culture, discussion, Make a difference

Two Open Letters

Dear American and foreign countries,

I want you to discriminate against Saudi, Kuwaiti, Omani, and Emiratis so badly. I want you to treat them exactly the same way they treat Indian, Bangladeshi and Filipino workers. I want you for example to force Emiratis to work under the heat of sun for less than 2 dollar per hour. I want you to make fun of Saudi exactly the same way they make fun of Asian workers. I want you to never allow Kuwaiti to eat with you in the same table and when he asked why, tell him that you are from a better social class than he is just like some Kuwaiti assumes that they are from better social class than Asian labors. I want you to get Omani maid, and force her to work 24 hours without rest just like Filipino maids work with no rest for Omani families.  I want you to force every Saudi that comes to your to convert to Christianity, or whatever religion you like just like Saudi force foreign workers to convert to Islam.

Maybe when we feel how is it like to be under oppression and discrimination, we will become more aware of how bad our actions and treatments to Others. Maybe our governments will understand that  the discrimination against forign labor workers will lead to a discrimination against  our own citizens.

I hear everyday a discrimination and an insult against some labor workers in the Gulf countries and nobody stands against it, no newspaper write about it, no government official speak up against it.  But when one Saudi, or Kuwait, or Emiratie guy has been discriminated against in the West or in America, the Gulf turn upside down and every newspaper write about it and every government official stands against it.

Now dear Saudi, Emirati, and Kuwaiti,

There is a simple rule in life, it is “treat others the same way you want others to treat you”  so If you don’t stand up against discrimination on any country, race, or religion, then please don’t ask others to stand up when some people discriminate against your country or religion.

You have an obligation to stand up against discrimination wherever it is, just like you have an obligation to pray five days times a week. It is not like saying “oh, that isn’t of my business” because your silence is counted as if you are supporting the problem.  So, please never allow any discrimination to happen in your home, or in your neighbor or in your country.


I made a generalization in this post just to emphasize the urgency of the whole society to speak about this problem. I know that there are many Saudi, Kuwaiti, Omani, and Emiratis who are strongly against discrimination on labor workers from all the countries. So please don’t take the post personally.

19 thoughts on “Two Open Letters”

  1. great topic!
    I wrote something similar about discrimination in my Arabic blog…I think people who speak only Arabic need to read such topics more than others…

    I totally agree with you, but I think that countries like India, Pakistan, etc..are not setting rules and policies to protect their citizens..for example, why does a country like Pakistan send its people to work for very low wages?

    It’s a two-side problem…but we surly have to do our bit in treating people as human beings.

    Maha Noor Elahi


  2. @مها نور إلهي,
    I actually got inspired to write about this problem from reading your blog. I will add your post to the link about Saudi who has spoken openly about the problem.
    Thank you again for your encouragement

    There are many Saudi who are better than me, but unfortunately they don’t blog 😦 so they are unseen

  3. I often brag about what a wonderful young man you are — such a considerate, compassionate spirit. I’m so thankful for people such as you who speak out against injustices even when your own people are doing wrong. It’s easier to speak against outsiders, but harder to challenge your own people to do the right thing. You do both, and this proves what great character you have.

  4. Fortunately or unfortunately what you have mentioned above is mostly true. Asians are not treated with respect in middle east as usual. And Arabs in other countries are treated worse than Asians. Women who wear hijab or men who wear arabian clothes do get negatively looked at. Most of the successful arab people in the west are the ones who hide their arab culture and origin. They blend with the local by dressing, talking and doing things their way.

  5. MashAllah, I admire your compassion.

    Maybe when the tables are turned, maybe it will work and people will have some sense knocked into their heads.


    Maybe it won’t work. Maybe it will just jumpstart a huge train of hate. Maybe all we need (or can do) right now is to start with ourselves.

    Which is what you are doing. Much respect.

  6. It is not just the GCC Murtadha, check out this blog committed to “ETHIOPIAN SUICIDES…

    There is also maid abuse and worker abuse everywhere humans work for each other, the methods might change, the services might be different, but… if u do read about human transgressions towards each other… prepare to lose your innocence, because the picture is ugly.

  7. Eye opening post!

    I understand how urgent the problem is, and therefore you generalized.

    Maybe giving people a dose of their own medicine is just what is needed.

  8. I have been struggling with how to comment on this post, because it is well-done and compassionate but I think a little one-sided and maybe naive.

