English language newspaper editors in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf receive many letters from expatriates who give vent to their feelings and frustrations. These people have no access to the authorities due to language barriers and other difficulties. At the same time there are no procedures to guide them and until a few years ago, no lawyers to assist them.
Most of the letters I have received throughout the years are about cruel and unjust employers who withhold wages from helpless workers. In some cases they are forced to revise their contract in favor of their employer.
I do not want to spoil the reader’s day by giving more horrific examples.
Then of course we receive letters concerning marital problems. These are mainly from women married to Saudis and Arabs who have been subjected to mistreatment. Some of these women have even come to our offices.
This becomes frustrating for a number of reasons. Firstly, we are not a family counseling center and as such it is difficult for us to help.
Secondly, they reject our advice to go to the police. “The police will not help,” said a woman who came all the way from Britain. “Go away,” they told one woman.
Some of these cases are heartbreaking, and I do hope that we now have a human rights commission, which is becoming more creative daily, which will do something positive in addition to giving statements.
In one case an Asian man threatened suicide if we would not meet with him.
When he came, I asked his problem. He said his Arab mother-in-law beats him regularly demanding that he hand over his salary to her and insisting that she would be in control of the budget of the house. I thought this was a joke until we actually phoned the woman and discovered the truth. It was only after threatening to expose her in the media that she finally relented.
Over the years as Internet usage grew and spread worldwide, we received many personal queries.
In fact many young Saudi people turned to us for advice.
While our main task is that of a news provider, I firmly believe that a respectable newspaper and editor also has a social responsibility. This we have done through sponsorship, promotion of sports, awareness programs, etc. And we will continue to do so using our brand name.
A letter I received some time ago, which I have kept on file, was titled “Deportation of the Innocent”. It was written by a woman who worked as a doctor in a hospital in the Kingdom, and I reproduce it below exactly as it was written:
“I was working as a specialist in dermatology at a hospital (city and name of the hospital withheld) for the last 24 years. I was ordered to be deported from Saudi Arabia by the authorities, you know why that I am not a terrorist, criminal or a threat to this nation, but by an anonymous false letter sent by one of my enemies saying that I am against Islam. If anybody wants to destroy an expatriate in Saudi Arabia, take a paper and write an anonymous letter to the local Mutawa and he will do the rest for his disposal. That is what happened to me. For the last one year I was dismissed from my job by a single fax to my hospital and my fate was sealed. I lost my patients, my salary, my self respect everything. I was suffering from mental and physical depression and all my appeals were rejected by the higher authorities. My Saudi patients meet me on the road and request me to come back to the hospital.
I hope your esteemed paper will enlighten this matter to the public.
Dr. FI (Name withheld) M.B.B.S, Dip. Der (LON), MMSC (UK)”
I would like to stress that there are people in any society who cause immense harm to others by making false accusations, sending anonymous letters, and resorting to badmouthing and character assassination.
It is important that we reject this kind of behavior outright. If anyone has a case against another person, he or she should state that case openly. With regard to the woman who wrote to us, I asked and was told that she was a hardworking and popular doctor.
There are many other similar cases involving expatriates working in the Kingdom.
It is important that those receiving letters or phone calls which tarnish the reputation of an individual verify the source and authenticity of these claims.
I would like to close by quoting a verse from Surah Al-Hujurat in the Holy Qur’an. (49:6)
“O ye who believe! If a wicked person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth, lest ye harm people unwittingly, and afterwards become full of repentance for what ye have done.”
— The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed at Twitter: @KhaledAlmaeena