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Domestic workers in Kuwait: 20,000 complaints per year 6, October 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Kuwait.
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Human Rights Watch reports that abuse of domestic workers in Kuwait is rising. Compounding this is the fact that if or when abused workers seek to escape torturous conditions they may face prosecution.

HRW continues to repeat what is known by anyone with but a passing interest in this topic:

  • Salaries can be (and are) easily withheld from the workers
  • Workers are often forced to work exceedingly long hours – there is no law protecting them
  • Many have been deprived of adequate food and water
  • Many have been physically or sexually abused

The sheer numbers involved beggar belief.

In 2009, domestic workers from Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Philippines and Ethiopia filed over 10,000 complaints of abuse with their embassies.

Worse still, this data does not include reports from Indian maids who make up nearly half of the 660,000 domestic workers in Kuwait. Can we, therefore, say that, unless Indian workers are treated better, for which I see no convincing rationale, there are somewhere in the region of 20,000 complaints per year? This is truly a horrific number.

Perhaps Kuwait’s mooted decision to get rid of the kefala system by February 2011 is a chink of light in an otherwise wholly depressing and repetitive saga.

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Ex-pats patter: alcohol, porn and sex in the Kingdom 6, October 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
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I’ve just stumbled upon an excellent article on the Saudi Prince currently on trial in London for murder (pictured above beating his servant). Both this article and ones that it refers to have a wealth of interesting little tid-bits which I include below for your perusal.

In 1980, the Saudi government expelled our [the British] ambassador and banned Concorde from its airspace after ITV screened “Death of a Princess” about a young royal who was executed for the “crime” of conducting a secret relationship.

The details of the case make [the Prince’s homosexuality] plain – something called the Spartacus International Gay Guide was found in his room, and two male escort agencies testified he had used their services.

The following quotes are taken from this article.

Riyadh is honeycombed with black markets in pirated goods, arms and munitions, drugs and alcohol. There are more guns in neighbouring Yemen than there are people; most of these guns can be purchased openly at markets and then smuggled across the border. Kalashnikovs, grenades, rocket launchers are bought by Saudis for recreational use at their desert camps, where they also chase African ostriches and hoon around on muscular quad bikes. When a student drove me home from a camp recently, I was not surprised to see a loaded revolver in the glove compartment of his four-wheel-drive – most students have their own firearms, as evidenced by the number of ammunition shells I keep finding on the ground, and even in the classroom.

Pornography is not an urban myth in the kingdom: it is beamed into every home wired up for satellite television – including mine. While women in the kingdom are covered from head to toe in black, and images of women in conservative lifestyle magazines are blotted out by the censors’ black markers, a galaxy of hardcore porn programmes is available on subscription. There are also dozens of free-to-air channels that promote phone sexlines. Pirated copies of Hollywood films featuring flesh scenes are, of course, available under the counter at video stores throughout the kingdom. And although the internet is officially censored, there are dozens of proxy websites circulated by students, which provide an anonymous, uncensored portal into everything on the web.

For those who know where to look, there are unlimited opportunities in the kingdom that let you take the step from illicit fantasy to reality…a Saudi gentleman offered us a ride along the Corniche beach in his four-wheel-drive…It wasn’t until we were a few kilometres down the road that, from the back seat, I noticed the Saudi man’s hand massaging the inner thigh of my anxious, perspiring friend sitting in the front passenger seat. Later, when I tried to explain to the Saudi man that my colleague was heterosexual, he was surprised: “Is he fasting?” He then suggested we all go swimming in the Arabian Gulf – naked.

While many compound-dwelling, western expatriates build and maintain small distilleries to produce their own home-brewed alcoholic drinks, including wine, I was invited to join the secret Single Malt Scotch Whisky Society of Riyadh. Every fortnight, a group of connoisseurs – foreign diplomats, British, US and Australian expatriate lawyers and bankers, senior government officials, prominent businessmen and Saudi royalty – meet at an apartment in a western compound to consume dozens of bottles of the finest whisky in the world. Under a cloud of Cuban cigar smoke, interesting discussions develop – World Trade Organisation standards, the Galileo satellite navigation system, the looming introduction of new national Saudi identification card technology – before business cards are exchanged, secrets shared and deals made.

Do I necessarily believe everything written here? Of course not. Ex-pat gossip is in a league of its own. Yet, having said that, none of this surprises me.

For an article of the closeted nature of homosexuality in the Kingdom have a read of this.

The Noor Islamic Bank sign 6, October 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in The Emirates.
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The exceptional, eagle-eyed, entertaining and engaging Economist expert Jane Kinninmont spotted a superb sign on Noor Islamic Bank in Mall of the Emirates:

We’re still banking as long as you’re still shopping.

Hmm…not sure that was their best ever slogan.

If I were in a churlish mood I might turn this into a rant about how various Gulf institutions are failing to appreciate the scale of the problems that they are in and are patently not taking them seriously. As it is, I just think it’s a good sign. Shame whoever thought of it (unless s/he has wasta) will be out of a job if and when this gets back to the bigwigs.

Map of Europe by stereotypes 6, October 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Random.
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It’s been too long since I posted a map from StrangeMaps.

This one is from a German perspective. Turkey is ‘workforce source’, Britain is ‘Enigma code hackers’, Czechoslovakia is ‘Prague’, Spain and Greece are ‘Cheap hotels’ and Belgium is ‘waffles’. I like it.

The Niqabitches 6, October 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in French IR.
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Here are the Niqabitches protesting France’s banning of the Burka. Go to the Arabist’s website to see their video (with lovely music).

Brazil striker: ‘Emiratis look like terrorists’ 6, October 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in The Emirates.
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Andre, the Brazilian (soccer) striker arrived in Abu Dhabi for Brazil’s friendly with Iran this week and promptly insulted his hosts.

Everything here is lovely, but the people are all walking around in hoods and cloaks. It gave me a bit of a fright because all the staff here looked like terrorists!

I came here in a car with someone who was hooded like that, and I wondered if he was going to blow up the car!

What a little jester.

I wonder if anything will come of this. While he clearly said this as a joke I dare say that some Emiratis might not find it that funny. All it needs is for the ‘wrong’ Sheikh or magazine to get hold of it and there’ll be grovelling, profuse and confused apologies all around.

Hat tip: Dan Nolan

Lions attack trainers 6, October 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Random.
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I’m really not any kind of an animal rights activist. I don’t even like animals that much and certainly never want to go on a safari which sounds like the dullest form of holiday imaginable. I’d prefer to go on a cruise with middle-aged people and eat my self half to death.

Yet I truly have no sympathy for these lion tamers and was rooting for the Lions throughout this video. I’m amazed that Circuses are not banned in these more enlightened days. Imagine trying to coax (read: beat, torture) a lion into sitting on a chair or some such thing. Truly I’m glad that he was bitten and am only sorry that the poor lions will now surely face severe retribution.