27 August, 2007

Blood, Sweat and Tears

The human rights watch report on the abuses of labourers rights in Dubai provides an insight into the conditions suffered by hundreds of thousands of people. Where statistics and descriptions have failed, aljazeera's documentary has managed to take it one step further by not only providing a visual representation of this injustice but, more importantly, providing a human and personal touch to it.

Part 1

Part 2

I have to say that I was really touched after seeing this.

16 comments:

imagination said...

It's all a big lie.

Workers here in Dubai live a life of luxury, peace and contentment.

Mita said...

Would that this documentary could help alleviate their lot -

We, the residents of the Middle East especially the Gulf states - Arab and non Arab - owe the roofs over our heads to these unnamed hordes that risk life and limb to build cities that greedy developers can build their millions on!

Kudos to Al Jazeera for a thought provoking documentary

Anonymous said...

This really is gut wrenching. Most people who are exposed to the UAE for even a short period of time (as I was) can understand fully well how the place works.
There is no miracle or incomprehensible vision unfolding. It is just an exploitative system of economics that may have had parallels in the days of slavery, but certainly is unique today. The cost of building a 'mega-project' in Dubai today is a fraction of what it costs in the US, Japan, Europe or Singapore. This is made possible largely by the abysmally low expenditure on labour and the shockingly poor safety standards. The exploitation doesn't end with employees. The customer gets a pretty raw deal as well. The quality of construction, services and fittings is appalling. In my time there I found no exception to this, only variations in the degree of problems.
The documentary is being charitable when it says that the government wants to do something about it. The government there is all about making hefty profits in the shortest possible span of time. It is not in its interest to do anything which would reduce the massive returns it (and investors brought in by it) can make on account of the low cost structure. A more accurate statement could be - "Because some sections of the international media have lately taken it upon themselves to project an unbiased image of Dubai to the rest of the world, the government is taking measures to potray that it wishes to improve the plight of workers. This endeavour is fully backed up by its formidable marketing machine". Maybe this documentary should also have talked about how many workers really died in the airport construction accident or the dry docks accident and other such events where the media just states the official line and clams up.
Finally, to those who sit in their disgustingly opulent offices (as seen in the documentary) and make statements like - "worker conditions here are better than in their home countries" - all one can say is - come here you morons and see for yourself. Workers in India by and large live with families, in decent dwellings, often have their own small farms back home (in case they are interstate migrants) and have rights guaranteed by the constitution. Most importantly, they have freedom to choose and the oppotunity to grow. Today, they are generally also paid more than in the Gulf (much more if purchasing power parity is considered).
Even in this era of connectivity, the flow of information is not perfect. Everyone looks to better their situation in life. Since the complete truth about 'working in the Middle East' does not filter down to many workers in smaller places they continue to aspire to go there. This allows 'agents' to rob them and employers in the ME to continue to talk like they are doing these workers a favour by bringing them over. However, perceptions are getting corrected really quick - believe me !

Anonymous said...

Workers are paid much less and work in worse working conditions all around the world. They are behind all this global groeth. who do you think builds all these towers in singapore, hong kong, china, chile...
There is an endless supply of these workers from all around the world and they dont mind these bad working conditions and low wages so JUST LET THEM BE.
You think if they are paid more and work 8 hours a day the world will be a better world...think again.

illegale workers are paid much just a a dollar or two for a full day of work in the United States so please stop focusing in dubai as i am sure the are treated far worse in many other parts of the world

Anonymous said...

Anonymous - 27 August, 2007 23:48

Do you really think the coverage of workers being exploited in the gulf is no more then some people being unfair on Dubai - and they should just leave poor little Dubai alone?

So you are saying that exploitation of other workers in other countries is enough of a reason to not report on the inhuman abuse that occurs in Dubai's construction boom?

If we follow that reasoning we may as well have a media which never reports any injustices as it may have happened somewhere else in the world.

Iraq - leave bush alone, you can't report that, what about the roman empire!

How small minded is that?

Anonymous said...

Just in case anyone one wants to do a good deed today!
Some guy needs blood

SevenSummits said...

My utmost respect for Al Jazeera and especially LocalExpat for ad infinitum pointing out these contemporary unparalleled, organized, civilian committed “crimes against humanity” to the global bogging community.

I have two observations in this respect:
(1) While our German Chancellor Angela Merkel is currently pressing China to improve human rights and take on greater international responsibilities, she is also meeting with Chinese Human Rights activists, scholars as well as students to underscore her endeavor and show the Chinese government that she really means it. Yet all this has been initiated by Chinese Human Rights Groups and journalists (cyber dissidents) in an open letter to her as well as other Western governments. (… and we do have huge economic interests with China!)

Certainly similar international actions could take place in the UAE, IF ONLY there would a SINCERE LOCAL MOVEMENT against these atrocities. There is absolutely nothing! Zip! Zero! Nada! Some Emiratis may mention it on the sidelines, but there is certainly an absence of real interest and initiative to get global backup and take an ethical stance on this issue. (not that there is any civil society formation on any other issue! “Local” guys! – don’t look a foreign commitment pls!)

(2) In the complete absence of any “local” sociological or anthropological analysis of this country, it never ceases to amaze me, how a combined society can be so uncompassionate when it comes to “foreign” human beings. This has nothing to do with the so called “Arab culture”, or even “Gulf Arab subculture”, or the way things used to be 25 years ago and even less with “Islam”. To be honest, I am being further shocked on a daily basis, after reading what they do with people that try to commit suicide, to the victims of crime, to people that have lived and worked there over 30 years, to a US professor that did not even receive lodging facilities upon his arrival up to a Western holiday maker that ended up sleeping on the beach as a result of a heart attack. (and so on!) After having been almost everywhere in the world and found the most helpful and caring people in almost every single society, this observation just really, really scares me. (how far will they still go? Just think of ethical questions, such as organ transplants?) Instead of promoting peace in an already troubled world, further hatred is being promoted with obvious pleasure (see numerous websites) Congrats to all of you – now that will really do the trick!
How can just any human being look in the faces and eyes of these laborers (maids, taxi drivers, etc. ) and feel absolutely nothing? May God help humanity!

_______________

A special 7Summits solution – grrr - would be to send all Emiratis (male and female) to a Siberian labor camp for a few months, with overseers from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, etc. – it might do the trick to appreciate and respect human labor in the future! Oh yeah and don’t worry when the day comes that only Emiratis will die of heat stroke and abusive labor conditions, we will instantly start to mind our own business – currently you are exploiting the poor and unprivileged of this world and that allows us to care.

SevenSummits said...

Edit:
On a second thought - forget those South Asian overseers – they will be just too sweet and kind. Better to take the local Russian that already had some past practice in being harsh to people :- ) Ah yes, and since those laborers in Dubai don’t need ACs, I think that we could skip the heating as well – those winters can be just so cosy!

Anonymous said...

Once again SS very good observation a good comment. Somehow when ppl land in this place; they change they become inhumanly selfish uncaring. Perhaps because they realize that they are not going to be here for long and got to make the maximum amout of money in that time. With iflation sky rockting it is a difficult situation. They can be one simple solution to this which should work. Make it easy for these workers to change jobs.. let market forces decide! Adios!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for making this known in the blogging community... wish it could filter across the world. There should be a website to post all atrocities. People as yet only hear the life of luxury and the 'best' and 'biggest' portrayed thanks to great marketing campaigns and the media only shown the good. Very few really know what goes on here.

SevenSummits said...

@ Anon 09:13,
your comment is just very true. :- ) Actually, I came to realize that most Europeans have absolutely no clue about what is going on in the Emirates and are really shocked when they hear about the conditions of all those non-western foreign workers (pls don’t forget - not only laborers!). [While most US citizens are not even aware that this is a country :- ) – well and I will excuse this, since it is really far away and pretty insignificant.] Never actually seen a poster in the university asking: “How much blood did your hotel room cost?” or been handed out a leaflet in DC telling my about the conditions in UAE prisons – nothing!

