Their pain, our pride….

October 8, 2010
By

I’m very ordinary man. My ability to protest or point out something that I think is wrong is probably confined within this blog. But still, now technology has given me the opportunity to share my thoughts with the world, and I like to take that advantage. So here I go again! I was reading about Bandar Abdulaziz, a 32 year old man, who was beaten and strangled in a London hotel. Nothing unusual right? Well this man had another identity, the identity that took his life. He was the servant of a Saudi prince- Saud Abdulaziz bin Nasser al Saud. His highness in his great wisdom used to beat his servant for pleasure and prosecutors also found evidence of other pleasure the royal courtier had to provide. One night his highness got so drunk that he beat Mr. Abdulaziz to death. There were CCTV footage of his random assaults on hotel lifts which prosecutors found. I don’t want to go on the Saud prince’s action. If he and his ancestry were so civil then they wouldn’t need so many prophets to save them. My thoughts are with Mr. Abdulaziz and millions like him in the Middle East, domestic servants. Domestic servants and the abuse they face in Middle East is becoming folklores. Some of them are so brutal that sometimes I become skeptic of its truth. The next story was one of them. Until I saw the X-ray images online, I couldn’t believe. A Sri Lankan maid servant was nailed by her employers 42 times in different parts of her body. She had to work with nails in her skull. When she almost died, they terminated her “Akama” or work permit and kicked her out. And some of us believe these butchers will directly go to heaven because….

I looked at the X-ray footage and thought, she’s the Jesus of our time. She endured all these so that her family didn’t have to go through  anything like this. The country will shed tears and send millions of saints like her so they can earn a little bit of foreign currency. According to UNHCR there are almost three million domestic workers working in the Middle East at any given moment. Kuwait has the highest population to domestic worker ratio. For 1.3 million citizens there are almost 660,000 migrant workers! But interestingly, none of the countries recognize domestic workers as foreign labors. For that, these workers, of whom majority are women, are not protected by any labor law. I think when they asked what domestic worker means someone gave them a literal translation. It means you can have a domesticated human.  Majority of these women are from Sri Lanka, Philippines, Ethiopia, Nepal and increasing number from countries like Bangladesh. Saudi Arabia has almost 1.2 million domestic workers, the highest number in Middle East. Surprisingly even Lebanon has almost two hundred thousand migrant workers. Most of them don’t get paid regularly, no vacation days, can’t go out without employer supervision. It almost seems like a modern day slavery to me. Countries like the Philippines has opened shelters for fleeing  workers in many of its embassies. That’s the best they can do, said one human rights activist in a report on Human Rights Watch. It’s a good earning source for semi skilled or unskilled workers. Many of them are young mothers and need to support a family. So they think they can go and work for 2-3 years and make a living for them. Most of them are unaware what kind of abuse awaits. Also recruiters and government officials claim the stories to be over exaggerated to keep the supply chain stable, the report added.

I have seen either on Bangladeshi news channels or sometimes on newspapers about workers send back from Middle East, without pay and sometimes badly beaten. I always wonder what the Government could do. With the highest amount of labor force working in the Middle East and remittance as the second largest source of foreign currency, I guess not much. One of my friend informed me, for all the workers in UAE, there’s only two embassy officers. I think it’s our oasis to these workers to comfort them. I can’t remember but I also read a news on Prothom Alo once that the number of migrant workers returning dead without any autopsy or explanation has also increased (if someone can point to the news, I would be grateful).

This is a civic duty to find alternative markets for our migrant workers. A recent news said Singapore will take 45,000 domestic workers from Bangladesh. They’ll pay higher wages then their Middle Eastern counterparts, and I’m not going to bet my life but I’m pretty sure they are not going to come home with nails in their skull. We should also look for alternative markets in Europe and USA. With an increasing older generation in the west there’s a huge need for care givers in these countries and if we can invest some money in institutions with the assistance of certified institution in government or private sector, then this can be a great source of remittance income for Bangladesh. At least they’ll be protected by law and we won’t leave them in the hand of savages. I know most of our workers are illiterate but I’m sure if we try in private sectors we can find alternative labor markets with better condition or where these workers will be protected by labor laws. But the untapped market in the west can be a great opportunity for many of our semi skilled professionals.

I know even in Bangladesh we have the culture of domestic workers and there are stories of abuse to inhuman level. But think about it, at least most of the domestic workers in your neighborhood has the hope of running away and they know there’s someone out there who will help them. But thousands of miles away, these women go to earn a little more then what they have spent. Hopeless, knowing no one’s out there to help them. The only hope they have is God has given them enough power to take all these and go home alive. A dead body would be just another burden to the family. So next time when our policy makers think of finding job market, can someone please tell them not to count them as dollar signs and look at them as human. And also help these people by giving alternatives in the private sector. I’m sure if we make a coordinated effort in public and private sector, our labor market can become more efficient and spread in new markets. And for those of us who live out of the country, if someone sees one of these saints on the street, at least spare a smile. Who knows, may be that’s the first one they saw for ages. :)

His Highness in all his might at London

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10 Responses to Their pain, our pride….

