Saudi Arabia working conditions spark global protests

Nov 18, 2013 | News

[SlideDeck2 id=31831]

By:Faiza Amin and Thomas Rohner

Reports of Ethiopian migrant workers being tortured and murdered in Saudi Arabia sparked another wave of protests across the globe Monday.

Protests organized by local Ethiopian communities were held in Toronto, Ottawa, Washington D.C., and London.

Abel Kemal, a protester outside the Saudi Arabian embassy in London, spoke to Humber News from the protest. He said he is showing solidarity with Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia.

“Everyone here is chanting different slogans, saying what happened to our brothers and sisters in Saudi Arabia is unacceptable,” he said in a phone interview.

Saudi Arabia passed legislation last spring in an attempt to crack down on illegal migrant workers.

Oban Metho, executive director of the human rights organization Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia, told Humber News that migrant workers from all over Africa and the Middle East work in Saudi Arabia.

It is difficult to know exactly how many Ethiopians work in the country, but estimates range between 100,000–200,000, Metho said.

“It’s terrible what’s going on there, but thanks to social media, some of the pictures and images of what’s really going on, it’s starting to mobilize people around the globe.”

Metho said he’s received many reports of Saudi Arabian authorities treating migrant workers with brutality.

His organization has received many stories of legal Ethiopian workers in Saudi Arabia having their documents destroyed or kept and used for blackmail. They are now being treated as illegal workers, and many of them are experiencing violent abuse at the hands of Saudi Arabian authorities, Metho said.

The protest planned in Toronto followed one held in they city’s centre Nov. 15. Meklit Yurusuw, who attended that protest, said the issue has not been receiving enough media attention.

“Why is everyone ignoring it? There has to be justice at the end of this. Saudi Arabia has to pay for what it’s done.”

Calls by Humber News to the Saudi Arabia consulate in Ottawa on Monday, were not returned.

A protest staged outside the Saudi embassy in Addis Abbaba, Ethiopia over the weekend was broken up by police, with some protesters taking to social media to complain about violence against protestors.

“The Ethiopian government is so afraid of their own people,” Metho said. “The government is very afraid that the Arab Spring can happen in Ethiopia. Now that Ethiopians have seen pictures, have heard stories, they have every right to be outraged.”

Metho said the Ethiopian government must do more to bring Ethiopian workers from Saudi Arabia safely home.