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Dalit in Arabian Country


The Trafficking in Persons Report is the most comprehensive worldwide report on the efforts of governments around the world to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons. Its findings will raise global awareness and spur countries to take effective actions to counter trafficking in persons.
The annual Trafficking in Persons Report serves as the primary diplomatic tool through which the U.S. Government encourages partnership and increased determination in the fight against forced labor, sexual exploitation, and modern-day slavery.

BAHRAIN (Tier 2 Watch List)

Bahrain is a destination country for men and women subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Men and women from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Eritrea, Uzbekistan, and other countries migrate voluntarily to Bahrain to work as domestic workers or as unskilled laborers in the construction and service industries. In 2013, NGOs observed a greater influx of workers from Ethiopia. Some migrant workers face forced labor after arriving in Bahrain, experiencing unlawful withholding of passports, restrictions on movement, contract substitution, nonpayment of wages, threats, and physical or sexual abuse. NGOs report that Bangladeshi unskilled workers-especially men-are in particularly high demand in Bahrain and are considered to be exploitable since they do not typically protest difficult work conditions or low pay, nor is there a well-established Bangladeshi expatriate community to which workers can seek support and information about their rights. Domestic workers are also considered to be highly vulnerable to forced labor and sexual exploitation because they are largely unprotected under the labor law and are not required to register with the Bahrain government's Labor Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA). Government and NGO officials report that the physical abuse and sexual assault of female domestic workers are significant problems in Bahrain; strict confinement to the household, withholding of workers' identity cards and passports, and intimidation by employers prevent these workers from reporting abuse and restrict authorities from investigating such abuses.

Forced labor, debt bondage, and isolation have led to a high incidence of suicide among migrant workers in Bahrain; workers who committed suicide reportedly lost their jobs or had their salaries and passports withheld by employers or sponsors. In 2012, 40 suicides were reported among migrant workers in Bahrain, especially those from India; 25 suicides were reported among migrant workers in 2013. A 2011 study by the LMRA found that 65 percent of migrant workers had not seen their employment contract and that 89 percent were unaware of their terms of employment upon arrival in Bahrain. The LMRA study found that 70 percent of foreign workers borrowed money or sold property in their home countries in order to secure a job in Bahrain. Many labor recruitment agencies in Bahrain and source countries require workers to pay high recruitment fees-a practice that makes workers highly vulnerable to debt bondage in Bahrain. Some Bahraini employers illegally charge workers exorbitant fees to remain in Bahrain working for third-party employers (under the illegal "free visa" arrangement). In previous years, the LMRA estimated that approximately 20,000 migrant workers were in Bahrain under "free visa" arrangements under which employers apply for work visas for nonexistent jobs and then illegally sell them to migrant workers-a practice that can contribute to debt bondage-and approximately 52,000 others are working on expired or terminated visas. Women from Thailand, the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Morocco, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Russia, Ukraine, and other Eastern European states are subjected to forced prostitution in Bahrain.

The Government of Bahrain does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government has not shown evidence of increasing efforts to address human trafficking compared to the previous year; therefore, Bahrain is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a third consecutive year. The Government of Bahrain was granted a waiver from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 because the government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and it has committed to devoting sufficient resources to implement that plan. The government investigated, prosecuted, and convicted an increased number of trafficking offenders in 2013, in comparison to the previous reporting period; the number of investigations, half of which were forced labor cases, was higher than the previous reporting period. The government also continued to identify and refer victims to protection services, including government-run shelters. The government continued to implement awareness campaigns. Nonetheless, the government failed to prosecute or convict any forced labor offenders and frequently treated potential cases of forced labor as labor violations instead of treating them as serious crimes. Furthermore, potential trafficking victims-particularly domestic workers who ran away from abusive employers-continued to be arrested, detained, and deported for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. The government also did not finalize a formal trafficking victim identification procedure or guidelines for officials to refer suspected trafficking victims to protection services.

Recommendations for Bahrain:
Enforce the 2008 anti-trafficking law, and significantly increase the investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenses-particularly those involving forced labor-including convictions and punishment of trafficking offenders; ensure that identified victims of trafficking are not punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked, such as illegal migration or prostitution; institute and apply formal procedures to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups, such as domestic workers and women in prostitution; institute a formal victim referral mechanism for law enforcement and other government officials to refer identified victims to protection services; expand government-run shelters to provide protection services to all victims of trafficking, including victims of forced labor and male victims of trafficking, and ensure that shelter staff receive anti-trafficking training and speak the languages of expatriate workers; reform the sponsorship system to eliminate obstacles to migrant workers' access to legal recourse for complaints of forced labor; actively enforce labor law protections for domestic workers; continue to train officials on the anti-trafficking law and victim identification; and continue to publicly raise awareness of trafficking issues in the media and other outlets for foreign migrants, specifically domestic workers, in their native languages.

The government made some progress in its efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict trafficking offenses. However, law enforcement efforts were hampered by lack of training of lower-level police officers, investigators, and prosecutors; the government frequently treated potential cases of forced labor as labor violations in labor court instead of treating them as serious crimes. Bahrain's anti-trafficking law, Law No. 1 of 2008, prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons and prescribes penalties ranging from three to 15 years' imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Although withholding a worker's passport is illegal and carries a financial penalty under a ministerial order, a worker must file a complaint with the police who do not have the authority to enforce this law and can only refer a complaint to the court if the employer refuses to return the passport. According to NGO sources, employers often claimed that a worker's passport was lost. The government reported it investigated 30 trafficking cases, an increase from seven trafficking investigations in the previous reporting period; according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), 14 of these cases were forced labor investigations and 15 were sex trafficking. In 2013, the government prosecuted and convicted seven sex trafficking defendants; four of the convictions were cases initiated in 2012. The number of prosecutions and convictions in 2013 was an increase from three prosecutions and no convictions in the previous reporting period. Courts sentenced the seven convicted offenders to a range of two to five years' imprisonment.

The government did not prosecute or convict any potential forced labor offenders, even though NGOs and foreign embassy officials abundantly documented forced labor offenses. Cases of unpaid or withheld wages, passport retention, and other abuses-common indicators of trafficking-were treated as labor violations and taken to labor court. For example, in 2013, the labor court reviewed 225 out of 354 cases in which workers reported that their employers or sponsors withheld their passports and the Ministry of Labor (MOL) filed 36 complaints on behalf of foreign workers whose employers withheld their travel documents. However, authorities did not investigate any of these cases as potential forced labor offenses. Similarly, although the government received 927 labor court cases from workers whose employers withheld their wages, none of these cases were investigated under the criminal law as forced labor offenses. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking. Bahraini government officials indicated there was a general lack of awareness of trafficking crimes among working-level police.

At the end of 2013, the LMRA established an anti-trafficking team, which worked with the office of the Public Prosecutor to refer suspected trafficking cases for judicial proceedings. The LMRA team referred eight suspected forced labor cases to the Public Prosecutor in December 2013, which were under investigation at the end of the reporting period; the LMRA also referred more than 40 suspected forced labor cases in February 2014. Additionally, in June 2013, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs-in cooperation with an international organization-organized an anti-trafficking workshop for over 200 law enforcement and judicial officials. In October 2013, the MFA organized an anti-trafficking seminar for representatives of religious ministries and officials from the Ministries of Interior and Labor, the LMRA, and local NGOs.

