Migrant Workers in the Gulf: A Historical Perspective (video)

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May 16 2011

Below is a great video interview of The Real News Network with Dr. Adam Hanieh about the historical changes that occurred within the working class of the Gulf region since the 1950s. The program also discusses the recent popular uprising in Bahrain, the tensions created by the al-Khalifa regime's policy of naturalization of foreign Sunnis and the lack of solidarity with migrant workers in the protests in Bahrain.

Dr. Hanieh, a lecturer in Development Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, described how the Saudi working class that has filled up most of the positions in the oil sector was gradually replaced with temporary workers in the 1960s and 1970s due to radicalization of the Saudi working class, which conducted several strikes, some of them against the control of a US firm (Aramco) over the Saudi oil. The strikes and protests were repressed and by the 1970s, 75% of the workers were Arab migrants. Those migrants, mostly Palestinians and Yemeni citizens were then themselves replaced in the 1980s and 1990s by South-Asian migrants who now constitute the majority of the workforce in the Gulf. Dr. Hanieh then goes on to discuss the living and working conditions of migrant workers in the Gulf today: passport confiscation, inability to strike, abuse and many occurrence of suicides.

Read here the full transcript of the interview.

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East