Foreign worker beating: "Saudis think they can get away with anything"
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A new video showing a Saudi man beating up a foreign worker has surfaced online. The footage was relayed by several Arabic TV stations this weekend, prompting the kingdom’s human rights commission to launch an investigation. Our Saudi Observers, however, are
Screengrab of a video in which an immigrant worker is brutally beaten by a Saudi man.
[UPDATE - 16:00 GMT: The National Society for Human Rights, which is an independent organisation, has launched an investigation into this incident.]
A new video showing a Saudi man beating up a foreign worker has surfaced online. The footage was relayed by several Arabic TV stations this weekend, prompting the kingdom’s human rights commission to launch an investigation. Our Saudi Observers, however, are sceptical that justice will be served…
The scene unfolds in two parts. First, an Asian man is seen being slapped – hard – by a Saudi man who, for most of the video, is outside the frame. They are both sitting, but after being slapped one too many times, the Asian man stands up. Angered, his attacker starts to punch him and kick him, and even whips his face with the headband Saudi men wear to hold their traditional headdress in place. [FRANCE 24 decided to include only screen shots of this extremely violent passage, at the end of the video below]. The location, date, and exact circumstances of this incident remain unknown.
WARNING: These images may shock viewers.
“When the immigrant speaks, it sounds like he has a Bangladeshi accent”
Mohammad Alsaeedi lives in Jeddah, on the west coast of Saudi Arabia.
I can’t 100 percent confirm the victim’s nationality, but when he speaks, in Arabic, it sounds like he has a Bangladeshi accent. His orange shirt is the uniform that street cleaners wear in Saudi Arabia, so he is probably employed by a city. The angry Saudi man accuses him of using a mobile phone to call his wife, so perhaps he suspects him of flirting with her! When he asks the victim how he got his wife’s number, he replies that he ‘found a used phone in a trash can’.
According to Al Arabiya, a TV station owned by an emir who is part of the Saudi royal family, the video has been viewed by the Saudi Human Rights Commission, which is a government organisation. The commission’s spokesperson, Ibrahim Al Shadi, says he has received numerous complaints from citizens who believe the Saudi man in the video should be punished for his actions. Al Shadi also told Al Arabiya that the video shows “a flagrant violation of the victim’s rights in terms of security and dignity” and that these actions “go against Islamic law”. The commission plans to investigate.
However, our next Observer, Ahmed Sabri, is not holding his breath.
"This video reminds us that immigrants who come work in Saudi Arabia have very few rights"
Ahmed, who also lives in Jeddah, is a social worker and human rights activist.
In Saudi Arabia, there are two main organisations that deal with human rights issues. There’s the National Society for Human Rights [which FRANCE 24 was not able to contact by press time], an independent organisation that has repeatedly denounced the ill-treatment of immigrant workers. And then there’s the Saudi Human Rights Commission, a government organisation that tries to show a positive image of Saudi Arabia as a country that respects human rights. [One week ago, the commission told the United Nations that Saudi Arabia had made “tangible progress” in terms of human rights, even as it came under fire for the way it treats foreign workers as well as women]. Therefore, it is difficult for me to believe that the commission’s investigation will be objective and produce real results.
This video once again reminds us that foreigners who come to work in Saudi Arabia have very few rights. To work here, they have to be ‘sponsored’ by a Saudi man, who acts as a sort of tutor. This is regardless of what kind of job they will do. Immigrants need their sponsor’s authorisation to travel, and often, sponsors confiscate their passports, which means they can basically force them do anything they want.
There’s no way to tell in this video whether the Saudi man is the foreign man’s sponsor, but this sponsoring system certainly opens the door to violence. There’s a feeling of impunity, since foreign workers are very unlikely to report abuse to the authorities. Even if they do, they’re ill-equipped to defend themselves, since they usually speak very poor Arabic, and are rarely given access to lawyers they are able to communicate with. As for why this video was made, it could well be that its very purpose is to intimidate other foreign workers.
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Corentin Bainier (@cbainier).