The Bahraini government made some progress in improving identification of and protection for victims of trafficking. Nonetheless, the government continued to lack systematic procedures to identify victims among vulnerable groups, such as domestic workers who have fled abusive employers or women arrested for prostitution. The government also did not have policies to protect trafficking victims from punishment for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking; trafficking victims were punished for employment or immigration violations and subjected to detention and deportation. For example, government and NGO contacts reported that some domestic workers who ran away from employers because of abuse or nonpayment of wages were sentenced to 10 days or more in jail and deported, particularly if an employer filed a criminal claim, such as theft, against the worker. Police investigating runaway workers' abuse claims are required to attempt to reach the employer three times before taking other actions. Some police stations reportedly followed up on an abuse claim immediately, while others let days or weeks lapse between attempts to contact the employer by phone. This failure to immediately investigate claims of abuse and potential trafficking crimes left victims at risk of further exploitation and without protection services. Government officials failed to recognize that some contract violations or salary disputes-including withholding of salaries-are indicators of forced labor and required further investigation. For example, the Ministry of Labor (MOL) estimated there were 1,700 runaway workers at the end of 2013, but without an official allegation of abuse from the worker, the government assumed these workers violated the labor law. The Labor Law No. 36, which was adopted in September 2012, provided some protections to domestic workers, which included requiring that domestic workers be provided a labor contract that specified working hours, annual leave, and bonuses; it also required that the employer pay the worker at least once a month. Nonetheless, the government did not issue guidance on how to implement the law. NGO sources reported that most domestic workers entered the country illegally or under false pretenses, so they did not benefit from protections in the law.

While law enforcement officials' victim identification efforts remained ad hoc, police identified 21 suspected victims of trafficking in this reporting period, a slight increase from the 18 identified in the previous reporting period. The government, however, did not report if the identified victims in this reporting period were sex trafficking or forced labor victims. The Ministry of Social Development (MOSD) continued to fund a 120-bed domestic violence shelter, which also offered services to female victims of trafficking and their children. The shelter assisted and provided some medical services to 45 suspected sex trafficking victims and three potential forced labor victims in 2013-which included victims involved in investigations initiated in this reporting period-which was an increase from the 25 victims the shelter assisted in the previous reporting period. Shelter residents could freely leave the shelter unchaperoned. During the year, the MOSD began sending male trafficking victims to a government-run shelter for homeless men. The majority of trafficking victims in Bahrain continued to seek shelter at their embassies or at an NGO-operated trafficking shelter, which reported assisting 156 female victims of abuse-some of whom were likely trafficking victims. Foreign embassies stated that when foreign victims of trafficking or abuse approached Bahraini labor officials for assistance, they were typically advised to seek assistance at their embassies, with no effort to proactively identify trafficking victims among those who make complaints or to refer potential forced labor cases to law enforcement for further investigation.

In November 2013, the MOSD released and sponsored a seminar on a 400-page legal framework document on the protections of trafficking victims, which also clarified the roles of the Public Prosecutor and the MOSD in protecting victims. The MOSD also sponsored a seminar in November to explain the framework to government officials; the seminar discussed human trafficking, human smuggling, and organ smuggling within the same context. Bahraini government officials stated that they encouraged victims to participate in the investigations and prosecutions of their traffickers, and the public prosecution was responsible for protecting victims of trafficking crimes during preliminary investigations and court proceedings. While the labor law stipulates that foreign workers may change sponsors during investigations and court proceedings, this option was not available to victims while their complaints were adjudicated by the court. It was unclear how many trafficking victims, if any, whose cases were not being adjudicated, were able to change sponsors. Workers typically did not file complaints against employers due to distrust of the legal system and lengthy court procedures, inability to afford legal representation, lack of interpretation and translation services, fear of losing residency permits during proceedings, and fear of additional maltreatment at the hands of the employer. The government did not provide foreign victims with legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they faced retribution or hardship.

The government made sustained efforts to prevent trafficking in persons. However, despite past commitments and pledges, the government did not abolish the sponsorship system, which contributed greatly to forced labor and debt bondage. The government's interagency National Committee to Combat Trafficking in Persons, which also includes members of civil society, met once a month during the reporting period and sponsored public awareness media campaigns and organized trainings and seminars for over 400 attendees from government ministries and NGOs. In 2013, the government established the Committee for the Evaluation of Foreigners Who Are Victims of Trafficking, which was chaired by MOSD and responsible for identifying and protecting victims of trafficking. The committee helped organize a seminar on legal resources for the protection of trafficking victims in November 2013 and assessed individual trafficking cases according to the guidelines in its mandate. The LMRA distributed workers' rights pamphlets in various languages to foreign workers and launched a weekly radio program on a local Indian radio station to answer workers' labor-related inquiries in Hindi and Malayalam. The LMRA website also provided information about workers' rights in Bahrain. The government reported 170 labor complaints against 108 separate companies that were late in paying their workers' monthly salaries; however, it is unclear how many of these companies were investigated or punished for illegally withholding workers' salaries. The LMRA conducted regular visits to work places to check for indications of abuse of workers; the government did not report if suspected cases of trafficking were identified during these visits. In December 2013, the LMRA also began distributing SIM cards to workers on arrival in the country, to enable the workers to use text messaging to contact the LMRA immediately if there were problems with their employers. The Ministry of Interior continued to operate a 24 hour, toll-free hotline for trafficking victims, but officials did not provide statistics on the use of the hotline. The LMRA also operates an abuse hotline during working hours, though it is unknown if any trafficking victims were identified through this number. The government reported no efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex during the year.

    In Bahraini Government Crackdowns, ‘Nobody’s Untouchable’

