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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 971

Slavery in Saudi Arabia

By M. Zulkifli Nazim

The United Nations, Human Rights Organizations and other governmental and non-governmental organizations and administrations are trying their utmost, to the greatest possible degree, to eradicate the vestiges of slavery from its very roots.

Ironically, the rulers of a country, vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia, which pride themselves as the protectors of the Holy Places of Islam, a religion that is supposed to supposed to have uprooted slavery, are involved in slavery and even are encouraging this vassalage.

The worst part is that these are being done in this modern civilized era right under the noses of every authority, every institution and everything that is decent which oppose slavery:

What is this slavery we are talking about? The lexical definition of “slavery” is:

1. The state of being under the control of another person.

2. The practice of owning slaves.

3. Work done under harsh conditions for little or no pay.

A person who is offered employment in Saudi Arabia is promised the world; but what we see is, other than a very few privileged people and very few reputed institutions which do the right thing, the majority of those who live and work in Saudi Arabia are subject to this lexical definition of “Slavery” as given above.

As soon as the prospective employee lands in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, his Passport is “confiscated” by the institution or the individual who is referred to as “Kafeel” – meaning “Sponsor” who was responsible in getting the work visa and the individual is given a piece of paper called the “Aqama” – a form of Identity Card, which he has to carry around.

Once the Passport is surrendered and the Aqama is given, the man or woman are virtually slaves of the individual or the unscrupulous institution and is completely under their control.

They cannot do anything without the permission of this “Kafeel”, even for an emergency. Even if it necessitates visiting ailing parents or wife or children they have to wait for the Kafeel’s permission. Invariably these people are hard to find and are never there when you need them – they only surface when the time of renewal of this Aqama is round the corner where they demand exhorbitant and unrealistic fees from this unfortunate “slave”, without any compunction or human feeling.

Majority of workers are poor, who have gone to Saudi Arabia, to eke out a living, laboriously working in precarious conditions, day by day with the greatest difficulty, for the upkeep of their families in their home country. Now, they are trapped and invariably have to give in to the demands of these monsters. And this monster practically owns this slave.

The whole world is aware of the fact that in countless innumerable instances that those employed by private individuals or unscrupulous organizations are not paid what they are promised, they are drastically reduced or sometimes not even paid at all.

Moreover, if this so-called Kafeel, gets “fed-up” with this individual, he practically “sells” him to another equally heartless monster. In other words, he hands over the sponsorship to another individual for a pecuniary consideration and now this “slave” is owned by another “master”. And this master-slave system goes in to loop after loop until the individual leaves the country or dies a natural death or commits suicide.

The Passport, is the property of the country which is issued to the said individual and no one has the right to take over the Passport from this individual. Because once the Passport leaves the hand of the owner, nobody knows what will happen to it.

The “Kafeel” can lose it, even purposely shred it, burn it and destroy it and no one will be the wiser. Governments, the world over, must take action through Diplomatic channels to ensure that this personal freedom is not abused or curtailed.

All Organizations, especially the United Nations including the Government of the Kindgom of Saudi Arabia must take into cognizance this modern day slavery and issue an international proclamation, to totally eliminate, terminate and extirpate this inhuman cold-blooded behavior by these insensate, monstrous, atrocious, shockingly brutal individuals and institutions.

- Asian Tribune -

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