Sunday, 16 June 2013

I am More Important than You

In the last few weeks I've been thinking a lot (again) about how people from poorer Asian and African countries are treated here in Saudi Arabia. Saudi offers a standard 2 year contract to employees as drivers and cleaners, with one return ticket at the end. Our two Indian drivers went home a week ago to see their wives and children for the first time in two years, and as you can imagine I'd never seen them happier. I just can't imagine how it feels to be away for so long, with very little communication. The companies or families that the people work for withhold the employees passports while they're here, to prevent them from leaving. So they are basically imprisoned. One of the drivers only got his passport back with the necessary visas about an hour before he needed to go to the airport. A Malaysian maid at school who was so excited to be going home to see her baby, came back to work the following week having missed her flight, saying "Passport not ready, maybe one, two weeks." The company didn't even tell her how long it would take to fix, and when she would actually get to go home.
Sometimes the lack of compassion is really amazing. The way anyone with 'dark skin' is treated basically like a slave. But what really gets me is when you see western people doing it too; treating drivers like shit, demanding that the maids make them tea, and generally just being rude and superior. It's like this country gives them the excuse to be who they've always wanted to be and the justification to perceive themselves as above others. It makes me sick, and I don't think anyone with that attitude deserves to return to the UK, or any other place where people have fought hard for equal rights.
I've also noticed how westerners in power here tend to go a bit crazy. The laid back (some would perceive as lazy) attitude of Saudis drives me insane, but it's the Western people they hire- and then let have free reign to do whatever they want- that are really a sight to behold. The Saudi bosses at my job don't like to make decisions, so they delegated this job to a westerner who basically did whatever she wanted, knowing that they wouldn't object. And this was dodgy ground seeing as what she wanted to do was belittle, scare and threaten people into submission, in her quest to be all powerful. The Saudis are annoying because they're not proactive and go out of their way to get out of doing anything that resembles work, but at least they're not vindictive and spiteful.
Some westerners clearly enjoy the power trip that comes along with living 'the life' here, getting paid loads for jobs that they're not necessarily qualified for and being allowed to do pretty much whatever. It's like they get to live out the fantasy they were denied at home, where policies, procedures, professionalism and general decency in the workplace stand in the way. They really are pathetic.

Yesterday we went to Deera Square (or the more widely known chop-chop square) where they do the public executions. It was eerily normal, with no marked area for where these atrocities take place. It's still so hard to believe that they actually chop peoples heads off with a massive sword, and that people go to watch. I read in a tiny side column of the Arab News that five Yemeni men were convicted of murder and after their executions in Jazan the bodies were left on display for hours. As if chopping peoples heads off wasn't medieval enough. I think I've mentioned before that a disproportionate number of people losing their heads are immigrants, most likely due to discrimination and the fact that they can't buy their way out of the death penalty. Another thing I read in the paper was that two maids were convicted of practicing black magic and sentenced to 10 years in prison and 2000 lashes. OK, where to start with what's wrong with that sentence? The family they were working for claimed they were using black magic to cause them harm. The police apparently found the women in possession of a 'talisman,' which I'm thinking could be anything at all: a cross, a book, a pencil, a haribo ring, whatever suits the accusation. I also don't understand why supposedly religious people are worried about superstitions and witchcraft. Surely they shouldn't even believe in it?
And I don't even know where to start with the 2000 lashes. Seriously, what century is this?

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