    May 20 , 2011

    JIM LEHRER: And now Margaret Warner wraps up a week of reporting from Bahrain, that small, but strategic Persian Gulf nation that is home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet.
    Tonight, she talks to an editor caught in Bahrain’s crackdown on dissenters
    MARGARET WARNER: Mansoor Al-Jamri, former editor of Bahrain’s largest independent newspaper, this week found himself being the story, rather than covering it.
    On Wednesday, he arrived at Bahrain’s High Criminal Court to face charges that his paper, Alwasat, intentionally published false news reports to destabilize the Persian Gulf kingdom. At his lawyer’s request, his trial was adjourned until June.
    Son of a revered Shia cleric, Jamri spent 20 years in exile in London, then returned about a decade ago to found the paper. The progressive Alwasat was Bahrain’s most popular and profitable newspaper. Its reporters covered opposition parties, as well as the government. And Jamri’s daily column was a voice for non-sectarian moderation.
    During Bahrain’s Arab-Spring-inspired protests earlier this year, he urged the Sunni royal family and the Shia-led opposition to negotiate their political differences.
    But, after the government imposed a crackdown on March 15, Jamri and his newspaper became targets. He was caught up in a crackdown that has detained more than 1,000 Bahrainis, mostly Shias, doctors, nurses, teachers, journalists, office and union workers, and has cost thousands more their jobs.
    Government-run Bahrain TV broadcast an expose, charging that Alwasat published items and photos from other outlets as if they were about Bahrain. Jamri and his two top editors resigned. Within days, they were all criminally charged.
    Today, critics say, Alwasat is just another government mouthpiece. For daily coverage of Bahrain, readers here now have only state-linked newspapers.
    For nearly two months, Jamri and his Sunni wife, also a journalist, have been keeping a low profile close to home.
    He spoke with us yesterday, in his first television interview since being charged.
    Mr. Al-Jamri, thank you for joining us.
    MANSOOR AL-JAMRI, Alwasat: Thank you.
    MARGARET WARNER: Why do you think you have been singled out for prosecution?
    MANSOOR AL-JAMRI: I’m really very surprised, because I was part and parcel of the reform process. I was invited by the king to come to Bahrain to launch this newspaper, Alwasat, which I founded and launched. And it became very successful commercially and politically.
    And then, on the 15th of March, 2011, our press was attacked and damaged. And we had to work from homes. Later on, some e-mails cropped up into our system, which we didn’t know they were bogus news, and they were published. Later on, we found all came from one single I.P. address located in a neighboring Gulf state, namely in Saudi Arabia.
    They filtered through the system because we couldn’t work. We were working from homes and because the authorities didn’t give us the protection for our journalists, who were targeted in checkpoints and in every other place.
    MARGARET WARNER: So, you were set up?
    MANSOOR AL-JAMRI: It was a setup. We were framed into it, and later on attacked, using — using it as a launching pad for closing down the newspaper.
    MARGARET WARNER: You were founder of this paper. How does this make you feel?
    MANSOOR AL-JAMRI: I feel, really, very sad. The Alwasat newspaper was distinct. It enlarged freedom of expression. It also enabled the leadership of the country to understand things that were not understood because there wasn’t the proper coverage.
    Ministers, top leadership people, opposition, pro-government, and everybody who was interested in public affairs and issues of Bahrain must read Alwasat. Alwasat was a must-read for anybody interested in Bahrain.
    We always acted in good faith, calling for progress towards better democracy and a better reform process. We were part and parcel of the reform process. And to target Alwasat in the way it was targeted, it was targeting the reforms, rather than Alwasat.
    MARGARET WARNER: So, what message do you think they were trying to send with the arrest of you and some of your top editors?
    MANSOOR AL-JAMRI: I think they want to say that Bahrain now is different; whatever we had before is finished.
    I think it is, in a way, to drive despair or to instill fear in many people, so that, oh, gosh, I mean, with all the suffering that we are having, we would love even to go back to what we used to be just prior to the protests.
    And I think the message is, you won’t even get that level. What we have now, Bahrain has turned from a political crisis into a humanitarian crisis.
    MARGARET WARNER: Where does the basic neutering of Alwasat, the charges against you, how does that fit in the broader crackdown of what is going on now?
    MANSOOR AL-JAMRI: It is creating — I mean, for — if you target Mansoor Al-Jamri, you will be targeting others as well.
    Mansoor Al-Jamri came to Bahrain by an invitation of the king. He came to Bahrain and he was allowed to function and to work on a free — a larger margin for freedom of expression. And to attack that margin, basically, you’re sending a message, look, even Mansoor was targeted, and he’s been persecuted.
    And, therefore, I think the message now, nobody’s untouchable. Everybody — we’re coming to everybody, and we’re going to do whatever we like to do.
    MARGARET WARNER: The government insists this is about the Sunni-Shia divide in this society. Is it?
    MANSOOR AL-JAMRI: It’s not about Shia-Sunni divide, although the confessional divide is being superimposed on the problem, so that to cover it up.
    I think this is between aspirational society looking at what is happening in the world and wanting to live in a better condition. The majority of the — majority of Bahrainis, Sunnis and Shias want to have democracy, a constitutional monarchy. And they don’t want to have conflict with the ruling family or with the neighboring countries around Bahrain.
    As it is now, if you are a Shia, you are told, you are unwanted, you are a — no citizen, you are zero, you are out. If you are a senior official, you will be got ridden of. If are you a Sunni, you’re OK, you’re our friend.
    That is the — that’s a very dangerous message for the medium- and long-term. You could create security, but you cannot create stability. And without stability, you don’t have prosperity and you can’t have democracy and human rights.
    To continue in the way as it is now, it is only you’re planting problems for the future. It cannot continue. This is not sustainable. We are either one nation and one country, or we can’t continue like this.
    The way it is now, they have created two nations in one country living apart. One is frightened and one is comforted. This cannot continue forever.
    MARGARET WARNER: Now, the government says, once we have restored law and order, which we think we basically have, that we can go back to some sort of political consultation.
    Do you think that’s possible?
    MANSOOR AL-JAMRI: You have many casualties, how will you be addressing those — the injuries, you know, to the nation, people who died in custody, people who died during the protests, those who had been sacked from their jobs, the medical profession that had been targeted, the schools, the way that they were treated?
    You can’t say to somebody, forget it. And unless you come to realize that something wrong has happened, you just can’t forget it, basically.
    MARGARET WARNER: You still face trial.
    MANSOOR AL-JAMRI: Yes, indeed.
    And many people of — many of my fellow countrymen are also facing difficult times. We all, as a nation, are facing a very difficult time. And we need to speak very frankly to each other. And we need to hear each other. We have not been listening to each other for the last month — for the last two months. It is time that we start listening it to each other to find an exit to this crisis.
    MARGARET WARNER: Thank you very much.
    MANSOOR AL-JAMRI: You’re welcome. Thanks.

    15 MAY, 2007

    GDN: 'Sex slave' in Behrain


    A WOMAN who claims she was locked up and sexually assaulted for eight months has been arrested after she showed up at a police statioThe 28-year-old Sri Lankan housemaid claimed she was held prisoner by a man she turned to for help after fleeing from a prostitution den, a Public Prosecution spokesman told the GDN yesterday.
    She said she was locked up by the 54-year-old man, also from Sri Lanka, after he offered her a place to stay.
    A warrant has now been issued for the man's arrest, added the spokesman.
    "She stayed with him for a while until he kicked her out for causing a lot of disturbance and for always yelling at him," he said.
    "She said he locked her in his apartment for eight months and sexually assaulted her during her stay."
    The woman arrived in Bahrain to work as a housemaid for a Bahraini family, but ran away after three months.
    She was living in the streets when another Sri Lankan man introduced her to a Sri Lankan woman, said the spokesman.
    The woman offered her a place to stay, but turned out to be a prostitute who brought men back to her apartment for sex.
    "She offered to bring customers to the defendant so that she could earn some money," said the spokesman.
    "However, the defendant refused to work as a prostitute and left the place to live with the 54-year-old man."
    "She confessed that she stayed with a prostitute after running away from her sponsor."
    The maid has reportedly told police that she wants to return to her home country.
    She is now being held in custody for running away from her sponsor. The alleged prostitute who gave her shelter has also been arrested and charged with prostitution, as well as living in Bahrain without a visa.
    "Her (the alleged prostitute's) sponsor agreed to let her work on a free visa basis in return for BD250 every two years," said the spokesman.


    Bahrain's "Third Millennium Slavery"

    Hana Buhejji  
    Scars of severe beating were clear on the chest and shoulders of Salma Bijoum, three months after she fled the home of her abusive employer. Now, the domestic helper is waiting for a court decision to be able to return to her family in Haidarabad.

    Bijoum, 35, tasted all kinds of cruel treatment and humiliation at the hands of her employer’s wife during her 45-day stay. She was beaten and kicked on regular basis for no obvious reason. She was beaten for not cleaning the house well, for sitting on the carpet and for drinking cold water. She neither got adequate meals nor a salary. Then came the day she decided to run away: she was asked to sweep the floor using a broom but she could not as her arms had become so swollen from beating. When she declined, the lady of the house beat her with an iron rod. She bled.

    The case of Bijoum is not rare in a country where many employers violate the human rights of their domestic helpers. Abuse includes bad language, deprivation from basic requirements like proper accommodation, meals, rest time and monthly wages. Others are insulted, beaten, sexually harassed and raped, according to statements by domestic workers and police records.

    Foreign domestic workers in Bahrain represent 4.2% of Bahrain's total population of 1.1 million people. They live in closed houses, making it nearly impossible to penetrate these places to see how they live, or whether they get their full legal rights.

    The Philippines Housing Center says it sometimes receives around 20 complaints a day from nationals who claim they have been abused by employers. Worst off are those who do not have embassies in Manama to help out.

    The problem does not lie in bad treatment alone and having to adapt to a new life with local families that hail from different backgrounds and carry diverse sets of values.

    In Bahrain, however, the problem of domestic workers has an extra dimension. The problem starts with job placement agents in their native countries and their counterparts in Bahrain, who are looking for employees. This is followed by legal loopholes in the employer-employee working contract. And the problem is further compounded by a weak inspection system to verify a minimum level of compliance with the contract.

    The Labor Law does not list the rights of domestic workers. Lengthy and diverse procedures implemented in case of abuse, make it almost impossible for the employee to take legal action. And most domestic laborers are ignorant about their rights and how to define abuse.

    When Bijoum escaped her employer's residence screaming for help, the driver of a labor transport vehicle took her to a police station.

    Bijoum is considered lucky. Sings of abuse and torture have to be fresh and clear to constitute evidence of torture. Moreover, the driver who dropped her off at the police station, called a journalist who published a story on her plight. This gave her case publicity, which in turn generated public pressure.

