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Viciously racist cartoon in Qatari daily paper 7, December 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, The Gulf.
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Some weeks ago Qatari  Gulf Times published a vicious, stereotyped cartoon referring to maids killing babies.

Domestic worker issues are prevalent in many of the Gulf States. When I refer to ‘issues’ I am referring to widespread violence, mistreatment, contract infringements and more frequent than you may expect examples of rape perpetrated on workers brought over often from South East Asia. Indeed, so arduous and essentially awful is their treatment at the hands of their Gulfy employers (i.e. a minority of ordinary Gulf families) that there are daily reports of worker suicides by, for example, drinking bleach, to be found across Gulf daily newspapers. The key here is to think of just how awful their life must be for them to find the option of drinking bleach as preferable.

The US State Department maintains an annual people trafficking tier system ranking countries across the world. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iran are in the US’ third and worst tier of offenders. Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are one tier up on the Tier 2 watch list. There is, therefore, unequivocally a sizable problem region-wide.

Many of the excuses that are trotted out in mock/quasi defense of the flagrant abuse of domestic workers stem from essentially apocryphal stories about maids and babysitters attacking or killing children in their care.

This cartoon, therefore, is viciously making fun of this situation. Satire is an useful tool to be aimed at the pompous and powerful. These people have neither of these things: they don’t even have their own passports. It is wrong and utterly risible and reprehensible of this cartoonist (mo7md@raya.com) to design and for the Gulf Times to print this cartoon. It is not even as if the cartoon is that smart or witty: read the caption.

“Your mum shouted at me today just becauseI [sic] broke a plate. An I am going to strike back. Count on me you brat, you won’t sleep at home tonight! You will stay at Al Sadd Children’s’ Emergency. Open your mouth now. This dish I havemade [sic] will make you dizzy for hours.”

This is clunky, poorly written, poorly punctuated and lifeless English, written by someone with a shaky grasp of the language, trying, I assume, to be cutting and mean to a wholly disenfranchised and downtrodden segment of society. What a guy.

Satire: biting, mean, vindictive and harsh satire, I have no problem with. Yet, – it bears mentioning once again – the key is who it is aimed at. For the Gulf Times to sanction this piece promoting however slightly the myth that persists and is to some degree responsible for violence faced by domestic workers problems in the region, vilifying the utterly defenceless workers that raise most nationals’ children in the Gulf is, essentially, a disgusting and bullying decision. Shame on them.

Bahrain bans its oldest newspaper 23, June 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Bahrain, Iran.
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Authorities in Bahrain have closed down the oldest newspaper in the country after a reporter alleged that Iranian President Ahmadinajad was Jewish. It is not known when Akhbar Al Khaleej (Gulf News) will reopen. An article – ‘Islamic Republic – Popular Fury’ by a female member of Bahrain’s Consultative Council, Samira Rajab, which slammed Ahmadinajad’s government is believed to have precipitated the closure, though this has not been officially confirmed. The author was repeating an oft mooted notion that Ahmadinahad has in fact changed his name from the Jewish name Saborjhian.

The immediate and somewhat drastic reaction of the Bahraini authorities is surprising. Bahrain has a majority Shia population of Iranian descent and thus perhaps it was to allay any potential issues there. Alternatively, Bahrain could have wanted to temper any Iranian reaction to the story. It was only a few months ago that the speaker of the Iranian Parliament bemoaned the fact that Bahrain used to be to be considered as Iranian territory. This drew a vociferous reaction from Bahrain as such statements hit an exceedingly raw nerve in Manama.

Their overly-placatory reaction to this story highlights the changeable nature of Gulf politics.Perhaps included in the Bahraini calculation is Iran’s war games exercises in the Gulf this week. Whilst such activities may well be somewhat threatening, the US fleet anchored in Manama and their stated desire to expand their port space in Bahrain, ought to assuage any Bahraini worries.