Sunday, June 7, 2009

DO something!

Sorry guys,

been away for a bit and also had an AWFUL viral flu that kept me in bed the better part of 2 weeks.

Anyways, I value all of your comments and appreciate the feedback. And you know I do have to agree with a lot of them.
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I'm going to get really to the bare bones of this and I really hope that I don't offend anyone with being this blunt.

But I am talking specifically to my Kuwaiti readers - Dear brothers and sisters, you need to take action and take charge before it's too late. Not enough is being done about the maids or exploited labour situation by the local Kuwaiti population - the average citizen. Not nearly enough. And don't tell me that no one cares because when it comes to talking about it there are tonnes of sympathetic Kuwaiti voices that want change just as badly as we do. DO something!

We expats - we have a lot of motivation to get things going, we care for these poor ppl that look like us, talk like us and have the same passports as us. We really feel compassion for them but that's easy - they are from 'our' countries. But you know that we can't really do anything for them.

During the US Civil war, if it was all left to the blacks to fight the war against slavery, trust me the US would still be using them as slave labour. It's a horrible thing to say but the slaves needed the white man to fight on their behalf, fight in their place. Without the white man, the black man would not have become free. But today, more than ever before...

Without the Kuwaiti, the expat will continue to be treated cruelly, raped and murdered.

Do you know how stupid and worthless it seems for an Indian, no matter how well-eduated, to start wanting change in a country that isn't mine? Do you know how much power the average young citizen wields when compared to me? ONE dedicated Kuwaiti can do more than a hundred well funded and dedicated Indians. DO something!

Let me tell you about something that happened a while ago:
We used to go to Sharq mall to spread 'awareness' of the abuse issue. We'd buy brownies and coke from our own pockets and hand them out free to ppl in the mall with a little leaflet urging them to be kind to their maids. We gave them to all the Kuwaitis that came by. We got two responses that really stuck in my head:

One was a middle aged Kuwaiti man, all done up in white, just laughing to his friend who was with him- when he saw that we were giving away free food and drink, he took eight brownies and drinks, as did his friend, didn't say thank you, just left and didn't even glance at the leaflet. He just took them, laughing and going on his way. It made me so angry - why do some people want everything given to them and think they have a right to it? But I kept it all inside even though it was my own money walking away laughing at me.

The second was a Kuwaiti teenager, walking with three of his friends, loud and brash as sometimes, you know, the younger crowd can be. When they got to our table, they all quietened down and asked what it was about. We explained that it was to spread awareness for maid abuse in Kuwait and we offered them brownies and a drink. Three of were glad to know what we were doing, smiled at us, declined the food and went on their ways. The fourth one, I still remember, he looked as if his whole world had fallen apart. He was looking down, almost as if he might cry ... so much was going under the surface and I've never seen a face look like it was carrying the weight of the world - but this one was. He looked up, said 'thank you so much for doing this.' and then slowly went to join his friends.

Kuwait is FULL of citizens that want to see change, just like that guy. But wanting it is not enough. We NEED you. Perhaps you think I'm being dramatic, or I'm using flowery language or stories so that I can somehow convince you that each and every one of you needs to find a practical way to do something about this. But I am not exaggerating.

Please - DO something. It's 50 degree heat and construction workers are still out there illegally in the worst part of the day, making the roads and buildings that we will be driving on and past in our AC vehicles. Find out which company they work for - complain. Complain till you're blue in the face. Buy some cold 7up or juice and drop of a pack with them so that they have something to drink. If you see a maid being treated badly, make a complaint to the police. Call the embassy. If it doesn't work, do it again and again till it does. Start an NGO, Start a movement. There are protests for the war on Gaza, for debt cancellation. What about murder and rape here at home? Do something! Get involved!

Everyone can do something, local or expat. Everyone must.

12 comments:

Victoria said...

YES YES YES YES

Cannot agree with you more! I feel just as frustrated as you, because like you, I am an expat and in no way in a position to change the policies of a country that is not mine...but I just CANNOT be complacent with things going on, and I cannot understand why the youth in Kuwait (who have started to take up many causes, such as environmental sustainability, for example) don't actively care more about worker's rights.