    “We should work according to our employer’s will, whenever he so wishes, without a day off," said Bijoum. "This is the slavery of the Third Millennium.”

    Bijoum’s employer, who accused her of theft and of running away, ended up paying her for the days she spent working at his house after he came under pressure from the Society for Protecting Expatriate Labor. But the criminal side of Bijoum’s ordeal is still at the court, while she lives in a hostel run by the Society until the verdict is issued.

    Qamarunnisa Rasoul, 40, arrived in Bahrain from India in 1996 to work for an affluent family. But the lady of the house was hard to please, tyrannical and cruel, she says.

    She received her wages for the first two years only. The family expanded after the marriage of their children. She ended up serving three households. After two years, she decided to serve for another two years to provide for her mother, brother and husband, who is relying on her wage to build a family house. But she was left in deep shock after her employer stopped paying her wages, claiming he was saving the money and will give her a lump sum when she leaves.

    The employer haggled with her from one year to another, refusing to “set her free”. She spent 14 years with them, stuck between the cruelties of her "madam", deliberate daily humiliation and working from 6 a.m. until past midnight.

    Rassoul’s forehead bears scars of a deep cut from a broken mirror she bumped into while running away from her employer who was trying to beat her. Another scar stands out on her nose, allegedly from the TV remote control unit thrown at her when she asked for permission to get some rest because she was sick that day.

    Her plight complicated further when her employer confiscated her phonebook. Her contacts with India were cut off. When her family called, the employer said Rassoul No longer worked from them. The employer took all letters that arrived from India. Rassoul’s husband gave up and got married to another woman. Rassoul also lost contact with her mom and brother.

    One day, a person arriving from her hometown started looking for her, based on an address provided by her family. A worker in the neighborhood told him Rassoul was still alive. Arrangements were made for her to run away to the Indian Embassy.

    When I asked Rassoul why she did not think of running away earlier she said she did not have the money, let alone the embassy address. Rassoul’s wages accumulated over the years to reach ($25,132) – that is assuming her starting salary of $159 a month had not changed. And she is still waiting for the court ruling.

    Kankahma Lakshmi, from India, appeared in bad shape. Deep wounds cause by a sharp instrument, decorated her arms. She had worked for a five-member Bahraini family, all working except for the youngest, 15.

    In between every sentence she uttered, Lakshmi would tell me she "wants to go home". She had been working around the clock to meet the needs of every family member, each with different work and sleep schedules. "They did not hesitate to wake me up any time to do anything". She did not receive any wages for seven months.

    The miserable domestic worker collapsed when I asked her if she had been raped during her stay with that family. Lakshmi asserts that she will never accept to be a domestic helper after what she went through.

    Salma Bijoum, Qamarunnisa Rassoul and Kankamha Lakshmi are three examples of an unspecified number of domestic workers who have experienced abuse by employers in Bahrain after arriving here in search of money and to provide a better future to their impoverished families.
    Many borrow money to buy a ticket. And many women are unaware about the various forms of abuse waiting them, including work needs and conditions. There is no prior agreement in writing to bind both parties. Their knowledge is too limited to enable them inquire about their duties and rights. They are tossed around by officials and labor agents.

    The lucky ones end up with "civilized families" who treat them humanely. The less lucky ones fall in the hands of families who consider the worker a labor machine, with no feelings or rights.

    The labor law does not cover domestic workers. A loose employer-employee contract governs bilateral ties. The terms of the contract vary from one labor agent to another. The terms of the contract do not cover the rights of the worker.

    Foreign laborers hail from different cultures. They do not pass through orientation courses before they travel abroad. They are not told what to do and where to go in case of abuse.
    At the house of their new employer, they are mostly not allowed to leave the premises and cannot communicate with the outside world. The quality of their life depends on the mood and humanity of the employer.

    Over the past decade, the number of domestic workers has increased at an annual rate of 11.7% to form 14 per cent of the overall force in the labor market. In the second quarter of 2010, their number stood at 51,981. Females represent 62% of domestic labor. The rest includes males who work as drivers or on farms.

    The majority come from the Philippines (28%), followed by Ethiopia (20%), Indonesia (18%), India (15%) and Sri Lanka (13%). The rest hail from Bangladesh and Nepal.

    The oil boom of 1973 fuelled economic growth increased per capita income and pushed more women to join the local work force thus creating demand for foreign domestic workers.

    Bahraini women, who are among the highest educated in the region, forms 13% of the total work force.

    It is difficult to obtain cumulative figures for all complaints submitted by domestic workers because there are many parties who receive complaints and there are no clear and specific standards to classify complaints received at police stations and shelters.

    Officials at a refuge centre at the Philippines Embassy, established in 1987, say they have sheltered 112 workers in 2010 and often deal with 20 complaints a day. The national Society for the Protecting Expatriate Labor, set up in 2005, opened a safe home, or “Dar Al-Aman” in 2007. The home deals with all women who suffer from some form of violence, cases of human trafficking and prostitution.
    Abused foreign workers represent 50% of the 120 women taking shelter there.

    At the Ministry of Interior, where criminal cases of abusing domestic workers are recorded, a total of 43 cases were filed against employers by October 2010, compared to 49 and 37 cases in 2008 and 2009 respectively. Most of these complaints were classified as violation of safety, rape and sexual assault.

    Lieutenant Colonel Maryam Khalfan, Director of the Community Service Police says delay in reporting the harm inflicted on the employee by the employer often obstructs the assertion of the harm, due to the absence of scars and signs.

    According to Nora Flaifel, chair of the Action Committee at the Society for the Protection of the Expatriate Labor, most complaints received from domestic workers are related to withholding the salary, or irregular payment. This is asserted by figures from the Ministry of Labor, which got 59 complaints from workers who did not get any salary pay – around 35% of a total number of 168 complaints recorded during the first nine months of the current year.

     “Dar Al-Aman”, which also provides psychological support to abused women, said it received 93 cases of no salary payment from 2008 and until the third quarter of this current year – 40% of the cases that have sought refuge there. Those who sustained physical harm represented 38% of the cases followed by 22% who underwent sexual harassment and rape.

    Since its creation, the Society for the Protection of the Expatriate Labor dealt with 470 cases ranging between physical, sexual and psychological harm.

    Dr. Hameed Al-Yamani, psychology consultant at Dar Al-Aman, says the anguish experience by migrant workers who leave behind their families, is further compounded by abuse at the hands of employers.
    As a result many of his patients develop Psychosis, a psychological disorder close to Schizophrenia.

    Many foreign laborers borrow extensive money to travel abroad in search of a better life.
    Soba Pathacroloso, from India (37 years), provides a clear example. She arrived in Bahrain two weeks earlier. Mehro, a volunteer at the Society, said she suffers from "a severe culture shock, because she came from a desolate and poor village in Haidarabad. She borrowed about 50 Bahraini Dinars to pay the local agent so he could secure her a job abroad. Now she is unable to cope with the sudden change and wants to go back.

    Lakshmi paid 41,700 Indian Rupees ($928) to the lender, at an interest rate of 30% a month. According to a recent American report,  “70% of the expatriate laborers borrowed or sold their houses to make sure they obtain work in Bahrain.” This financial dilemma makes the workers accept compulsory work in bleak conditions in order to repay large debts back home. Others cannot tolerate the situation and prefer to go back to where they came from.

    The local agents paint a rosy picture of life in Bahrain. But as soon as they get there, they face a different reality. Salaries are often less than what they were promised. Then employers are told by agents that the money they had paid to get the helper covers the first three month salaries in violation of the regulations.

    According to the same American report,   - based on information from the Bahraini Labor Market Regulation Commission -- 65% of expatriate foreign labor did not see their work contracts, and 85% are unaware of work conditions when they arrive in Bahrain.

    Debt constraints, ignorance of rights and duties, poverty and illiteracy compel the worker to tolerate inhumane treatment, hoping their nightmare will end soon.

