Fugitive slaves in Kuwait

One of those times when the jaw actually drops in astonishment. Al Jazeera reports:

Kuwaiti domestic workers are being named and shamed on an Instagram (link is external) account called Mn7asha, or “runaway”.

The account description reads, “An account to display pictures of servants fleeing in Kuwait, together to put an end to this phenomenon.” The account lists a number to send photos to via the mobile messenger Whatsapp and says, “Hand in hand we can make a difference, even a small one.”

“Runaways” are “fleeing” – quite as if slavery were legal.

The Kuwait Society for Human Rights estimates(link is external) 600,000 domestic workers contribute to the country’s migrant labour force. Foreigners make up the vast majority of Kuwait’s private workforce.

As in other Gulf countries that use the kafala (link is external) (sponsorship) system, migrant workers are tied to the employer sponsoring their visas. Most cannot leave the country without their employer’s permission. Foreign workers trying to escape employers in Kuwait can face (link is external) criminal charges for “absconding”.

Kuwait is very fucked up.


  1. says

    I did some consulting work in Saudi and it’s pretty amazing — you need a sponsor in-country, and you need an out-of-country sponsor to sign that they’ll accept the charges if you get stuffed on a plane and sent out of the country. After I was there, it was explained to me that there are occasions when Americans screw up and break a rule, and it’s important to be able to get them to the airport and stuff them on a plane to (wherever) before the islamic police get their hands on them and then you have an international incident. I correctly interpreted this as “high priced IT consultants have one set of rules that apply to them, migrant construction workers have another” — I haven’t been back.

  2. Ed says

    That’s utterly bizarre and morally outrageous to need permission to leave a country you entered freely. If they wanted to say foreign workers must stay at their original job to keep legal residence, fine if the terms of the agreement are clear. People in the home countries of these folks are probably outraged, but no one can touch these rich bastards.

  3. says

    I worked in South Korea as an ESL teacher, and sometimes foreigners would try to do a “midnight run” and go home. There are/were active private investigators who track teachers to ensure they don’t run, or have them detained at the airport, arrested and charged for violating a contract. But these were people too impatient to do things the right way, to have the contract terminated and agree to the punishments written in the contract. The foreigners knew what they were getting into when they signed on, and the employers were reasonable if people asked to end the contract.

    People who go to Saudi Arabia and other such countries often have no idea what they’re getting into. They go believing the jobs ads, thinking it’s money that will benefit themselves and their families, and don’t realize that the jobs often aren’t what was promised. They’re paid poorly or not at all, they live in abominable housing and working conditions, they’re prevented from leaving, abused, accused of crimes to get rid of them (e.g. the Sri Lankan woman falsely accused of murdering a baby, executed after a sham trial). The different standards are appalling. If you’re male and from a wealthy country (white, Japanese, Chinese, etc.), you might be well treated, but not if you’re a woman or non-white.

  4. Decker says

    Slavery is widespread across the region.

    It just isn’t called slavery.

    I know that the Philippine gov’t has lodged official complaints about Philippine domestics being subjected to horrible punishments and such, but nothing concrete is ever done.

    And to think that we liberated Kuwait just so the knuckle draggers inhabiting the place could persist in their perversions.

  5. RJW says

    Well, slavery is legal in the Gulf sheikhdoms and most Islamic nations, I wonder how many of those repugnant regimes have signed the UNDHR.

    I noticed that Qatar has decided to play the race card as a defence against criticism of its World Cup bid and enslavement of foreign workers.

    @7 Decker,

    Don’t agree, the difference in America and the West in general is the concept of human rights.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *