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The Land of Intolerance

Tarek Heggy: If I were a Shi'ite from Saudi Arabia.

If I were a Shi'ite from Saudi Arabia, I would make a huge commotion in the world, because the government spends millions of dollars on building thousands of mosques throughout the kingdom, but the Saudi government has not shared [in the costs] of building a single Shi'ite mosque or a single Husainiya since the establishment of the state. In addition, the Shi'ites are prevented from building their mosques and Husainiyas with their own funds, and they are punished for practicing their religious rituals - even though all the country's oil resources are pumped from their regions.

This is true for all non-Wahabbi religious affiliation. One cannot build a church, Hindu mandir or a synagogue in Saudi Arabia.

If I were a Shi'ite from Saudi Arabia, I would publish articles, one after another, about how the [Saudi] media ignores matters [concerning me] and my religious holidays - as if I and the Shi'ites did not exist in Saudi Arabia.

Many Christians, from Western nations, work in the oil industry in Saudi Arabia. Some years ago, Saudi Aramco gave them time off for Christmas which caused volcanic eruptions from the religious fanatics, so much so that Aramco reversed its decision. In its place, Aramco gave an extra week off for vacation to Western workers...which they largely utilized for Christmas.

It's not just religious events. Here's the Saudi position on Valentine's Day:

Each year shortly before Feb. 14, the country's religious police mobilize, heading out to hunt for — and confiscate — red roses, red teddy bears and any signs of a heart. In a country where Valentine's Day is banned, ordinary Saudis find they must skirt the law to spoil their sweetheart.

Back to Tarek Heggy:

If I were a Shi'ite from Saudi Arabia, I would make my voice heard in the world, because since the kingdom's establishment to the present day, there has been no Shi'ite minister appointed in the country - and, as of this writing, they [i.e the Shi'ites] are barred from working in the Foreign Ministry, the army, the armed forces, and the National Guard.

The Saudis employ millions of foreign workers, many of whom are Third Country Nationals (TCNs). These men and women come from mostly Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and numerous African nations. Many spend more than a decade in the country. Yet, jobs in the government are not open to them. They are paid 33-50% of the wages for the same work done by an Arab. The Saudi legal system is stacked against them. As Human Rights Watch puts it, "[...] migrant workers in the purportedly modern society that the kingdom has become continue to suffer extreme forms of labor exploitation that sometimes rise to slavery-like conditions."

Furthermore, these laborers are barred from buying property. They have to rent their living space. Saudi landlords have no qualms about raising the rent prices by 20% or more after a year which often causes these workers to move to a new place numerous times during their stay in the kingdom.

The vast majority of such workers are Muslim. When the Saudis treat their own "brothers" in such a lovely manner, it's hard to imagine what their behavior would be like to the much loathed kafir.


BT in SA

It IS slavery, here. I was so naive thinking that slavery was outlawed everywhere. We have finally just finished Ramadan - and Eid - and things are back to normal [normal being a relative term]. However, what really bothers me about the whole Ramadan thing is that the little workers - the TCN's - work outside in the heat and sun doing the labor - a job NO Saudi will do - Saudi's only take "cushy, management, air-conditioned office jobs" [a fact!] during this month long ritual and they are NOT allowed to eat or drink. It is beyond cruel. It is actually dangerous. We are still hitting 100-degree temperatures every day.

Many companies - Aramco included - allow their workers [the local's] to work reduced hours during Ramadan. The TCN's work their full shifts.

And even worse than the amount these poor little guys are paid - it is truly pathetic - street cleaners here make 350 Riyals a month - that's less than $100 U.S. dollars - is the fact that so many, many workers are not paid on time. Wages are regularly withheld for months at a time and just try being a TCN and going to the Labor Ministry with a case. The case will rarely be found in your favor, if ever.

There is no OSHA here. The safety rules and regulations are completely lacking. A worker gets hurt? Oh well. Or killed? His body will sit in a cooler somewhere until someone can afford to repatriate him. Such is life...

There is something to be said for being an American, here. At least we are paid handsomely - we don't come here for any other reason! And, for the most part, are treated fairly well.

It is said that if we all left - us foreign workers - this place would come to a dead halt and the locals would be back to living in tents and riding camels. It is the truth.

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