    Work Contracts

    Bahraini work permits give the employer space to ignore the basic international rights of workers including the right to rest, to annual vacation and regular pay. Their passports are confiscated by the employer
    The contract text varies from one office to another. And there are different non-binding forms obtained from the Ministry of Labor.

    For example, all contract items found on the on Ministry of Labor forms or on two other forms collected from employment offices in 2010, were violated, or did not include items on the rights of workers.
    On contract was signed on an official letterhead. Another came in the form of paper stating that the “worker agrees to work at the employer’s house as a worker for two years without any holidays or official leave.”

    A third contract had the name of the employment agency typed on top, and item 11 mentioned that “working hours are not specified, as the worker will be treated like a family member. The worker shall have the right to a weekly leave of half a day, but she does not have the right to leave her employer’s house alone on her day of leave.”

    In the Ministry of Labor form, the idea of a leave is cancelled completely. All three contracts stipulate that the worker needs a leave of absence every two years, but none of them says it should be a fully-paid leave.

    The three contracts say that in case the condition of working diligently is violated, the employer shall have the right to take the appropriate disciplinary measures. But the word "appropriate" is left with no definition.

    Domestic laborers are not covered by the Labor Law of 1976 and subsequent amendments. Draft amendments dealing with annual leave and minimum wage; have been waiting in parliament since 2006.

    When the domestic laborer is abused, lawyers can use laws dealing with crime, the penal code and lately, the law for combating trafficking in persons .

    The court procedures take time because the ministries of interior, justice and labor are involved in implementing various laws.

    Once the case goes through the criminal court, it is sent to civilian courts to push for the worker’s rights. Often laborers drop the case to be able to return home, says Ms. Jaber.

    The law in Bahrain is not an instrument for protection against harm, but rather an instrument for rectifying the effects of harm. There are two other challenges that make this umbrella ineffective. The domestic workers are unaware of their rights and of the need to keep evidence in case they were harmed.  And there is no legal fast track.

    Abdullah Abdel Latif, Under Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says Bahrain has "enough legislation to protect this group (laborers), but this group is required, when exposed to harm, to consult or request assistance, whether from official parties in the Kingdom or their embassies to obtain all their material or moral rights through legal channels.”

    Abdellatif said domestic workers are not covered by the Labor Law, but they can use the Criminal law to ensure their rights, especially when it comes to dealing with "assault on the integrity of their bodies".
    If there is a violation of the terms and provisions of the employer-employee contract, they can go to civilian courts. If the harm is compulsory work, the criminal law and the law against trafficking in persons criminalize this act. The more stringent penalty in any of the two laws is applied.”

    Abdel Latif said that any resident including laborers, have to inform immigration officers upon departure that their employers still owe them money. This means the government bans the employer from traveling until he/she pay the outstanding dues.

    Moreover, the labor law exempts domestic workers from 2009 amendments dealing with “cancellation of the sponsor” – a clause which put an end to “slavery” of the foreign labor by employees.

    Migrant workers are now able to move from one employer (sponsor) to another if they found a better job opportunity, but domestic helpers are still bound by the sponsorship system.

    In case he/she run away from the employer’s house, the sponsor rushes to submit a “notification of disappearance”, which, in itself, is considered a violation. Or, the employer can accuse the run away of theft, often requiring lengthy procedures that play to his/her advantage.

    In 2010, domestic workers filed 43 cases of physical assault and rape against their employees, while sponsors filed 1865 cases against their employers, mostly dealing with theft and running away.

    The International Labor Organization is pushing Gulf Arab states to include domestic workers in the labor law or draft a separate law to set the working age at 18, specify a wage, and guarantee one day off a week and the right to keep personal travel documents.

    Meanwhile, countries exporting domestic laborers are taking measures to protect the rights of their citizens in countries where abuse remains rampant.

    The Indian Embassy has set $265 as minimum monthly salary for any national working as domestic helper in Bahrain. It also asks the employer to deposit money in a bank in case any misunderstandings arise with the employee. It requests that employee to show he/she has a minimum of $26,520 in his/her bank account.

    But these measures have failed to rectify the situation as they are not compulsory and many employees go directly to work for the employer without passing through the embassy. So far, the embassy has registered 110 such agreements.

    The Philippines has made it extremely difficult for their nationals to leave for Bahrain and other countries in the region. It compels those seeking to work in the Gulf in general to attend workshops to explain their legal rights. They also get contact numbers. This explains the high number of complaints received by the embassy of the Philippines in Manama.

    Sri Lanka has started running a similar program.

    Experts suggest other solutions. The Ministry of Labor, which issues work permits, could impose requirements that compel every foreign domestic worker to have proper documents approved officially.
    They should also show certificates they are fit, both physically and psychologically, to work.

    The Domestic Workers’ Protection Society is pushing for employers to open a bank account for their employees to prove that they are depositing a monthly salary. It is also lobbying for fast track legal procedures, to cut down on the period of waiting and expenses paid.

    Other activists are suggesting that the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Committee, composed of ministerial and civil parties, readies leaflets introducing migrant workers to their rights upon arrival in Bahrain.
    The committee is also preparing an integrated media campaign to raise public awareness to the plight of human trafficking.

    The employer-employee contract remains the most important document to safeguard bilateral rights. Hence, it needs to be worded carefully, and standardized to guarantee rights and duties for both.
    Ms. Matar comments here: “My experience shows that the intentions of the Ministry of Labor alone are not  enough.
    Stoner is untouchable in Qatar

    Casey Stoner threw down the gauntlet to his MotoGP rivals with the fastest time in the first practice for Sunday's Qatar GP.

    The 2007 world champion has been dominant throughout winter testing on his Repsol Honda and was again untouchable as he lapped the Losail circuit in a best time of one minute 55.752 seconds.

    Team-mate Dani Pedrosa was second - over half a second behind - with Hector Barbera third, while nine-time champion Valentino Rossi was fifth quickest on his competitive debut for Ducati.

    Rossi has struggled to adapt to the Ducati since moving from Yamaha over the winter, but will be happy with fifth place after failing to make the top 10 on occasion during testing.

    Reigning champion Jorge Lorenzo was down in seventh on his Fiat Yamaha while British debutant Cal Crutchlow was in 14th place.

    Australian Stoner, 25, won his first race for Ducati in Qatar in 2007 and is favourite to repeat the feat for Honda at the weekend after his high-profile move.

    He said: "We started off where we left at the end of testing on Monday and used more or less the same set-up - the wind is a little stronger than we had in the test but the track condition feels pretty good.

    "I'd say we're about 80% complete on the bike package, we have a few main areas we can improve, but this is always the case - you can always improve something, and if we do in these areas it will make us a lot more confident.

    For more information visit:

    Untouchable' FIFA, president Sepp Blatter need to answer for atrocities in Qatar

    sepp blatter
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    Sepp Blatter admitted awarding Qatar the 2022 World Cup was a mistake, but he failed to acknowledge the proper reason. (AP Photo)
    His name was Kali. He was 27 years old and from a section of Kathmandu, Nepal, so impossibly poor that there is nothing remotely comparable in the United States. He had a wife. He had two children. He had a willingness and a work ethic to do virtually anything to provide for them.
    That included taking out a loan to pay a recruitment company to place him with a job in Qatar, which will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. It's also a country so wealthy that it has almost no citizens who would ever do the necessary construction work that men from Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and elsewhere will.
    Once in Qatar the workers are placed with a construction company. They have to live where they are told. They can't drive a car. Their passports are taken from them, effectively forcing them to remain on the job until their boss says they are done. They can't quit even if they could pay their recruitment loan off. It's called the kafala system.
    It's essentially forced labor. In 2014. For a soccer tournament.
    The men then often toil in extreme heat, unsafe circumstances and awful conditions. They sleep in filthy, low-budget camps, mostly just squalor stacked on squalor.
    The combination is brutal, both physically and mentally. Inhumane.
    Kali was one of them, and he became like too many others, a desperate family man from the poorest of the world's poor who went to build unnecessarily opulent stadiums for the richest of the world's rich ... only to return two months later in a cheap coffin.
    The official cause of death for a previously strong, healthy man: cardiac arrest.
    Kali's story is one of many. It was featured this week on ESPN's E:60, in a powerful, incredibly important investigation into the labor practices of the Qatar World Cup bid from reporter Jeremy Schaap and producer Beein Gim. It featured the filming of Kali's funeral, complete with the sobbing wife, the stunned, now fatherless children, the devastated community and finally the traditional burning of the corpse.

