By Kebede Haile
I was so embarrassed that I could not bring myself to write on it immediately it happened. Even this one was done in deep sorrow. It that it is necessary to pass what I felt about the current injured, killed suffering of Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia which has been the focus of peace loving Ethiopians. I am yet to recover from the rude shock. I therefore am writing this article to condemn it like my countrymen.
Migration for economic needs satisfaction is not only Ethiopia’s affair but it is a global issue due to short supply of manpower. The manpower market has a wide variety of supply and demand choices vary from skilled to unskilled laborers. Of course, every one of migrant reason is complex. At one point, they sacrifice their beliefs, social practices, their lives culture and values. At the other end, people are exported by their own governments to work for sources of foreign exchange earnings as remittances. In any way, Saudi Arabia is one of Gulf States of migrant workers sanctuary.
The history of Ethiopian job seekers immigrated to the Middle Eastern countries began way back noticeably, during Monarchy leadership era. During that time, most of the Ethiopian immigrant workers were Eritreans who have been living in Sudan and Yemen. Gradually Muslim Ethiopians who traveled to attend the annual Hajji holiday stayed behind to work with or without work permits and still is the major traditional ways of exiting destination of the Ethiopian domestic housemaid workers.
There is no reliable information how many young Ethiopians have immigrated to Middle East just to work or to look for jobs. Whether they planned to exit their country officially or unofficially, their trips are arranged through local brokers of both countries that were mushroomed all over the country. Even though the agencies are the primary root causes of exploitation of the young men and women who are fooled into coming to big life, the returnees are also responsible for not telling the true life situation in Saudi Arabia.
The story of Ethiopian maid workers mistreatment has been old enough and now is new to us but it is everyday occurrence while working at their sponsors’ residents who have been sent by local brokers after paying a large amount of money. A similar incident was carried out, but this time at the same ungodly hour and in the same circumstances when Ethiopian origin was dragged on the street. Later, for the sake of clarity, the Saudi claimed that most of the victims were self inflicted.
Causes and Effect of Tensions
We have to recall that Arab countries in which Saudi was one of the then TPLF financer to overthrow Colonel President Mengistu Hailemariam’s government during their struggle. In return, TPLF promised two things to Arabs: break away Eritrea and spread of Islam religion. They indeed accomplished one but not fast enough to spread religion and share power with major ethnic local Muslim leader as expected.
It seems like the Saudi government is playing a Theo- Political game change. So it took this merciless action in retaliation to and to pressurized the Ethiopian government for: 1, to unfulfilled promised;2, to realize those arrested during the Ethiopian Muslims Mosque leadership election in and 3. To twist the Ethiopian government hands ‘to changes its attitude towards Muslims. Ethiopia on the other hand, accused the Saudi-based Wehabi Islamic sect supporting and financing extremists with the goal of causing instability amongst the Ethiopian Muslim community linked some of them to other extremist groups in a reference to pro-Arab spring movement. The Saudi condemned the Ethiopian security forces crackdown described the statement as interference in its religion affairs in which the Saudi government denied any links to the Ethiopian Mosques leadership election. Since then the relationships between Ethiopia and Saudi kingdom soured even though the Saudi owned fertile farm lands in Ethiopia.
The Arab countries remain the petro-economic capital of the Middle Eastern countries. But no low level migrant workers has enjoyed. It is supposedly to be a melting pot for all ethnic group and foreign nationals because they undoubtly contributed to the national domestic economy growth through their honesty, sincerity and dedication. Thus, the country is thickly populated by people from all walks of life, including the physically challenged, brain drained, all manner beggars, domestic sex workers who are mostly unofficial.
As the world media reported that Saudi Arabia began deporting thousands foreign migrant workers after they failed to renew their work and resident permits deadline passed. Saudi official said that made no specific allegations against Ethiopians in announcing the illegal expulsion, but said: the Saudi is attempting to curve the rising number of unemployment among low income Saudian’s. The Ethiopians should have been given warning time till at least organized themselves.
The Saudi government ordered its security guards to invade the migrants’ villages and conducted house to house hunting. Foreign workers including Ethiopians women, men and their children poured into the streets leaving their belongings behind. Following the raid, Ethiopians in Saudi’s capital swarmed the streets overrunning several buildings in an escalating campaign to crackdown illegal migrant workers who some of them are currently in detention facing charges of inciting violence. The migrants disrupt roads, route was closed and police tightened security at their destinations. The migrants said they were robbed, sodomized and raped. The Saudi said, the Security forces went up to every floor, gone into every room, but do not destroy anything as the migrants ‘said so.
