Racism against Migrants is the Norm in Oman

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Jul 17 2010

No where in the world racism is still openly embraced like it is in the Gulf of Persia (did I say Persia?), well, other than Israel. The most amazing part about the way people deal with their racism here is that they have no idea it is racism in the first place!

In a very enlightening debate I had with a couple of managers a while ago, I was stunned to see how smooth it was for them to openly defend paying an Indian 10% of what they pay to a Jordanian, knowing that both will pretty much accomplish the same amount of work, simply because the Indian was… well, a bloody Indian!

The Omani girl in the office, who I am still not sure whether she has 20 exact black Abayahas or she never changes her outfit, cracks the hell out of me every time she tries to start a “global” conversation going on about the world around us, it is one of my greatest pleasures in this place to listen to her and get blown away day after another by the way she was brought up and the ideas that were stuffed in her brain. The latest of that was a few days ago; she was passing by an Indian assistant, who apparently never showers, then covered her nose with disgust, when she approached me, she mumbled that the guy smells so bad, but guess what, to her, it was not because of his body fluids, it was due to the fact that he was not a Muslim!

In the first few days after I arrived to Muscat, I was sent for a couple of check ups and some paper filling to get my residency. Now, despite that fact that bureaucracy was not as bad as I thought it would be, I had one of my first encounters with open racism in its most clear forms; as I was sitting on a long bench outside some hall waiting for one of the papers to get done, a group of Indian workers arrived to do the same, those poor guys were accompanied by their Omani employer who ordered them to sit on the bench and wait. They all obeyed at once and rushed to the bench, this is when one Omani, who was apparently an employee there, noticed that they left spaces between each other that could fit a couple more, so he started cussing and shouting at them to squeeze in together. Although I can promise that it was the first time he saw them, he called each and every one of them stupid and commanded them as if he was their master. The poor workers squeezed in as if their lives depended on it, and when they did that, I got squeezed in with them, this is when the same Omani spotted me and immediately asked me to move away from them; “I am sorry for those idiots, you can sit on the other side.” He assured me. To my understanding, the only difference between me and them was that I had a whiter skin and did not wear slippers.

Life goes on here like that, until you get to a point where you don’t know whether it’s wrong or right, you see everyone settled to it; from the Indian down the chain to the Englishman on top.

Cross posted from MideastYouth.com

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East