    Certainly in Hong Kong it was well-known and acknowledged among all that the best employers for Filipina maids (almost all live in maids there are Filipina) were Americans (including Canadians), then Westerners (Europeans) generally, and the worst were the Hong Kong Chinese. Americans aren’t used to having maids let alone live in ones and tend to be easier in terms of hours, and tasks and more generous with accommodation, normal food, and treating them with respect and like family members.

    The Hong Kong Chinese, and the expats from South Asian and East Asian countries tend to have more of a “master-slave dialectic” if I may put it that way. The Chinese are more likely to make the maid sleep on the floor, or in the kitchen or in the pantry on the floor, to work them 24/7 doing whatever tasks, treat them as subhuman, provide only poor quality, cheap food, leftovers, and make them eat standing at the sink or squatting in the kitchen, or at the very least apart from family.

    In the Philippines the wealthy treat their Filipina domestic staff in a similar manner, ie not allowing the family nanny to eat at the dinner table or lunch table with the children or the family.

    In Morocco there is the phenomenon of “les petites bonnes”, some of the petites are younger than others, ie pre-pubertal, and as young as 6. This is a program run by the government whereby children/ teens are hired, usually from poor rural families, as live in maids to other families, usually wealthier (as in not maids themselves) urban ones, for a minimum monthly wage set by the government and to be paid to the parents. The wage is lower than an adult minimum wage but not abysmal.

    However, the full wage is not usually paid, the child sees none of it, and the work hours and living conditions like the treatment vary depending on the family. Some treat the little maids very well. Some abuse them in terms of overwork, some reprimand physically (as happens to Moroccan children too). Some little maids–hopefully the post-pubertal ones at least–are sexually abused, some sexually used (obviously inappropriate no matter what).

    Sad to say that while my nuclear family treat any maids in their orbit well, not all of the extended family does–including the ones the biological in laws married. So that I know first hand that some post-pubertal maids are the mistress of the “man” of the house; some 7 year olds have been smacked in the face by the “woman” of the house sending them flying across the change room of the public hammam for…smiling? laughing? having fun? AND not bringing the family towels fast enough and not taking care of the family little ones fast enough. Sad to say that under the influence of his wife, my otherwise wonderful BIL who was raised better and knows better, tricked the 6 year old into answering the phone when they were out and then hit her for it. Also under the influence of his wife, in order to punish me for a joke I made 2 years earlier, they left the same 6 year old locked in the house with no food, until we figured it out and bought groceries, and had lunch with her. We also found her on the kitchen balcony playing nicely with a cockroach…well because she is 6 and had no toys, and wasn’t allowed to touch anything. Oh, and although they have sufficient space to sleep about 12 minimum Moroccan style (ie on the banquettes that are sofas by day and beds by night) she sleeps on the floor in the kitchen.

    One of my deliberate cultural faux pas was to insist that when all family members and their little maids were going to the corniche for the evening, that she be included, although my SIL didn’t want her included. Trying to pass his wife’s bad behaviour off as normal, my BIL said “there is no room”, so I said “Fine, she can have my place and I’ll stay home and read” and I refused to get in any one of the 4 cars going until she was in the back seat of one with the rest of the kids.

    Another semi-deliberate cultural faux pas was to kiss the little maid hello and good bye (French style on each cheek) as I did with the others. One day I was walking up the stairs of the apartment building and she and the other family maids were playing with the family children and some neighbour children. Though it was midday ie no need for kissing hello and goodbye, she popped up in front of me and said “Bonjour madame” and lifted her face up so I of course said “Bonjour” and gave her the expected kisses. She beamed and was elevated in her own eyes in front of these other children. My uncle in law walking behind me, unbeknownst to me, said as we continued up the stairs, and in French “So now we are kissing maids, are we?”, to which I replied “I kiss all CHILDREN hello”. Need I specify he is one of the ones with the adolescent maid “on the side”?

    It seems to me that one of the greatest deprivations that these little maids and other domestic servants, especially those far from home and loved ones suffer is that of NORMAL affection and caring.

  9. OOPS–long and I wasn’t finished yet! 😦

    The other half of the equation of your post is that the conditions in the countries of origin of the people exploited in Saudi are often worse: economically and also in terms of how underlings are treated, caste systems formal and formal, discrimination, etc. There are reasons that even those who know the problems in Saudi (and some are of those are all over even the international press) stay, return, or come for the first time. Those reasons are based as much in the conditions in their home countries as those in the “lands of promises”.