I ALSO BLAME the newspapers so much for this! Every now and then you get an opinion piece (check last week's Friday Times for a piece by Ms. Muna for example that mentioned the heat and workers) but I mean, as you say, WHY HAS NO ONE done investigative journalism looking at companies who have had large amounts of worker accidents and deaths. When the death of a worker IS published in the newspapers, the COMPANY often remains anonymous. JUST LIKE the muckrackers at the turn of the century, JOURNALISTS have a responsibility to look into matters, ask questions, and yes, even guide readership a bit. I am so sick of opinion pieces and no real journalism pieces.

I myself have thought of doing a naming and shaming collection. The Kuwaiti government has decread that for summer months, workers should stop from 12-4. Every time I see a construction company that continues, I am planning to announce it on my blog. If there was a society, like Bahrain's Migrant Rights, for example, I would join it, but it takes Kuwaitis themselves to start such things, not expats.

The whole situation is frustrating, and what Kuwaitis shoudl realize if anything, is that its unsustainable.

The reaction of the GROWN MAN who took eight brownies is absolutely disgusting and the biggest haraam if I ever saw it.

Anonymous said...

I could not disagree with you more.

Any true form of freedom has to come from within the people and NEVER a gift given by "your masters".

Whites who enslaved, colonized, and murdered thousands of other races had to retreat due to the significant retaliation of the other who fought for their dignity, freedom, and rights.

Do not rely on the Kuwaiti, rely upon foreign embassies whose sole responsibility is to protect their citizens, not exploit them by sending them abroad to be beaten up by fucked up Arab oppressors.

I am Kuwaiti, and I agree with the fact that foreigners from the far-east are and have been exploited in Kuwait for decades, and on so many levels.

It's disgusting.

I have individually spoken up against discriminating actions taken against defenseless foreign domestic workers but that is not enough.

Every individual and every group MUST fight to regain their natural rights. Embassies should be shaken up and you must demand that countries speak up against these atrocities.

As for the public, you're liable to attain various feedback but somehow I have a feeling that many Kuwaitis would sympathize with you and your cause.

Bottom line is, this matter does not get its deserved attention, which is natural for a third world country, given its corrupt leadership and many fucked up problems we have goin on.

The core of the problem is that many Kuwaitis (even intellectual ones, unfortunately) have these inferiority/superiority ideals in regards to foreign domestic workers.

Therefore, many treat them badly as part of the master/slave relationship they got going on.

It's beyond pathetic actually, it's obscene.

Anonymous said...

Had to come back to further comment on this post, since I found myself consistently thinking about the existing situation of domestic workers.

All domestic workers should be given courses that enlighten and inform them of their rights as human beings. You could sponsor workshops that help many uneducated, impoverished, and unaware domestic workers and provide them with the mentality they need to possess in order to protect their integrity.

I once saw a domestic worker (driver/gardener) asking his employer for permission to purchase a cell phone.

WTF?

You do not need his permission, if the money's comin outta your own pocket, go get the damn cell phone.

I am sure that there are many more horrific examples of worse treatment but this is the only example of shittiness I witnessed.

Domestic workers - all of them - should work a specified number of hours a day like ordinary workers.

Ex: from 9-1 in the morning and 5-8 in the afternoon. And if their employers need something to be done while their house maids are on break, they should get the fuck off their asses and do it themselves.

This is how I grew up and it didn't kill me, it made a man outta me, helped me experience the workload our house maids go through and appreciate them more.

It also helped me appreciate work as a whole and regard it as honorable and not demeaning (it's a humbling and uplifting experience that every Kuwaiti must go through).

There has to be workshops that instruct these workers not to take crap simply because they clean bathrooms as a living.

They should be instructed to leave the premises whenever their employer treats them badly (yells, doesn't allow them their weekly days off, religious days off, a constant and ongoing increase on their paychecks .. etc).

Informative workshops are a great idea, anything can be attained through knowledge and awareness.

Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Domestic workers should demand respect by refusing to work and returning to their embassies, housemaid offices, unions (which should be formed), or simply go to a concerned and humane Kuwaiti or non-Kuwaiti family to stay there while her employees regain their common sense and humanity.

