Saturday, May 10, 2014


Saudi Arabia has a work sponsorship program you don't know about. Millions of migrants from other countries have had to buy jobs there because their own country's economies have been destroyed by leaders. It is no small thing: The numbers are estimated up to 80% of Saudia's work force. They have become slaves who can't go home at will, who can't change jobs, who are overworked, underpaid and blatantly mistreated. 

Some employers in this program see themselves as slave-owners. They keep their worker's visa, denying them the right to return home. Beatings, rapes, and other forms of brutality are inflicted on many workers.  If an employer choses not to pay earned money, workers have no recourse. A worker who doesn't show up at the job can be turned in as a runaway and jailed. Young men get desperate, try to swim to freedom and drown. Others commit suicide from harsh conditions and homesickness.

Female workers have been brutalized and killed for 'disobedience".  Men have been beheaded for supposedly looking at an employer's wife. What may have started as a noble effort to pair workers with employers has become a vile and unjust system of slavery. 

Not all employers in the system are corrupt. But there are enough bad ones to discredit the entire program. Human Rights Watch workers have tackled this situation with few results and backlash from employers have forced most activists in Saudia to go underground.

"The kafala system is responsible for a lot of ills going on ... and is going to be on its way out .... The majority of Saudis are totally against such type of behaviour, but there are people in our society who have misused the kafala system." ~ Al Jazeera

America is not immune to bad leadership. Look at the size of our prison population. Look at the growing number of people without jobs or homes. If we don't pay attention, one day we, too, might be yearning to breathe Freedom's Air.