Feature Img
Bangladeshi worker Mohamed is seen inside his tent in Manolada on 18 April 2013, after foremen opened fire on him and other workers. Photo: Reuters
Bangladeshi worker Mohamed is seen inside his tent in Manolada on 18 April 2013, after foremen opened fire on him and other workers. Photo: Reuters

Human rights issues may be despised terms to some prejudiced sections of the society or even to some despicable sovereign states of the world, but human rights epitomises what is good in human conscience, what constitutes inalienable rights of human beings and above all it highlights the sheer value of humanity. Without human rights, human beings would be no better than two-legged human animals, particularly in the modern society where money speaks louder than anything else and might is proclaimed to be the absolute right!

At the end of Second World War (WWII) in response to the unimaginable atrocities perpetrated by the combatants during the war, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the Human Rights Commission (under the chair of the American former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt) was framed and it was adopted at the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. Although it was a non-binding resolution, it acquired over a period of time the force of international customary law which was subsequently adopted in international treaties, national constitution and laws of the Member States (MS). Any Member States (MS) which fails to comply with the spirit, if not the letters, of this UDHR could be regarded as a renegade State, a degenerate and primitive State.

What are the main points of UDHR which makes it so significant in the modern world? In the Preamble of the UDHR declaration in 1948, it states that ‘in recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family’, this declaration is adopted. It consists of 30 Articles dealing with various aspects of human rights. In essence it declares the rights to education, health, nationality, life, liberty and security of a person under the jurisdiction of a sovereign state. But the most important element is the requirement that the dignity of the human being is to be observed. 48 states signed the convention in 1948, no state opposed it and seven states including Saudi Arabia abstained. The reason Saudi Arabia forwarded for abstention was that it does not agree with Article 18 dealing with ‘the right of an individual to change his or her religion or belief’ and with Article 16 dealing with ‘equal rights to men and women in the marriage’ on grounds of religion. The Saudi version of Islam, Wahhabism, opposes such basic human rights!

The Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) overseeing and formalising Islamic response to international human rights had adopted ambiguous and dubious stand until 1990 when it adopted the Cairo Declaration. In that declaration it was stated that human rights in Islam would be adopted as much as they were compatible with the Sharia Law. However, in June 2008, the OIC conducted a formal revision of the OIC charter. The revised OIC charter chose to support Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and International Law. So, Saudi Arabia and other fundamentalist Muslim States are now committed to abide by the UDHR provisions, superseding their religious Sharia Laws.

Despite this welcome change, the whole of oil-rich Middle Eastern Muslim States had been violating the UDHR at the behest of Saudi Arabia and carrying on with their age-old tradition of exploitation of workers, barbarism and inhumanity. Saudi migrant workers coming from poor third world countries are routinely subjected to verbal abuse and physical torture. The following video clip will show how a Bangladeshi worker had been subjected to inhuman physical torture by a barbaric Saudi man.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=541243792621563

This type of torture is not unique to Bangladeshi workers only. It had been going on for decades in a number of Middle Eastern countries and citizens of a number of countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Philippine, Thailand, Nepal and so forth had been subjected to barbarity. It is not that the governments supplying the manpower are not aware. They are very much aware, but they turn a blind eye. The reasons are manifold, but two most important ones are that the administrative officials recruiting and supplying workers benefit financially from hand-outs and the government as a whole gets foreign currencies from their remittances. These foreign currencies are rich pickings for the corrupt government officials. What happens to individual workers, how badly they are treated and/or tortured etc. are hardly the concern of those corrupt government officials. In fact, if there are opportunities to supply new workers when the present crop of workers disappears, these officials would feel delighted as there would be fresh opportunities for receiving handouts! This is the criminal underworld of official activities in third world countries.

A recent report in The Guardian newspaper in Britain alleged that a large number of Nepalese workers brought in to work in the construction of 2022 World Cup (football) infrastructure in Qatar had been getting much reduced wages than promised at the time of recruitment and their ID permits had been withheld. Without ID cards they are rendered illegal immigrants and they could be arrested, tortured and deported summarily. The wages they get are far below the minimum wage that can be set for the country. A video report accompanying The Guardian’s article showed men living in labour camps with unsanitary and dilapidated conditions. These workers are the modern day slaves, as defined by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The Qatar government representative expressed surprise at the allegation and promised to look into the matter. This sort of exploitation had been going on not for just one year but for decades and the government representative feigning surprise is nothing but a smack of utter hypocrisy.

