The Abuse of Foreign Labor in Saudi Arabia

Basharat Peer has a good piece in the New Yorker’s News Desk blog recounting the story of Rizana Nafeek, the Sri Lankan maid who was executed Wednesday in Saudi Arabia after she was convicted of murdering her employer’s baby. In telling the story, he talks about the plight of poor South Asian workers who come to work in the country under the unfair sponsorship system. An Indian man who works at an Internet café in Mecca told him:

“So I came here. I thought I am going to Mecca. I will get to perform the Hajj and earn a lot more than I ever would,” he said. “I didn’t know people here would treat us like dirt.” He pointed to a chubby Saudi boy, who was a regular at the café and called himself “Funky Monkey” (his video-game username). “Every time he feels like, he would slap me. It is the same with other local customers. You are a little late complying an order and they bark at you, slap you.” He added, “Here you can’t appeal to anyone. My passport is with my kafeel and I can only go home when he allows me to.” Imran, the older counterman, consoled him. “You are here now! Get used to it. Do I cry? I haven’t been able to return home in three years,” Imran said.