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    Qatar is known for its opulence, such as this hotel at the ASPIRE Academy for Sports Excellence. (Getty Images …

    Death by heart attack is common in the Qatar labor camps. So too are fatal construction accidents and falls. Some just go to sleep and never awake. Others, the Qatari authorities claim, have committed suicide – which is a pass-the-buck way of claiming no responsibility for what was probably something else but, if true, is actually worse.

    What would it say about a place when otherwise driven young men, desperate to send a couple bucks back home, instead quickly decide their current fate was so hopeless they kill themselves?
    Workers' rights groups and Amnesty International have been shouting about this for a couple years, but Qatar often dismissed the claims, saying things weren't that bad and advocacy groups were overplaying things. Still under international media pressure, led by the relentless Guardian newspaper in London, the government hired a law firm to conduct its own investigation.
    It concluded this week that there have been 964 deaths of migrant workers from Nepal, India and Bangladesh in 2012 and 2013 alone.
    And that's Qatar's own study. That's the minimum. And that's just so far. There are eight years to go until the World Cup is even staged, with much construction still to come.
    So we're on pace for ... 5,000 dead?
    For a soccer tournament.
    – – – – – – – – –
    So here was Sepp Blatter this week, the FIFA president and the absolute worst of the worst in global sports, talking to a Swiss television station.
    Blatter is 78 and has been president of his FIFA fiefdom since 1998. He oversaw the vote that awarded the World Cup to Qatar, one that shocked even longtime observers who understandably believe the voting process is rigged with corruption and bribery. Only as bad as everyone assumed it would be, it's turned out worse. Money is one thing. Nepali peasant funerals are another.
    So, Sepp, should Qatar have earned the bid?
    "It was a mistake," Blatter acknowledged.
    The quote swept across the world because Blatter isn't one to acknowledge mistakes of any kind. Perhaps, for once, FIFA, which operates with no external oversight, was showing the slightest flashes of a conscience, an ounce of concern for anything other than whatever luxury hotel it gets to stay at.
    Would this be the start of powerful people – presidents, businessmen, sponsors, athletes – finally saying enough is enough in Qatar and, in turn, that this entire ethically bankrupt soccer organization has to change?
    Of course not.
    FIFA quickly stepped in. The mistake Blatter was referring to, it wanted to make clear in a press release, was thinking it was a good idea to host a summer soccer tournament in a country where the average temperature in July is 107 degrees and highs routinely push into the 120s. Apparently Blatter was previously unaware that it gets hot in the Middle East during July. They should probably hold it in the winter, he was saying.
    "As explained in his answer to the journalist, the FIFA President reiterated that the decision to organize the World Cup in summer was an ‘error' based on the technical assessment report of the bid, which had highlighted the extremely hot temperatures in summer in Qatar," FIFA said in a statement. "At no stage did he question Qatar as hosts of the 2022 FIFA World Cup."
    So Sepp Blatter is worried about getting a sunburn. Or maybe that the air conditioning in his motorcade won't be powerful enough. Or, well, who the hell knows what he's concerned about?

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    FIFA said the mistake Blatter was referring to was hosting a summer soccer tournament in an extremely hot country. …

    He certainly isn't publicly challenging the Qatar government to go beyond the labor reforms it says it will now employ following the release of its internal study, ones that outside groups still believe are too little to truly matter.

    And he certainly isn't standing up and expressing remorse, sympathy or even an apology to the thousand[s] of families who lost their fathers, sons or brothers trying to fulfill a grandiose construction bid designed to wow the materialistic core of the Sepp Blatters of the world.
    – – – – – – – – –
    Blatter expects people to not care. He expects fans to just watch the games. He expects the media reports to drift off, well aware there will always be more reaction to something like a television station showing two men kissing than a migrant worker's sad, sorrowful funeral. Same with the protests and issues in Brazil, where the World Cup starts next month. Same with the ones in Russia, which hosts the 2018 Cup.
    He knows he and FIFA are untouchable.
    He knows the corporations will fall in line because they want to market to the billions of people who will watch. He knows other groups will be fearful of offending the wealthy government of Qatar.
    He expects politicians, even in the United States, to remain mum because this is soccer and this is off somewhere else and, well, someone raising a fight about some distant atrocity is quickly going to get slammed by a radio host or primary opponent for not focusing on the American people's business. Or something like that.
    This is your World Cup, though. This is your FIFA. This is your sport. Understandably, fans just want to watch the action, enjoy the excitement, marvel in the spectacle of a competition that brings an entire globe together. They feel powerless. Perhaps they are.
    Still, Third World funerals are part of this event, too. Unnecessarily expensive construction projects. Corrupt bids. Labor practices that should have ended centuries ago. Working conditions with no regard to life. A culture that empowers Sepp Blatter and his minions. The basic concept of the rich abusing the poor.

    What the charges against ‘untouchable’ Zhou Yongkang reveal about China’s future ruling class

    It is a credit to Xi Jinping’s Machiavellian genius that he has pulled off a major achievement in fighting corruption — which is universally regarded as the most serious problem of the party and state — within less than two years in power.
    Zhou Yongkang with Xi Jinping at the NPC in March 2013. CNS
    Zhou Yongkang with Xi Jinping at the NPC in March 2013. / CNS
    The decision to begin investigations into the graft-related felonies of former Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) Zhou Yongkang, which was announced on Tuesday July 29, amounts to a watershed in the party’s 93-year history. Except during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), no leader at the level of PBSC has been incriminated.
    It is expected that a public trial will take place in the autumn. Sources in Beijing say that both Zhou, 71 and his businessman son Zhou Bin, 42, will likely get suspended death sentences for corruption-related crimes that run into the tens of billions of renminbi.
    Xi has with one stroke broken the long-standing taboo that serving or former PBSC members are “untouchable.” ….
    Israel - 'We Are Untouchable'
    By Tanya Hsu

