Politics & Culture

Social Media Star Contests The Protection of Workers' Rights In Kuwait

Makeup artist and style guru Sondos al-Qattan is facing backlash after delving into politics on her Instagram this month.
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With 2.3 million followers on Instagram, a cosmetics line under her name and a series of brand endorsements, Kuwaiti makeup artist Sondos al-Qattan is one of the biggest social media stars to come out of the Middle East.

On July 10, however, a now-deleted Instagram video was met with outrage when the influencer attacked the newly introduced policies aimed at improving the lives of Filipino workers in Kuwait—referring, in particular, to the laws that now prevent employers from confiscating employee passports, and that grant Filipino household help, drivers, and caregivers one day off per week, 

Similarly to that of other Gulf nations, Kuwait’s immigrant structure requires every incoming laborer to be sponsored by a resident. Although the laborer would ultimately be held accountable for their own actions, it is up to the sponsor to assure the government that their employee will be a beneficial addition to Kuwaiti society. With even a financial deposit system in place (employers have to pay up to $4,900 per employee), this structure has raised questions of entitlement.

"All I said was that the employer was entitled to keep the servant's passport,” emphasized al-Qattan in defense of her comments, “and many Kuwaitis and Gulf nationals agree with me." As for the days off: "the servant lives in the house just like the owners, he eats the same food, he has a place to sleep, he can go out shopping... He's not like a waiter who works fixed hours and who should be given a weekly leave."

Despite the fact that al-Qattan’s views may indeed be shared by many — too many — residents, the backlash was enough for several brands and fans to withdraw their support for the social media star.

This controversy comes in the wake of a deeper diplomatic crisis between the Philippines and Kuwait, wherein the widespread mistreatment of domestic laborers resulted in President Duterte temporarily banning OFW's (Overseas Filipino Workers) from traveling to the Gulf country. With over 250,000 Filipinos working in Kuwaiti households, it is clear that these policies affect both OFW's and Kuwaiti residents, like Sondos al-Qattan.

Photos courtesy of @sondos_aq

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