the Philippines Embassy — which considers her story credible — for 10 months while lawyers pursued a case against the employers. She lost the case, and now she just wants to go home.

Bibi Nasser al-Sabah, who runs an organization that advocates for domestic workers, said it would take more than awareness campaigns to change the behavior of employers and agencies.

“This does not work,” said Ms. al-Sabah, who is a granddaughter of Kuwait’s emir. “People will not change. It has to be imposed, through proper laws and strict rules — by actions taken by the government.”

6 thoughts on “The Slaves of Kuwait”

  1. So SC – welcome to the real world of islam – read the above!!! That is part of the reason why you are unwished for.

  2. This story unfortunately is not a new one. These abuses have been reported for years and years. Movies have been made about these things thirty years ago and D.H. Lawrence wrote about this type of cruelty nearly a century ago. It is their history. How many times do we read these stories, to the point we became bored with hearing it.

    It is not that we are not caring about the plight of these impoverished people but we must place the blame on the countries from where the workers come from. The successive governments of their countries must take some responsibility. Many of the countries have corrupt regimes e.g. Thailand and Philippines – leave so much to be accounted for and yet many of these countries accept billions of dollars from Western countries in aid and squander it on their own lavish lifestyle.

    The tiny little Camel Jocky’s from Pakistan, the Baci Boys from Afghanistan and the Child sexual slaves from all over Asia need our help, but they dont pull election votes. They count for nothing. No one gives a stuff about any of them. While in the West we go wistfully on enjoying the fruits of these poor people in their labour. We pay 200 dollars for a pair of shoes, and we know they sleep on factory floors and are starved and some are not even paid a penny. Reebok was sprung in Indonesia doing this in 2008. And they are far from alone in this abuse of the most vulnerable.

    Shame on them. And of course we are also partly to blame. We turn a blind eye to the crying little child who is being abused by up to twenty men a day, and they die and are buried and forgotten. Some are not even buried but thrown away like a piece of garbage.

    I taught in China for Three years and even though there are some restrictions, many of my female students (16 – 18 years and upward) are working as prostitutes to pay for their education. Men would drive into the school at mid day on a Friday and pick up the little China dolls to work for the week end. I screamed to the authorities so many times to a point where I am sure I will never be given permission to work there again. Nothing changes. My students have been bashed and beaten by their weekend “dates”. It broke my heart. But worse than that there Australian men who go to teach in China, just for the sex. They take a young pretty girl into their home for the free sex. Often they have two or three. I told it to the authorities and I was the one with the bad reputation as a troublemaker.

  3. Just wanted to say, is it just me or did I detect in the vision from Pakistan regarding the flooding there, that there are a bigger proportion of males in those boats and collecting the food dropped from aircraft than there are women. I think it is a case of women and children last, and the gift to the earth from Allah “men” are given preference. I don’t think I am mistaken and this is so worrying. What is happening to the women of Pakistan? Where are they? I saw many boat loads on tv last night and in one boat which was typical, there were 17 men and five women and no children. This was fairly well the same situation across the board.

  4. Some apples and oranges here. The Kuwaiti women are truly being abused as has been arab custom for centuries. I always found it amusing when black American celebrities like Cassius Clay changed their names to Mohammud Ali since the Arabs were the original (and still are) slave masters.

    On the hand, the chinese girls do what they do strictly for the cash and are happy to be doing it. The busy-bodies who frown on it should try another line (and country) of work.

  5. To Therese,

    I noticed the same thing that there was an overabundance of males being rescued and in the shelters.

  6. Yes Therese..there was something about a dam likely to burst and all the people clinging to the trucks were men..What heros they are..True muslim heros..

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