    It is also part of the reason that the maids do go after and hope to steal the man of the house from the woman of the house, or land the son of the house, and become the woman of their own house, and treat their own maids similarly (I also know that one for a fact from psychotherapy patients).

    So, you obviously wrote an excellent and inspiring post, Murtadha, and I hope you will return to explore the other sides of the issue.

  10. @ADNISA & Qusay
    I know for sure that this is a national problem that exist in many countries around the world, but I think I am more responsible to spread the awareness among my society.

    What a great comment. I totally agree with you that this post is one side argument and certainly there are many sides that I haven’t explore in this post, maybe in future posts. However, I made present this post of one side for purpose. I was trying to present the urgency for speaking and solving this problem.
    Thank you Chiara for providing me more information about other sides of the argument. I will keep your comments in my consideration as I am preparing to write more posts about this issues

  11. Murtadha–thank YOU, for a great post, and I look forward to your further thoughts, and creative approaches to this most difficult issue! 🙂

  12. …it’s either i am indifferent or lucky, being in every human sub-group (muslim, asian, women, hijabi, etc) that is known to get discriminated one way or the other, I never have any such negative experience …
    …and i fully understand this sort of problem or issue is rather universal and one should not get carried away over-generalizing those surrounding the issue…
    …but when it happens in the GCC (particularly KSA), i am concerned … like it or not, to many, the behaviour and life of people in the GCC somehow reflect islam…i cannot accept islam being tarnished by the very people who should spread its beauty…
    …and also, i cannot take it when the other few who understand this issue at the end of the analysis would say ‘this is not islam, this is the Arabs’… obviously the analysis is about arab muslim when they separate islam and arabs…i m not arab but i am muslim… i may not love arabs but by default i still love muslims…whatever hurt those i love hurt me as well…
    …murtadha, TQVM for this post…
    …btw, i love arabs as much as i love asian as much as i love the others…

  13. Asalamu Alaikum Murtadha! I not too long ago found your blog, and I think you have some interesting posts. MashaAllah, this post is VERY wonderful, and may it chance people’s views!!!

  14. ‘You have an obligation to stand up against discrimination wherever it is, just like you have an obligation to pray five days a week.’

    Murtadha, I think your ‘five days a week’ should be ‘five times a day’ or ‘seven days a week’. The phrase ‘five times a day’ is commonly used and that was how I subconcsciously read it then. I missed that before as the intent and content of your open letters was overwhelming.

  15. First of all, thank you for your compassion and for being open-minded.

    I’m a Filipino and have been working in KSA for more than 3 years. At first, my Arab employer was really terrorizing me. He’s treating me like an idiot and always humiliating me in front of others. Nevertheless, I exerted my best in work without receiving any appreciation whatsoever. But one time, I passed my resignation, and he begged me to stay..

    Filipinos are very good at work but they were never recognized. They think Filipinos are stupid people but I really don’t know why they still keep on recruiting Filipinos. More than one million Filipinos are working in KSA and I wonder what will happen to KSA if the Philippines will ban
    Filipinos from working in KSA.

    We, Filipinos, are kind and polite, by nature. We value the respect and appreciation being given to us. And in return, we give what is due to our employers with with all respect and high regards.

    Again, thank you for your concern.

  16. @Chiara

    Extremely late but I’d like to also give in my own personal observation on how wealthy Filipino families treat their maids.

    I have to disagree, perhaps back in the haciendero days (this is the Spanish version of the feudal setup, passed down to the Filipino elite), but most of the time I don’t think so. Maids or yaya, as they’re called here, are treated more like an ate (sister) than just another household help. Off the top of my head, I can think of examples like Sharon Cuneta’s (famous actress) relationship with her faithful yaya, the woman have taken care of her literally from birth even up till now that Cuneta’s already in her mid40s and she has her own family. Of course the woman’s a granny now, Cuneta pays for her bills and even paid her yaya’s children’s education.

    Probably the bit about not eating at the same time along with the family for the rich and the wealthy is still true, but not generally. We also have a yaya, most of our neighbors do and I don’t think their employers are pointedly excluding them from meals. Our yaya doesn’t eat with us most of the time because she eats at her own pace.

    That said, I also can’t deny that definitely there are cases where domestic help are still abused by our own countrymen, which makes this issue not only particular in Saudi Arabia but for most countries as well.

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