If this were to be done, believe me, ALL discriminating and misbehaving Kuwaitis would be curbed and they will learn not to take their helping hands for granted.

Believe you me.

Contrary to the existing belief, we Kuwaitis need our house maids and domestic workers MUCH more than they need us since many of us have been so used to ordering ppl around to do our chores that we simply don't and can't do it.

Strikes is a perfect way for the workers to curb their "master's" dehumanizing actions towards them. Keep posting Nabeel, I support you all the way and will do my part as you've suggested since this problem hurts not only domestic workers but also abuses us as Kuwaitis and jeopardizes our integrity and ability to be kind, compassionate, and rational.

nabeel said...

Dear Anon,

I am glad that the situation of domestic workers in Kuwait has touched you and we could certainly benefit from more ppl that think like you.

However in cases where the 'people' themselves have taken matters into their own hands to fight for justice - has not worked out at all. Case in point are the strikes that have taken place - which i believe are 'technically illegal' in Kuwait.

if WE fight - we get deported. If we fight, we get threatened. If we fight things happen like me getting called in by the head of police investigations at Shuwaikh - who then banned me from visiting hospitals, handing out charitable necessities. then my civil id copy being given to the mubahath.our fighting is useless. And if you know anything about our embassies (and i mean MOST of our embassies) - you know that they wont lift a finger.

When the Philippines said thats it - NO MORE FILIPINO MAIDS (this was either in saudi or kuwait i dont remember. Guess what the govt said? They said - no maids? then we are sending every single one of your nationals back. SO dont depend on foreign governments and embassies alone. We need Kuwaitis to give a crap and act on it and I cannot stress that point enough.

Of course we are not depending on 'kuwaiti masters' to give us our freedom. We are not looking for help from the bad guys. we are looking for help from the good guys. I dont think the blacks needed help from their 'masters' - just concerned ppl who had power. The civil war was whites split down the middle.

Because real good guys act - they dont sympathise, stay aware, say how sad something must be done and then leave it to someone else.

Real good guys fight bad things with action.

nabeel said...

Hi Victoria,

i like the idea of naming and shaming. if you go with that let me know - i have here a list of recruitment companies that have been responsible for heinous crimes.

Do you know there is a travellers website where conscientious travellers will read articles submitted by ppl like you and me about human rights abuses in their area. and then these travellers will cross off say 'Kuwait' from their list of not just pleasure but BUSINESS destinations because of this?

im guessing its a minority that actually care that much but hey - its a good effort.

Anonymous said...

Nabeel,

Well said and I stand corrected.

It's important that "good guys" help out and try to point out that by speaking up against such atrocities, we are helping both parties - the workers and the Kuwaitis - by humanizing them again; the Kuwaiti would regain his humanity while the worker would regain his rights and dignity.

Word of advice though. You are speaking about a crucial matter and no one seems to read and comment but a few measly readers.

For you to attain greater attention - which you must - you have to shake things up, be blunt, and speak as loud as you can about what's going on - about the truth.

You are too sensitive, too civil, too damn polite.

If you want change, cut it out.

This is a serious problem. Many men and women - God I feel so sorry for those women, something about a woman getting beat up or insulted just annoys the hell outta me - many workers are being insulted, beaten, overworked, and underpaid .. they deserve your rage, harsh words, and the truth.

Post comments on other bloggers posts, asking them to wake the hell up and stop mistreating their maids. Entitle your post with things like "Are all Kuwaitis Monstrous" if only to attain attention.

The cause - your humanitarian cause - allows such anger and rage against what goes on in Kuwait against such groups.

Although I have been blessed with humanitarian parents and never witnessed what you've written about .. just reading about these cases made me mad as hell.

This field is SO vast.

We need to learn about domestic workers, get to know a house maid - for example - her picture, her background, her likes and dislikes, her family back home .. we (and I speak for the public not only myself) need to realize that they're ordinary human beings with the same wants, needs, and self-respect that we Kuwaitis take for granted. We need such strong posts.

We must shed light on so many matters that are just popping into my head like crazy (which I'll talk about in future posts) ..

I am ashamed of myself, for not realizing this sooner and doing something about it.

Thank you.

nabeel said...

wow anon

i so resonate with what youre saying. believe me even though i am diplomatic on this blog - inside i'm more angry about this than any other cause ive come across.

in my head all sorts of things go on - im angry - pissed off, amazed at the amount of evil, amazed even more by the amount of laziness and indifference that lets it happen, amazed at the burecracy that even the good guys set up and have to go through to get anything done

I am sooooo glad that youve taken this attitude for yourself - to also be involved personally. Trust me it makes such a difference to even blog writers like me who write in the hope that some reader somewhere will have that sort of internal dilemma and come out determined.

why not express my rage on this blog? Well for one I am a guest writer and everything I say also represents the ppl I write for. I had a blog once where I didnt even think twice about what i was writing because i had no agenda - just pure anger. I wrote exactly how i felt at any particular moment. but ppl didnt like that. Even the good guys.

because even though good guys can be indifferent, lazy, cant be bothered... for some reason they are also ridiculolusly 'sensitive' when you criticize them or their country. They get offended because there is always some deep internal thing that refuses to hear criticism - PARTICULARLY from someone of 'lower' class.

I've witnessed that among some of my closest friends. You say - hey how can we make this better and they go - uhhh are you criticising Kuwait - the country that puts food on your table and a roof over your head?

Im sure youve read on other blogs -ppl complain about kuwait and the response of all the Kuwaiti readers is - you dont like it? then GTFO!

Its become a nonsensical game and the rules go like this:

1. create awareness but dont piss anyone off by suggesting there's a problem

2. Be diplomatic to even the most evil ppl you deal with because you might have to go to them again and again to get things done

3. Keep your anger inside because even the ppl that would help you (like all 2 of them) are more likely to get angry at you for criticizing Kuwait than they are at the fact that their next door neighbour just raped their maid, beat them ,didnt feed or pay them and then pushed them out of a window to die.

So to make a small difference - make everyone your friend and then go into your room and bang your head against a wall. I HATE playing games - but the whole system is set up like one so I have to play.

But you know, sometimes people go home to their families, even with a bit of cash in their pockets. and then I see why rage, although more natural, needs to be put on hold in favour of diplomacy. Especially for us expats.

if you're kuwaiti and you're enraged - by ALL means. GO FOR IT!
Go out and get some change and God bless you on your way!

In fact Ive found that all the truly helpful and compassionate citizens, anon, are the ones who always give their parents credit for being genuinely good ppl.

So God bless all Kuwaiti parents in the raising of their children because that makes the ultimate difference.

sws said...

I cannot thank you enough for writing in this blog, I am honored to have such a passionate humanitarian such as yourself express his views here. You are a rare human being and please free to write whatever you want as long as you don't critize the prophits and the amir personally. God bless you Nabeel. See you next week.

Anonymous said...

SWS,

What a sweet comment :-)

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Nabeel,

You're right on in regards to restricting yourself to further your cause.

I learned so much in the past few days. I guess I'm talking as a Kuwaiti (Kuwaiti attitude), which is a status that allows more freedom and security to be awarded than that to non-Kuwaitis and residents who are discriminately denied such Kuwaiti privileges.

I called my mom up and asked about what she had experienced in regards to this field.

She said that a while back, she went over to a house maid office to receive her new maid. Although the maid had just arrived in Kuwait and had never had any experience (good or bad) in housekeeping, she was absolutely terrified.

My mom was determined why this lady was so scared. It turned out that the ladies at the office (who were of the same nationality) had "enlightened" her with ideas as how to behave.

They instructed her not to talk back, to work non-stop, never to complain, never to ask for anything, bottom line was they asked her not to live but to be this little ghost around the house, voiceless.

They told her that even if she gets insulted or beat up she should be fine with that.

No wonder she was petrified, I'm just amazed she didn't turn back and flee the country upon hearing that.

Instead of such criminal instructions, there should be people who provide these repressed groups with sound advice that would help keep their integrity and maybe even save their lives.

nabeel said...

thanks sws :D its entirely my pleasure.

anon - thats shocking to hear. The problem as you say, is so vast and covers so many areas and so many different ppl.

sigh oh well - i better actually write a post now.

AlQ.. said...

When I move back to Kuwait, do you mind if I get in touch with you?