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Rahma advertisements urge mercy for workers

On November 18, 2008

A recent great article in Arab News highlights a great ad campaign for migrant workers:

JEDDAH: The abuse of workers in the Kingdom, as reported by several human rights groups, has prompted a Saudi advertisement agency boss to launch a series of TV advertisements to encourage people to show mercy.

“We wanted to give people something to think and talk about. Workers are fragile people, and in Islam we must treat them with mercy and compassion,” said Kaswara Al-Khatib, managing director of Full Stop Advertising, which is behind the initiative.

The campaign, entitled Rahma, is part of Full Stop Advertising’s corporate social responsibility drive. Organizers of the campaign hope to modify public attitudes by encouraging people to treat workers humanely.

“The Rahma campaign is an initiative to publicly address the abuse of domestic and migrant workers in Saudi society,” said Al-Khatib. “We sometimes forget that those who we deal with as helpers are actually human beings. We are obliged to treat them well. Why ask them to do things that we can’t bear ourselves? If we have mercy on them, then Allah will have mercy on us,” he added.

As part of the campaign, TV advertisements are being broadcast on channels run by the Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC) and printed advertisements are being published in local newspapers. Al-Khatib told Arab News that the advertisements are part of the first phase of the campaign’s three phases.

“We want to deliver a message to people that they should not abuse. We also want to show them how to help workers and help improve people’s attitude toward them,” he added.

The advertisements have left an impressionable effect on people in the Kingdom and have been the topic of discussion for bloggers. Glitter who blogs on www.glitterpowder.blogspot. com, wrote asking friends if they had seen the advertisements.

“Oh My God! I was so touched; I had to swallow a big lump that was rising in my throat! Ok I admit, I’m a bit sensitive, but these advertisements are just masterpieces… We need these positive, powerful little messages that speak to people’s hearts and consciences,” wrote Glitter in her blog.

Mahmoud Saeed, a 31-yearold reporter, said the advertisements are a very brave step in admitting that the problem exists in the Kingdom. “This is the first step toward finding a solution. It’s very true that we have people who perform acts of worship to Allah yet have no mercy and don’t fear God when it comes to treating others,” he said. The theme of the campaign was derived from a Hadith in which the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “The merciful are shown mercy by the All- Merciful. Have mercy on those on earth, and the Lord of the Heavens will have mercy on you.”

To widen the scope of public awareness, Al-Khatib said Full Stop Advertising recently signed a contract with the National Society for Human Rights to work on another campaign to tackle child abuse. “There are many brilliant ideas and lots of public service initiatives to inform and educate the public about. There are many issues — may it be regarding the Qur’an, the hazards of smoking, the importance of reading … We’d like people or organizations interested in contributing to the betterment of society to contact us to sponsor these initiatives,” said Al-Khatib.

Human Rights Watch issued a report in July 2008, entitled “As If I Am Not Human,” about the abuse of Asian domestic workers in the Kingdom.

The report stated that while many domestic workers enjoy decent work conditions, others endure a range of abuses, including nonpayment of salaries, forced confinement, food deprivation, excessive workload, and instances of severe psychological, physical and sexual abuse. Human Rights Watch documented dozens of cases where the combination of these conditions amounted to forced labor, trafficking, or slavery- like conditions.

The rights body also published a report in July 2004, entitled “Bad Dreams: Exploitation and Abuse of Migrant Workers in Saudi Arabia,” detailing the stories of migrant workers in the Kingdom who were exploited to slave-like level. The report said the workers’ lives were further complicated by deeply rooted gender, religious and racial discrimination.