Maids in the Middle East

There’s a brilliant cartoon on the BBC Magazine this week. It’s called Almaz’s Story and it’s been made by Benjamin Dix and Lindsay Pollock of Positive Negatives.

It’s a story that most of us must’ve heard frequently, the one of an Ethiopian girl from a poor family, Almaz, who gets hired by an agency in Saudi Arabia to be a maid. What follows is the classic script of segregation, slavery, abuse – sexual and physical – and ends in heavy bodily harm.

As soon as I read it my mind went to the people I saw in Dubai in the trip I made and wrote about in the post Sand, slavery and racism: welcome to Dubai, y’all. I didn’t witness such extreme behaviour but even someone as dumb as myself was able to see the pecking order established in Dubai and in the rest of the Arabic Peninsula: Arabs on top, then the white expats, then the undistinguishable mass of migrant workers, Morlocks that could be used, exploited and worked ’till death, with no rights to speak of.

You might be led to think that this is a joke, or a gross exageration, or that the pains of an absolute minority are worth the well-being of millions who live off the remittances of their emigrées relatives.

But… This morning, while sipping coffee, I did a small research. I went on Google, typed down “maid abuse Dubai” and got 250,000 hits back. I clicked on the first few articles, and this is what I found: a woman who tortured maids and forced them to drink Dettol has been jailed 15 years; a maid tortured and starved dies; a 12-years old Dubai boy assaulted and impregnated an Ethiopian maid; and finally, Gulf maids live in a reign of terror. And this is just a 5-minutes research made on a Thursday morning with methods that a statistics expert would find utterly laughable.

The bottom line as I see it is this: every time we go down there, every time we go to a hotel or a restaurant without checking how their staff is treated, or when we go strike unfair deals with someone only because they’re foreigners… we are accomplices of all this.

This entry was posted in Asia, Dubai, Middle East, Politics, Reflections. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Maids in the Middle East

  1. richmalpass says:

    That cartoon is incredibly hard hitting and, I fear incredibly true for many factions of the Middle-East, not just Saudi. I hope with the spotlight that the EXPO will bring that the human rights record in the entire region will improve. If you fancy cheering up then have a lighter look at Dubai:


    • awtytravels says:

      Hey there, thanks for reading.
      I’d like to share your optimism regarding the EXPO. What I fear will happen is that everyone will just look at the stunning architecture and forget everything else. I mean, look at Shanghai not long ago!

      Thanks for the link, will have a look at it ASAP!


  2. Here in the Philippines, not a week goes by without us hearing of another Filipino being abused in the Middle East. It almost isn’t news anymore. Everyone knows this but many, many people still take their chances and work there because of poverty. If a worker about to be abused fights back and kills the employer, he/she gets the death penalty — death for self-defense. Best case scenario: he/she stays in jail until his family comes up with blood money.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.