    We are Israel. We are untouchable. No matter what we do the international community will not act against us. Oh, there will be talks at the United Nations but we know that the United States will intervene on our behalf. There will be Arab League discussions but we know that no state will take action against us. There will be mass protests and demonstrations; there will be activists and advocates begging for peace; there will be rallies and fundraisers to help the targets of our bombs. And we know that nothing will make a difference because we are Jews - we are victims of the Holocaust. We have suffered such that we have the right to make the rest of the world pay (even though organised Zionism officially declared war on Germany in 1933, long before Hitler's Final Solution). Because we are victims.
    Yes, we know that peoples all over the world have suffered worse crimes than ours, but they were not the Chosen People. We know that over 22 million Russians were killed under Stalin, 15 million Chinese killed by the Japanese, millions elsewhere in the world who suffer the same fate in the bloodiest 20th century. We know that Zionism is an athiest Marxist creation using Judaism as its weapon; that we were founded upon terrorism and our leaders became Israel's prime ministers and Nobel Peace Prize winners; that less than 10% of Jews worldwide supported the Zionist cause for decades until WWII. We know that the crimes committed by Hitler equally affected Communists, gypsies, the handicapped, and political prisoners.
    That does not matter - we are special. The rest of the world will not touch us because they are terrified of the label "anti-Semite". World leaders: terrified of this most glorious ad hominem even though we are mostly not Semitic peoples. Jews of Israel, the Sephardim Jews, were almost non existant when we arrived from Russia, Poland, Austria-Hungary and elsewhere in the 20th century and demanded Arab land. They had spread out and moved on. We did not come from Yemen, Ethiopia or Iraq, but who cares? We are the victims and that is all that counts.
    Time and again we wonder at how far American gullibility will take us. We push it to the limits on cable television and get away with it repeatedly. We know that the majority of the world is aware we blatantly lie when we express our "deepest regrets" because "terrorists" were hiding in the villages we destroy. We even have the gall to pick the precise same targets as a decade ago, ignoring the cries of outrage from America and the West. We'll just repeat the mantra "a tragic mistake".
    Honestly, we, too, are rather surprised to see that America patiently sits back and buys our words each time. We have trained our diplomats well, not only in the art of deception to the media, but by using powerful strong arm behind the scenes tactics to mold the views of US Congressmen and women in our favour. We have worked on this for decades and it has been perfected for the one place it counts: our bank America. We rely upon those weapons; we need to create constant conflict so as to receive a perpetual $13 billion annual aid package from the US, including unsecured loans that we have never been, nor ever will be, required to pay back. We are living a dream: what we want is given to us on a silver patter because we are Jews, and we have the Holocaust.
    The above is only daring in that it is never voiced publicly in the West. The world is watching as Israel incinerates the Lebanese, next the Syrians and Palestinians, then Iran. Diplomats call for peace, a cease -fire, and negotiations. They speak the language of non committance. It takes a few brave men and women in leadership positions to dare to speak the truth; losing that AIPAC support in government is the kiss of death, and academics who dare write the facts know that their tenured careers are over. Israel is in the position of dominating the US government to an extent never before seen in history, creating a regime who will fully fund a "new Middle East" which in reality means Eretz Israel consisting of Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, northern Saudi Arabia and even Cyprus by some accounts. There is nothing speculative about these plans for hegemony - everything has been laid out, written down, and presented for years.
    This war will not end with a cease-fire next week. This war will not end with a security zone controlled by the UN. This war will not end if Hezbollah and Hamas disappeared tomorrow. This war will not end as long as leaders and diplomats continue to fear the trump card charge of anti-Semitism by Israel.
    So, when hundreds of children are torn apart by uranium tipped missiles provided courtesy of the US government, look in the mirror. Have you dared to offend Israel? Have you risked? Ask yourself what role you may have played in contributing to this global disaster. Nothing will change until you do.
    Tanya Cariina Hsu is a British Saudi-US Political Analyst. She lives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

    The untouchable
    Diplomatic immunity has recently come under fire but many argue there are good reasons for retaining it, writes Sarah Left 
     12 April 2016 
    The case of a Saudi diplomat suspected of indecently assaulting a young girl in London has led to calls for the centuries-old conventions of diplomatic immunity to be scrapped or significantly altered.
    The case in question is a dramatic one: a 41-year-old man may have assaulted an 11-year-old girl but the police have no power to investigate.
    The Saudi embassy has promised a thorough investigation and a trial for the man in Saudi Arabia if the claims have foundation. This must be little comfort to her parents, as the system puts him out of reach of British justice.
    The Foreign Office said that in 2002, 21 diplomats out of a community of 20,000 were accused of what it considers serious offences, those which would carry a penalty of 12 months or more in prison. In only two or three of these cases was immunity waived.
    It is serious offences that have former home office minister Barbara Roche and human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson calling for change.
    But diplomats have been quick to criticise Ms Roche's stance. The present law on immunity dates from the 1961 Vienna Convention and has near global support.
    The idea that all 177 signatory countries would agree to change a system that by and large serves their needs is fantasy, says Malcolm Forster, the joint head of public international law at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
    Oliver Miles was the ambassador to Libya when WPC Yvonne Fletcher was shot dead by a gunman from within the Libyan embassy in London in April 1984.Moreover, it is precisely against serious charges that diplomatic immunity is necessary, diplomats say. An unfriendly regime looking to harass a diplomat is unlikely to accuse him of double parking.
    What appeared in Britain to be the worst excess of diplomatic immunity - that a murderer should be allowed freely to return home and escape prosecution - looked like the best defence of immunity from Mr Miles's vantage point in Tripoli.
    Had the suspects inside the London embassy been subjected to trial, he and his staff in Libya would have had charges concocted against them and been put on trial, he says.
    After the shooting, UK authorities entered the Libyan embassy, searched it, and found a gun. That was an illegal intrusion on a sovereign diplomatic building, Mr Miles felt, and it had immediate repercussions for his staff.
    "The Libyans promptly moved into our premises and found a gun," he says. "My firm belief is that the Libyans planted that gun."
    The FO considers immunity "fundamental", allowing British diplomats to operate independent of local pressures and without fear of harassment in sometimes difficult circumstances.
    Mr Miles points out that it is not just states with immature or very different legal systems that create problems. When he was serving as an ambassador to the UN in New York in the 1980s, he says IRA supporters were outside the office every day, screaming obscenities at the British staff. The local police took little or no action, he says.
    He feels that, without immunity, the IRA would have been able to accuse British diplomats of false crimes that would nonetheless have ended up in front of a judge in New York.
    The most serious action a receiving state can take is to declare a diplomat persona non grata and expel him or her from the country. But if an incident is serious, an embassy may pre-empt such a dramatic move.
    In 2001, Libya's cultural attaché to Britain attacked an anti-Gadafy demonstrator with a metal shelf outside a lecture at London's School of Oriental and African Studies.
    The Libyan ambassador, aware that the attack could damage delicate relations with Britain and raise fears that the Libyan president was launching a new terror campaign against opponents in exile, immediately expelled the attaché without waiting for the Foreign Office to request it.
    "Diplomatic immunity does not mean the diplomat is unassailable," Mr Forster explains. "The immunity is the state's, not the diplomat's. The state can waive it against the diplomat's will, and this happens quite a lot when a serious crime has been committed."
    This is most likely to be effective if a diplomat is expelled swiftly while evidence and witnesses are still fresh.
    With the recent thaw in relations with Libya, Scotland Yard has begun working on the case of WPC Fletcher alongside Libyan investigators, although after 20 years detectives are not hopeful of a resolution.
    Even the 21 serious offences diplomats in Britain were accused of in 2002 covered a wide range, from shoplifting to fraud to domestic violence. Quite a few related to drink driving. And often a diplomatic leaves the country before the Foreign Office has a chance to become involved.
    The Metropolitan police said that even in the case of the Saudi diplomat, the public should not think that diplomatic immunity is necessarily the end of the road.

    "We have been successful in bringing cases in the past," a spokesman says. "The Saudi diplomat is sort of 'on bail' while the Foreign Office talk with the Saudi embassy."

    Dalits, Muslims and the holy cow

    When Mohammed Akhlaq, a 52-year old farmer and father of an Indian Air Force engineer, was beaten to death by his lifelong neighbors in Dadri, a sleepy village in Uttar Pradesh less than 30 km from the power center of Delhi, over “beef eating” rumors a year ago, the news sent shockwaves across India and around the world.

    The usual suspects have been administered many such beatings and even lynched since but they have barely created ripples. Call it indifference on the part of media and administration or helplessness of victims that such ‘incidents’ do not raise eyebrows anymore, let alone invite action against the guilty.

    In the new and ‘Modi-fied’ India, stray animals loitering on the streets are more secure and protected than humans.

    No wonder the guardians of holy cow get bolder and more blasé by the day. And why wouldn’t they? They are given to believe that they enjoy the political patronage at the highest level in the land and can get away with murder. And they do.

    But targeting Muslims, who have all but lost all self-respect, sensitivity and capacity to respond to such attacks and abuse is one thing and taking on the assertive Dalits, the low caste communities, is quite another.

    Given their increasing powerlessness and political dispossession, India’s Muslims are forced to lie low and offer little resistance even when faced with attacks like Dadri. No wonder the Dadri killing was soon followed up by the lynching and hanging of two Muslim cattle hands from Jharkhand, one of them barely 15 and many other such episodes.