This sort of exploitation and abuse is not limited to Qatar only. In Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE and, in fact, in the whole of Middle East these things had been going on for decades. The workers who go there to do manual work are called ‘miskins’, meaning beggars. These Middle Eastern people come to poorer countries with an aura of honesty and religiosity to recruit people and then use them as slaves. The world should wake up and expose their criminality and flagrant violation of human rights which all of their countries have signed up to.

The above mentioned video clip had gone viral over the last few days. The CNN television channel in America had produced a programme on this issue. This inhuman barbarity and modern day slavery had not only shocked the Western World but also many moderate Middle Eastern people. Because of the worldwide outrage, the Saudi Government stated that it is going to look into the matter. But given their past records and viscera antipathy, nobody should hold breath that remedial actions will be taken any time soon.
The poorer countries must also take fair share of the blame – blame of inaction and blame of tacit complicity. The corrupt government officials overlook such abusive practices because any remedial action may disrupt the flow of workers to those countries and thereby reduce their individual and collective benefits. The pain and suffering of workers are of no relevance to these officials! At the same time these government officials help spread Islamic messages within the country, set up madrassas, mosques, Islamic centres, etc. The illiterate, innocent people are given a high dose of religious teaching, mostly concocted, and lessons to be respectful to Arabs and Arabic customs. In the name of religion, they were told to make sure that women wear hijab and abaya, confine women within the surrounds of the house, no education for women beyond class V, no western education to men on science and technology as that may conflict with the 7th century religious teachings(!) etc. — by the block-headed religious zombies and the whole country tilts towards extreme religiosity. These self-serving, profiteering officials and mullahs are irretrievably taking the country into the dark ages of human history! These officials and mullahs should be charged for complicity and the Middle Eastern perpetrators of brutalities should be charged for flagrant violation of human rights.

(When this write-up was sent to some of the British MPs recently, the Chairman of the influential 1922 Committee of MPs has informed the author that the matter has been sent to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the British Government to look into this issue of violation of human rights in the Middle East.)

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A. Rahman is a Nuclear Safety Specialist.

A. Rahmanis an author and columnist.

10 Responses to “Flagrant violation of human rights”

  1. Shima

    The tone of the article is absolutely fine. The countries that the writer mentioned treat our workers mean are absolutely correct. These countries, especially the Arab ones are so brutal and cruel towards the workforce is beyond imagination.

  2. dinu

    Thank you for an important article. We need to be looking after our expat workers’ welfare.

  3. Dr A Rahman

    A culture which generates such barbaric mentality, a culture which condones such brutality is not the one we should follow or try to follow.
    These migrant workers earn billions of dollars and the country benefits from that. But does the country i.e. ministers and govt officials offer adequate help and support to those suffering workers when they need help? I think not and that is why I blame these officials. I would blame the same the govt officials for the suffering of the garment industry workers in the country. But at least the garment industry workers can protest at home; whereas the migrant workers cannot even protest when they are beaten!
    The other point you have rightly raised is that other countries try to raise the skill base of the workers who earn money for the country. Does Bangladesh do that? If not, where does the money go. I leave it to you to find the answer.

  4. Dr. Hasanat Husain MBE

    Violation of basic human rights in the cases of expatriate workers in arab countries are common knowledge.

    It is time that the western countries warn their allies in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE etc. to conform to internationally agreed standards and to the ILO convention.

    -www.voiceforjustice.org

  5. KMAK

    its amusing how Mr.Rahman manages to blame Mullahs for all the ills in the world. I fail to see the connection between abused migrant workers in some middle eastern states and religious education. It is as if Mr.Rahman is suggesting that if we stop patronizing mosques and religious education, prevent women from wearing the hijab or burqah, and eschew so called 7th century teachings in general, then the situation of the migrant workers will improve. Where is the evdience that Mullahs teach their students that they should tolerate whatever abuse their Arabic masters inflict on them? in fact, where is the evidence that the migrant workers are largely Madrassah students? The things we secular bigots make up!

    • Dr A Rahman

      You misunderstood my point. The point is, mullahs uphold, revere and propagate a culture which condones such barbarity. The madrassahs project Arab culture as highly virtuous and devout and that is what millions of madrassah students learn. The reality is totally different. If the culture is so inhumane and barbaric, then why should that be taught in the country and people would be urged to follow? That is the point.

      • KMAK

        Dr.Rahman: You misunderstood my point.