  1. October 8, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    As I am reading this all I can think of his how he could not get away,or anyone to help him? Who is going to stand up to someone like the creep who is hitting him? No one, money is power it seems. Women who live in abusive homes feel there is no one to run to no one to help. I am sure this man had family. When his “owner” goes before God his money and power will not stop the judgement God will have for him. Money can not hide his choice of sexual partner nor his violent acts against another human. I pray for the family of this young man , I pray he is finally safe and free from animals like this “Highness” who in my opinion is the lowest of low.

  2. Sharmin Ahmed
    October 11, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    As Bangladesh is a densely populated country and has capable population, many of whom are unemployed, we should not rule out any possiblity of labor force export by which our country earns huge foreign corrency. Sending labor force abroad has benefits many folds. First of all they become employed and their foreign remittance not only help them but also their families, the community, the village, and the country as a whole. What I am trying to say is the benefit has more than a snow ball effect. The most imperative point is how to overcome obstacles. I put forward a few suggestion that came in my mind. As domestic workers are vulnerable to abuses,
    - one has to make sure that they are VERY WELL TRAINED,
    - they know their RIGHTS and as well as their OBLIGATIONS,
    - they should have some sort of association or cummunity where they can gather for communicating with each other, refreshing themselves. However, these associations should be monitored by a person who is honest, well informed about all areas related to the domestic workers i.e., training, law related to rights and obligations etc. This person should be there to facilitate things.
    - these kind of mingling can happen may be monthly or quarterly. MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE HERE IS TO KEEP THE MASTER HAPPY. I mean the employer because they are the people who are buying the services in exchange of money.
    - one can make these kinds of arrangement when the service contract happen. — if there is a complaint then both parties should be heard rather then taking one side. Always verify as much as possible.
    - Embassies or consulates should participate in these matters as well and as much as possible.

  3. Sharmin Ahmed
    October 11, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    Please note that I make a mistake in my email address which is ahmed27bd@yahoo.com. I just make some suggestions and comment on the imperativeness of Bangladesh’s domestic workers’ opportunities abroad.

  4. Sharmin Ahmed
    October 12, 2010 at 12:44 am

    Most important thing I forgot to mention is that the crime committed on domestic workers previously must be trialed and punished according to the applied countries’ law. I vehemently agree with Nadia’s point of view. Bangladesh must make sure the workers are safe there by following the recommendation that I above mentioned and also most importantly using the recommendations of thinkers, civil rights lawers, and intellectuals in that field. I think I rather use the word BOSS than master. Actually I tried to point out that like any workplace if the boss is happy, the employee is also happy I mean of course in good terms and with due respect on both ways. We live in an era where proper rights, equal opportunity and equality prevail. Hope these amiable and just traits continue forever.

  5. nayeem hossain
    October 12, 2010 at 7:47 am

    @ Nadia, I felt exactly the same way as you felt. It’s sad and heart breaking.

    @ Sharmin Ahmed, you are providing ideas and that is appreciable. The ideas you gave can be implemented in a country only if the countries themselves are open to idea of “rights”.

    Now doubt, remittance is a big source of earning for Bangladesh, and at any point my intention is not discourage people from going abroad for a better living, but the state system needs to ensure we are not putting our citizens in harms way. In many cases these workers are not allowed to go outside of the complex by themselves and embassies are not allowed to contact them. It’s more of the location and condition I’m worried about then anything else.

    So I do agree with you, training and education is something we have to look at. Also if we can look for alternative labor markets where semi skilled workers can go and make a living with dignity, that should be a focus point.

    Again our country might be poor, but nationalism and national dignity is weighed in the perception of the people first and foreign reserve later. :)

  6. Sharmin Ahmed
    October 12, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    I like to add that if our country does not train the domestic workers properly, they should STOP sending untrained or little trained workers abroad. This kind of human export most essentially entails human rights abuse on both sides.

  7. Sharmin Ahmed
    October 13, 2010 at 4:20 am

    I like to add that if our country does not train the domestic workers properly they should STOP sending untrained or little trained workers abroad. This kind of human export most essentially entails human rights abuses on both sides.

  8. Sharmin Ahmed
    October 13, 2010 at 4:29 am

    I like to add that if our country does not train the domestic workers properly, they should STOP sending untrained or little trained workers abroad. This kind of human export most essentially entails human right abuses and the blame is on both sides.

  9. Jacob
    October 23, 2010 at 3:28 am

    Man I stumbled into your website…your writing made think deeply about the injustices created by imbalances in Global Wealth…
    What I have seen through my travels for major continents most poverty is really the lack of political will in which our own government from our individual nations who don’t care about the wellbeing of its people…
    Horrible events occur…It should be noted in the UN ruling that unfair or inhumane treatment of our fellow human beings should be prosecuted by justice seeker of the world…
    WE are to strive to improve ourselves and also get united in order to push our politicians to create a more civilized society where even the most vulnerable members of our society can be protected…

    For me earning foreign currency as the main priority vs protecting our own is pure nonsense… Sometimes it is better to starve than live a hellish life..

  10. Sharmin Ahmed
    November 17, 2010 at 5:23 am

    Please delete the last two comments made by me (Sharmin Ahmed). Those are repetation. Thanks.

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