However, if more awareness would be circulated most of these Europeans would certainly reconsider taking a vacation in such an environment for ethical considerations and this is exactly where concerned Emiratis could make a difference. While they are constantly and “not totally unfounded” complaining about the foreign impact on their cultural norms (especially from foreign tourists), it would be easy for them to start “making some noise”. But unfortunately material considerations seem to have replaced Islamic teachings and are currently the only thing that is really being worshipped – “greed” above ethics, humanitarian concerns and even up to the point to selling out your own “culture” and future prosperity. Wow?!

I have seen a lot in my life and have met societies that are doing appalling things out of desperation, absence of social security and poverty – yet I can understand their actions and thank God that I am not in the same position to make such choices for my daily survival. When it comes to the UAE, I am simply speechless and really wish that some anthropologists and sociologists would analyze this unprecedented phenomenon – there must be more than just a rentier mentality?

Another serious problem is that the world has not yet realized how seriously underdeveloped the UAE still is and that is why nobody really makes an effort to take a closer look. Everyone gets fooled with the available infrastructure and the HD data, but nobody cares to realize that this all “bought development” created entirely by foreigners. The father of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed (may he rest in peace) already cautiously warned “that they cannot eat money” as well as that "Islam is the religion of tolerance and forgiveness... of dialogue and understanding." Why didn’t they listen to him?

B.D. said...

The UAE, understandably, is not very much on the radar screen. It isn't China, isn't Russia or Japan, its a collection of a few small city-states. That alone would explain why the problem of labor exploitation gets little international attention. In that sense, the fact that people are paying more and more attention is impressive and this attention is bound to increase due to Dubai's rapid emergence as a major tourist destination. As bad as things are, it isn't slavery and much of the abuse takes place in the worker's home countries and the hands of their own compatriots. If it were not for the agents who cheat and steal from them in their home countries, then there would be nothing to stop these workers from just going home when they face tough conditions. The UAE allows them to do this, but it is the agents who turn them into bonded servants making it impossible for them to quit and run. The president of India, for example, needs to be pressured on this issue as much as any Dubai sheikh.

SevenSummits said...

@ b.d.,
very true :- ) and that would have been applicable for the Transatlantic slave trade as well. We couldn’t have shipped a single slave from West and Central Africa without local support and would have certainly died of Malaria etc. while making the attempt.
Yet, that does not make it any better, or? [Even some Jews collaborated with the Germans to commit those most atrocious crimes against humanity recorded in history – but that can certainly not be used as a defensive argument either]

I fully agree with you that there needs to be some political pressure on those governments in question, just as much as on the UAE. Well – remittances is obviously the key word here! The solution would be to encourage even more local employment opportunities in those concerned countries through the appropriate channels. For instance “responsible tourism” that will support local SMEs, would already be a tiny step towards increased alternative economic opportunities.

I thought that India and Sri Lanka already took some steps to stop the labor exploitation (at least in respect to Saudi???), but we need to get the opinion of those that know more about these issues. All those countries of origin do not fall into my expertise, so I honestly wouldn’t know about their sincerity.

The radar you mentioned might be the real problem.
Wow, I can see people demonstrate against pipelines in Chad / Cameroon / Alaska, oil exploitation in Ecuador, Shell!!! with an entire list and hundreds of people including myself boycotting this multinational, large damns everywhere, no tourism to Tibet, no bananas from Costa Rica, etc. – the obstacle remains – no peaceful activism, without national UAE backup!

Besides, if you read some of my comments you will know that I will be the last one to point a finger at those elites, but am always questioning the ethical motivations of the UAE society. Political pressure must come from “them” to have any meaning whatsoever and not just be a purely cosmetic, top-down gesture to please the increasing demands of the Western world.

Anonymous said...

SS
As usual good comment, most ppl would like to blame the country of origin. But these are poor countries, they don't claim to be top of the world and being such it may be very difficult to control. This place, leading the rest of the world in so many things; should set an example.

Anonymous said...

its the middle class whos suffering in UAE more than the labors. At least most labors dont pay there rents and there salaries cover there expenses. However, low paid middle class employees put almost all there salaries into rents, thats why the resignaton of such class is much higher than labors.

Anonymous said...

Things are gonna get worse before this place resembles a ghost town with nothing but memories of a so-called glorious past.

Just monuments without any value, and no significance.

When that time comes, we can all roar!

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