Migrant groups demand public apology from Kuwaiti blogger

The video was taken down after drawing heavy criticism. (File Photo: Instagram)
Updated 22 July 2018
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Migrant groups demand public apology from Kuwaiti blogger

  • Al-Qattan complained about new laws giving Filipino household workers at least one day off a week
  • Al-Qattan “continues to cling to a backward outlook which literally belongs to the dark ages,” they said

MANILA: Migrant groups have demanded a public apology from a Kuwaiti makeup blogger who has come under fire for what has been widely perceived as a racist post about Filipino maids in her country.
In a joint statement, Migrante International and SANDIGAN vehemently condemned the “degrading remarks” by Kuwaiti social media influencer Sondos Al-Qattan, who complained about new laws giving Filipino household workers at least one day off a week and allowing them to keep their passports.
“We strongly demand that she offer (a) public apology and genuinely express remorse for her disgusting statements,” the migrant groups said.
Al-Qattan reportedly said in a video she posted on July 14: “The new laws that have been passed are pathetic. Honestly, I disagree. For (a maid) to take a day off every week, that’s four days a month. Those are the days that she’ll be out. And we don’t know what she’ll be doing on those days, with her passport on her.”
She added: “How can you have a servant at home who gets to keep their passport with them? If they ran away and went back to their country, who’ll refund me? I don’t want a Filipino maid anymore.”
The video was taken down after drawing heavy criticism. The migrant groups said by projecting herself as a “slave-owner,” Al-Qattan was exhibiting “intoxication in her overinflated ego and false sense of superiority.”
They added that she should have known by now that workers have rights and deserve just and humane treatment from their employers.
Al-Qattan “continues to cling to a backward outlook which literally belongs to the dark ages,” they said.
It would be “valuable to her if she can visit the Philippines to witness for herself the appalling poverty that grips many Filipino families and find out what hardships OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) had to go through in government agencies before they can finally be deployed abroad,” the migrant groups added.
A group of lawyers providing free legal services to OFWs said Al-Qattan’s attitude “smacks of insensitivity and lack of knowledge of human rights and migrant workers’ rights.”
Purificacion Bartolome-Bernabe, president of the International Pro Bono Association, told Arab News: “It is our duty to call out such behavior. Unchecked, it will open migrant workers to more exploitation.”
Attorney Farah Decano, a member of the lawyers’ group, said Al-Qattan exposed her “ignorance” on human rights.
“Her reckless remark manifests her twisted values and her lack of respect for other citizens of the world,” Decano added.
“She has just caused an indelible blemish on her reputation. Unfortunately, no makeup can conceal that now.”
Meanwhile, popular Emirati social commentator Khalid Al-Ameri has earned the praise and respect of many Filipinos for coming to the defense of OFWs.
In a video he uploaded on social media, Al-Ameri responded to Al-Qattan by asking: “How would you feel if you worked for someone who didn’t only not give you the day off, but disagreed with the very ideology that you deserve a day off?”
He said: “If I’m not mistaken, almost every job in the world, barring a few security jobs and military jobs, have a day off, a day of rest, a day to go out, a day to enjoy life.”
He added: “We aren’t robots. At the end of the day, we’re all humans and expect to have time to rest and time for ourselves.”
Al-Ameri described as “far more ridiculous” Al-Qattan’s opposition to OFWs being allowed to keep their passports.
“After listening to your rant, if I worked for you I’d run so far away the CIA wouldn’t be able to find me,” he said.
“I’d dig a hole so deep you wouldn’t be able to smell my scent, you wouldn’t hear me breathe. I’d disappear. I’d cease to exist. I’d never show my face in this world again out of fear that you might find me and that you might ask me to work for you again,” he added.
“There’s a reason they keep running away from you, and maybe you’re that reason,” he added.
“I believe we’re all human beings on this planet who all want the same things in life: To be happy, to grow old with people that we love, to take care of our families and to just be at peace. And I think anyone who gets in the way of that is a serious problem to this world, and to the way we want to live our lives.”
Al-Ameri thanked “every single domestic worker in this part of the world for helping us and for being part of our families.”
Retired Philippine Army Gen. Joselito Kakilala thanked Al-Ameri for his “compassion,” saying: “The Filipino people love you (for) standing for their rights.”


Iran faces angry online backlash over activists’ abuse claims

Since protests began in December, Iranians have had their internet access disrupted and have lost access to the messaging app Telegram. (Reuters)
Updated 20 min 38 sec ago
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Iran faces angry online backlash over activists’ abuse claims

  • The Arab minority in southwest Iran has long claimed that it faces discrimination from the central government

GENEVA, LONDON: In early January, labor activist Esmail Bakhshi posted a letter on Instagram saying he had been tortured in jail, attracting support from tens of thousands of Iranians online.
Bakhshi, who said he was still in pain, also challenged the intelligence minister to a public debate about the religious justification for torture. Late last month, Bakhshi was rearrested.
Sepideh Qoliyan, a journalist covering labor issues in the Ahvaz region, was also rearrested on the same day after saying on social media that she had been abused in jail.
Bakhshi’s allegations of torture and the social media furor that followed led Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to call for an investigation, and the intelligence minister subsequently met with a parliamentary committee to discuss the case, a rare example of top officials being prompted to act by a public backlash online.
“Each sentence and description of torture from the mouths of #Sepideh_Qoliyan and #Esmail_Bakhshi should be remembered and not forgotten because they are now alone with the torturers and under pressure and defenseless. Let us not forget,” a user named Atish posted on Twitter in Farsi on Feb. 11.
“When thousands of people share it on social media, the pressure for accountability goes up,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director at the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran. “Sham investigations won’t put it to rest. Social media is definitely becoming a major, major public square in Iran.”
Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said last month, without naming Bakhshi, that allegations of torture online constitute a crime.
His comments follow growing pressure from officials to close Instagram, which has about 24 million users in Iran. Iran last year shut down the Telegram messaging app, which had about 40 million users in the country, citing security concerns.
“Today you see in cyberspace that with the posting of a film or lie or rumor the situation in the country can fall apart,” Dolatabadi said, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency. “You saw in recent days that they spread a rumor and announced the rape of an individual or claimed suicide and recently you even saw claims of torture and all the powers in the country get drawn in. Today cyberspace has been transformed into a very broad platform for committing crimes.”
The arrests of Bakhshi and Qoliyan are part of a crackdown in Ahvaz, center of Iran’s Arab population. Hundreds of activists there pushing for workers’ and minority rights, two of the most contentious issues in Iran, have been detained in recent weeks.
The Arab minority in southwest Iran has long claimed that it faces discrimination from the central government.