Manama: A video clip that highlighted the pains and sufferings of expatriate workers who fill menial jobs in Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Gulf has gone viral on the Internet, attracting record audiences.
The clip was produced by Telfez 11, seen as Saudi Arabia’s primary Internet television network and famous in the region for highlighting social issues in a dramatically ironic way. It focused on the highly controversial sponsorship system.
Under the system, no foreigner can come, work or leave the country without the formal approval of a sponsor.
Employers say the system, although not perfect, was necessary to ensure the economic system peculiar to the Gulf is not affected by the sudden departures of foreigners.
The three-minute clip shows Saudi young people acting as Pakistani and Indian labourers trying to deal with the hardships they are confronting when dealing with their employers.
The main actor, pretending to be a Pakistani man, is shown reading a newspaper and watching television when his sponsor barges into the tiny room and rebukes the labourer for not bringing home the clothes that his wife had requested.
The labourer reacts by saying he did not have the money for the clothes, and the sponsor starts throwing notes on his face, telling him that he did not bring him all the way from his home country to read newspapers.
The labourer is afterwards shown lamenting in a song his woes and sufferings. He lists the painful chores he is tasked to perform every day and eventually decides that he is no longer afraid of his sponsor.
Another labourer, supposedly from Bangladesh- blames Saudis for their lack of gratitude towards the expatriates who perform various tasks in the country.
He says in a rap version that Saudis are very talkative – ready to blame – and forget everything that others do for them.
“They forget everything … They forget who builds the infrastructure for them … They forget who builds flyovers and sewers ... They forget who collects rubbish, who drives taxis, who does the washing … I am no longer afraid of my sponsor,” the labourer says.
The clip became an instant hit and was watched by more than 600,000 people in four days.
Telfez 11 was launched by four Saudis and it started broadcasting its videos on You Tube in 2009. Its clips are a powerful mixture of comic situations and strong social messages.
Around nine million foreigners live in Saudi Arabia, mostly Asian unskilled labourers in the construction and service sectors. They make up around one third of the total population.
The government has launched several initiatives to boost local employment, including giving women greater employment opportunities despite the stiff resistance of powerful conservative forces within the society.
A video was launched in Bahrain as part of a campaign to boost compassion with foreigners doing menial jobs.In the video clip, a Bahraini wearing the traditional thob and ghitra on his head decided to take orders from customers who preferred to sit in their cars and call out the shopkeepers to bring them their cigarettes of bottles of water.The car shopping approach is highly popular among women who prefer to remain in their cars and have the salesman come out to them to take their orders. However, the approach was also adopted by men who were at times rude with the salesmen.The Bahraini said that several drivers were shocked to see a Bahrain man dressed in local clothes taking their orders. Most customers refused to deal with him, explaining indirectly that it was a demeaning job, while others did not seem to care.The Bahraini urged all did not condemn the car shopping attitude but urged customers to be polite and gentle with the salesmen and shop keepers.
Be Gentle campaign