    Even as I write this there are reports of two Muslim women being beaten black and blue by a mob in the presence of cops in the BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh on the rumors of “possessing beef.” Someone even filmed the obscenity and posted it online. The wretched women were beaten up for nearly 30 minutes until one of them collapsed. And, yes, the duo has been charged with “illegally selling meat” after police “recovered” 30 kgs of buffalo meat from them!

    Are these the ‘good times’ the voters were endlessly promised in 2014? Where is India headed? Are we still living in the 21st century?

    Try doing the same to Dalits and you will get the taste of your own medicine, as the BJP in Gujarat and at the center is discovering.

    In response to the brutal public flogging that a Dalit family received at the hands of the cow protectors in Gujarat last week, Dalits shut down the entire state and other parts of India. Some of them came up with novel protests like unloading truckloads of dead cattle and rotting meat in front of government offices.

    The Dalit reaction has been so swift and overwhelming that the prime minister and the top BJP leadership that is yet to own up Gujarat and apologize for Dadri had to quickly swing into action tendering unconditional apology. This even as turning the Indian Penal Code on its head, Akhlaq’s family was charge-sheeted for ‘cow killing’ in UP!

    But then that is the power of Dalits. Unlike the weightless and rudderless Muslims, Dalit voices can shatter the glass ceiling in Delhi, wrecking governments and many a political career. In view of the looming polls in UP, Gujarat and elsewhere, the BJP can take no chances with this influential section of the electorate. The Gujarat incident has also shattered the carefully constructed Hindutva myth, portraying Dalits as the “foot soldiers and protectors” of Hindu society, and not as the oppressed lot stuck at the lowest rung of the inhuman social order perpetuated over centuries.

    Since the BJP came into being in the late ‘70s and especially since VP Singh implemented the Mandal Commission recommendations, shaking up the entire political and power structure, the Parivar has been aggressively trying to expand its support base among Dalits and other backwards.

    On the one hand, it has been busy appropriating Dalit icons like Ambedkar who despised the communal hierarchy that Hindutva represents. On the other hand, it has been using Dalits and other groups as cannon fodder in the campaign against Muslims and other minorities. It is hardly a secret that Dalits had been successfully used during the 2002 Gujarat pogrom and other communal conflagrations.

    Despite the fact that for centuries Dalits have been treated as lowest of the low, their ‘Hinduness’ is discovered during times of communal strife.

    From the worst form of social and communal apartheid to rape, murder and casual violence, Dalits have for centuries suffered every indignity and crime imaginable.

    Of late though to neutralize the politically conscious and economically empowered Dalits, the RSS has been making a conscious attempt to “accommodate” the community by discovering Dalit icons like Suhaldev in UP, painting him as the ‘savior of Hindus’ against ‘Muslim invaders’.

    Incredible as it may sound, 800 years of Muslim rule is now being blamed for the oppression and persecution of Dalits.

    This is a clever, double whammy that seeks to drive Dalits away from Muslims whose egalitarian society and beliefs have always attracted the oppressed lot. Since the mass conversion of Dalits to Islam in 1980s in Tamil Nadu, disingenuous ways have been found to keep the “flock” together.

    But you can’t fool all the people all the time. The politically savvy and informed Dalits have begun to see through the game.

    The Rajkot flogging should come as a wake-up call to Dalits and all dispossessed communities. If they thought only Muslims needed to worry about the new wave of Hindutva militancy and vigilantism in the name of cow, they were clearly mistaken.

    As the history of Hitler’s Germany would attest, the vicious run of fascism never ends with one community or group. They will come for everyone, until there is no one left.

    There is a desperate need for Dalits, Muslims and all right thinking people who believe in the idea of an inclusive India to join forces against the growing threat of fascism.

    Unfortunately, for all the feel-good talk of Dalit-Muslim unity and the realization that the two communities have for long been at the receiving end from the same forces, little has been done to build bridges and alliances between the two groups. This talk of unity has at best remained at the level of Dalit and Muslim intellectuals and activists. The unity has remained elusive even during the rule of Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party, which depends crucially on the support of Dalits and Muslims in UP. Perhaps both Muslims and Dalits are to blame for this. Be that as it may, the two communities need to wake up at least now to the shared threats. Better late than never.

    The Muslims in particular must get out of their comfort zone to reach out to Dalits and other marginalized groups and communities. They cannot tackle the coming threat on their own. The very future of India as a secular and pluralist democracy is at stake. We need to stand together to fight the darkness that is fast closing in. We are in this together.

    Since the change of guard in India two years ago, it has been one hell of a ride for the great republic. Extraordinary events and developments have been unfolding at such a breathless pace that one has lost the capacity to react to them.

    Untouchability in Kuwait !

    HC Singh
     It was surprising to read an article in Readers Digest of April 2010 that out of population of 2.5 millions there are 80,000 “Untouchables” in the rich Arab country, Kuwait. The article is written by an American who had spent seven months in Kuwait. On reaching Kuwait he was taken by a local taxi driver to his own one room house in the outskirts of Kuwaiti capital. Nick Walker wrote this article from his first hand experience, observations and intimate friendship with these “Untouchables” called Bedoons, a corruption of the Arab tribe called “Bedouin”, the famous nomads.
    Walker says that these Bedoons are ‘dirt poor’. They don’t get employment in refineries of Kuwait as they are not considered Kuwaiti citizens. In fact they are stateless persons since 1961 when Kuwait got independence. Prior to 1961 these Arabs now known as Bedoons came from neighbouring Arab countries as workers. Their descendents, now second and even third generation still are stateless, have no nationality, no passport and no rights what so ever in Kuwait even though they have lived there for more than 50 years. This state of affairs would be unthinkable and even unacceptable in any other country and does not reflect a modern nation-state. These Bedoons therefore have to accept menial and low paid jobs even though in appearance they are no different from any naturalized Kuwaiti citizens.
    Nick Walker had spent three months with this Bedoon family, which was comparatively better off than other Bedoons because its head was a taxi driver and not an ordinary menial, whose condition is ‘miserable’. However, Walker is delighted to observe unlimited natural love and affection of all the family members of this Bedoon family and compares with quarrels , dominance of one member over another in the family of his ‘American girl friend of the time’ in California. In Walker’s own words :
    ‘Kadejah (seven year old youngest of four sisters) beams with delight as I produce a handful of Quality, Street Chocolates. I know what she is going to do- she takes one to each sister and then to her dad. She runs back and gives one to Hidari and hands me the flat toffee. Hidari slides one into a pocket’. Walker further adds ‘they all sleep in one room in a row. I think of Nina and Alex (children of his American girl friend) in their ensuite designer bed room – Kadezah has fallen asleep Hidari holds her, Ayadha supports her head and Fatima shadows her from the sun. I turn back to the front and realise I am crying’. It is touching contrast in love and affection in a ‘dirt poor’ untouchable family of Kuwait and rich American family of California.
    Now, from where we began, about untouchability in India. After independence under 1950 Constitution untouchability was banned in India. At the time of India’s independence in 1947, India’s population was 35 crores. To end even indirect untouchability, reservations were made for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes in the shape of “affirmative action”. This is in contrast to Kuwait where in 50 years no provision in the Kuwaiti Constitution was made to eliminate or even ameliorate the “Bedoon untouchabiity”. In 2010 India’s population has increased three fold to 105 to 110 crores. Though 30 percent Indians are now estimated to be living below poverty line yet because of the affirmative action many from SC/ST have risen to Chief Ministers of State besides many other by value of education are holding senior posts in civil services. This dual policy “affirmative discriminative action” of ban on untouchability and reservations for lowest castes amounting to nearly 40 percent has helped in all fields to be equal to other citizens. There is natural love and affection in all families in India.

     As a first step Kuwaiti Govt abolish ‘untouchability’ so that there are no Bedoons.


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