        Oh I understood your point all right. You attack Mullahs simply because it is far more palatable than directly attacking Islam, something which you don’t shy away from doing at Mukto Mona. After all, you did make the following claims there:

        “There are many things in Islam which are totally revolting, even to a Muslim like me…But the most depressing thing is that over 50 per cent of world population (over 7 billion) believe in one or the other religion, quite often passionately. It is the responsibility of those of us who are broad minded (mukto-monas) people to try to dispel mental blocks of those people. Religion is nothing but a crutch…All religions to me are hypocritical… To try to cling on to religions is either delusion or mental abnormality. What we should do is to expose the sheer stupidity and fallacy of believing in supernatural powers who from time to time send messages to bring us back to the right path”

        Dr.Rahman: The point is, mullahs uphold, revere and propagate a culture which condones such barbarity. The madrassahs project Arab culture as highly virtuous and devout and that is what millions of madrassah students learn.

        Let me ask you two questions: (1) What exactly is Arab culture? and (2) assuming there is such a thing as the monolithic Arab culture you speak of, what is the evidence that religious education as propagated by the ever-fearsome Mullahs consist of courses in Arab culture as opposed to stuff like Quran, Hadith, Sirah, Fiqh and Mantiq, among other religious subjects?

        I eagerly await your rejoinder.

      • Dr A Rahman

        Thank you Mr KMAK (remaining anonymous) for being an avowed reader of my articles. Now I know that there is at least one reader who reads and saves all my discourses in many outlets and hence my efforts are not all wasted.
        I will answer both of your questions together as they are interlinked: Islam is the product of Arab culture, Arab tradition and Arab society. During the early part of 7th century, there was a widespread feeling of spiritual inferiority among Arabs that God had sent messages to Jews and Christians, but there was no revelation to Arabs from God. Their inferiority was redressed when Prophet Mohammad started getting divine messages in 610 AD in Mount Hira. The messages were all cloaked and mingled with Arab culture, tradition and commensurate with the Arab society. The final product is an admixture of Jewish and Christian tradition and pagan pantheon. For one thing, why would the all powerful, omniscient God send his messages in Arabic only, when there were far bigger population in India, China, South America having different languages? When Islam made Hajj as one of the five pillars of the religion, does not that Hajj come from the pre-Islamic tradition of trade congregation in Makkah? There are tons and tons of books detailing why, how and what came to being called Islam and you should look into those books for comprehensive answers. But I am sure you read some of them.

      • KMAK

        Dr.Rahman: Thank you Mr KMAK (remaining anonymous) for being an avowed reader of my articles.

        Not really. As much as you desire to see people leave religion, I am equally driven by the need to expose you and your kind for the hypocritical anti-religious bigots that you are.

        Dr.Rahman: I will answer both of your questions together as they are interlinked: Islam is the product of Arab culture, Arab tradition and Arab society…

        I appreciate your long winded discourse on the origins of Islam. Let me see if I can work out the logic in your response. You made the claim that Mullahs are guilty of teaching their students to idolize Arab culture. Next, you say that Islam is basically an embodiment of the Arab culture. This implies that if Mullahs, or anyone else for that matter, propagates Islam, they are in effect propagating Arab culture which in your view is all sorts of evil. Is this what you are trying to get at?

        We can talk about the theological significance of God revealing a book in Arabic or the novelty of Hajj AFTER you have addressed my point.

        Thanks.

  6. Shabbir A. Bashar

    The article lacks focus: it starts off talking about the genesis of Universal Declaration of Human Rights; cites Saudi Arabia and Qatar (these are well documented in the global media) are offenders and then suddenly lashes out at allegedly corrupt Bangladeshi government officials who are said to be engaged in spreading “Islamic messages within the country” who are allegedly “irretrievably taking the country into the dark ages of human history”.

    And what, Sir, is your opinion about the flagrant violation of the rights of the garments workers right here in Bangladesh? Who is responsible for this modern day slavery?

    If you cared to research a little more about the plight of Bangladeshi migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Malaysia etc., you would have discovered that these national bread earners are treated as badly as they are because their own government does not seem to care two hoots about them. In contrast, Indonesia and the Philippines expat workers in those countries are treated much better; their missions have gone to lengths (setting up shelters and safe houses) to ensure their nationals are protected; yet Saudi Arabia, Qatar etc., continue to recruit from those countries. You would have also discovered that the staff at Bangladesh missions in these Middle Eastern countries are often implicated in taking bribes from the Bangladeshi workers. It would appear, to some extent, that others will only respect you if you respect yourself enough in the first place.

    Oh by the way, Thailand no longer needs to send out unskilled laborers to the Middle East; they have built a thriving enough industrialized and literate nation (above 90%) to productively employ their own population.

    I do not subscribe to the tone of this article – let alone its failure to look at facts comprehensively before coming to sweeping conclusions.

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