Robert Fisk highlights in today’s Independent, the quite frankly appalling human rights abuses that appears to be culturally endemic in the middle east.
We might indeed have folks around us who are racist, but culturally we do not generally tolerate it, but instead denounce such lunatics. What Mr Fisk highlights is something quite different, a socially acceptable form of racism that results in some quite appalling human rights abuses … he writes …
How well I recall the Sri Lankan girl who turned up in Commodore Street at the height of the Israeli siege and shelling of West Beirut in 1982, pleading for help and protection. Like tens of thousands of other domestic workers from the sub-continent, her passport had been taken from her the moment she began her work as a domestic “slave” in the city; and her employers had then fled abroad to safety – taking the girl’s passport with them so she could not leave herself. She was rescued by a hotel proprietor when he discovered that local taxi drivers were offering her a “bed” in their vehicles in return for sex.
Everyone who lives in Lebanon or Jordan or Egypt or Syria, for that matter, or – especially – the Gulf, is well aware of this outrage, albeit cloaked in a pious silence by the politicians and prelates and businessmen of these societies.
This is not something he writes about from a distance. He is a writer who lives in the region and has seen all this at first hand …
In Cairo, I once remarked to the Egyptian hosts at a dinner on the awful scars on the face of the young woman serving food to us. I was ostracised for the rest of the meal and – thankfully – never invited again
This is not just a few folks being treated badly, there is an almost countless number of cases, it appears to be endemic to the culture, and often some truly tragic stuff comes to light …
Saudi Arabia long ago fell into the habit of chopping off the heads of migrant workers who were accused of assault or murder or drug-running, after trials that bore no relation to international justice. In 1993, for example, a Christian Filipino woman accused of killing her employer and his family was dragged into a public square in Dammam and forced to kneel on the ground where her executioner pulled her scarf from her head before decapitating her with a sword.
Then there was 19-year old Sithi Farouq, a Sri Lankan housemaid accused of killing her employer’s four-year-old daughter in 1994. She claimed her employer’s aunt had accidentally killed the girl. On 13 April, 1995, she was led from her prison cell in the United Arab Emirates to stand in a courtyard in a white abaya gown, crying uncontrollably, before a nine-man firing squad which shot her down. It was her 20th birthday. God’s mercy, enshrined in the first words of the Koran, could not be extended to her, it seems, in her hour of need.
Playing a, “They have a different culture” card does not justify any of this, abuse remains abuse in any cultural context. These human rights atrocities must be highlighted so that these cultures can be shamed into change, and perhaps also flagged up to foreign workers so that they can become aware of such abuses and encouraged to never ever go there.
Personally I am outraged by all this.
You can read Mr Fisk’s full article here … I encourage you to do so.