As many have said, the surrounded suspect migrant workers blew noisy whistles in the streets as part of their displeasure campaign against the Saudi government. Then Saudi police warned them that they would be dealt with firmly as from now on if any one that is not peaceful dealt with it firmly and decisively no matter what you are up to. In some of the worst foreign workers violence in decades, Saudi security forces continued crushing migrants. Ethiopians had retaliated to the Saudi’s police move by fighting back to defend themselves from savage beatings of their children wives and, husbands.
The intrusion was the boldest act yet by Saudi to highlights the movement’s new strategy of clamping down the workers by forcing sponsors who hired housemaids and servants to stop working. The crowd at the street jammed traffic and raising concerns of violence in the country’s ongoing sudden migrant workers expelling crisis, which has also created tension even among those who are legally working around the surrounding Arab countries for years.
Despite a heavy police presence at most sites where migrants are heavily rounded, there was limited security but after clash erupted, a large number of police were deployed who scuffled the migrants those exchanged words with officers. Saudi said police presence in the crowd was punched by workers who was accused them of biased.
Beyond chasing them out from their residences, the policemen came to shout into the faces and eyes of the harmless and defenseless workers causing to fall over themselves in their attempts to flee the chaotic sense. The whole exercise was held in broad day light at a public street that is visible to public. So whatever meaning or coloration the police is giving to it (a break-down of law and order) which the armed policemen lay claim to is all a cover up. The list of assault was endless.
What is even more disturbing in this whole chaos is that the forcible security police action to disperse thousands of foreign migrants and humiliated them- including women and children as they ran for their precious lives, many were seriously injured and killed is very unfortunate.
If the immigration laws are anything to go by, nobody, no state government has the right and power to beat them to death but deport from their state. Every citizen including beggars should be taken care of by the government and not be thrown into blasted hot whether because somebody wants to make the Saudi Arabia a lawful country. Making the Saudi Arabia lawful does not mean that migrant workers will be banished from the state.
Strong anger expressed by many sympathizers and other well-meaning Ethiopians over the order of deportation of many Ethiopians from Saudi State to their assumed state of origin, where both countries has political and economical strong bonds is highly unjustified.
Similarly, prominent Ethiopian community leaders and the Ethiopian immigrants in the US and other parts of the world have equally condemned the action. The truth is that we may never get an honest answer from any of them about what really happened. As many believed, the reason behind it is unclear but the sequence of events and time really do tell an interesting and revealing story. Those that to conspire to hide the truth that sheds innocent blood and that seeks to kill, jail, defame, and destroy the innocent in the name of state will pay a heavy price for their murderous in this world or in the next.
The fact the matter is that there shouldn’t be a lasting peace between the two countries until these questions are answered and justice is done. We may have a better tomorrow yet to bring their killers to justice. They were faithful to their cause to the very last. In return, the least we could do is to ask the relevant questions, demand the appropriate answers and expose the bitter truth.
The Ethiopian people puts a burden on the Ethiopian government because they expect so much from them and whatever action they take is looked at differently for legal and humanitarian reasons. They demanded unreserved apology from Saudi Arabian government, to pay their wages, pain and sufferings. They even called for the prosecution of those people involved over the illegality and impunity directed at the poor from a section of the country.
This is not the first time that the Ethiopian domestic workers were mistreated, injured and killed by their employers. I still cannot justify this animalistic behavior. I believe the Saudi government has the capacity and executives to address this issue to handle it in civilized way. Unfortunately, they were wrongly advised.
Needless to say, life for Ethiopians looking for work and to survive in these countries is not easy. On top of these rough life, the Ethiopians who are law abiding and hard working people are facing persecution beyond anyone’s imagination. There is no justification for such unlawful behavior.
The Saudi should learn lesson from its neighbor that things is not going remain like this forever. It is important to remember that one day, the Saudi security force that are committing such crimes on helpless Ethiopians may seek refuge in Ethiopia as was done over thousand years ago. Don’t forget your history and stop mistreating our poor Ethiopian brothers and sisters who came to work in your country. All remains to be seen what is going to happen in the future.
It is therefore all actions are condemnable. I condemn it in strong and unequivocal term and urge all well-meaning people and progressive minds to condemn the Saudi Police force for its senseless, barbaric, shameful action and government decision for sending these hard working people back to their homeland.
Kebede is a freelance writer of numerous articles and author of books about the Ethiopian immigrants. Can be reached at [email protected]
By Kebede Haile