Last week, a New Delhi-based activist uploaded a tearful video by an Indian expat truck driver in Saudi Arabia.
"My employer doesn't give me proper salary and does not give me money for food," Abdul Sattar Makandar said in the video, according to the Washington Post . He also said that his employer would not allow him to travel or return home to India, where he has four children.
The video quickly went viral in India and abroad, causing an outcry against Makandar's situation and the broader kafala system governing the rights of expat laborers in the kingdom, as well as other Gulf and Levant region countries.
However, despite the support he received back home, things only got worse for Makandar. According to Kundan Srivastava, the activist who originally posted the video, Makandar was arrested by authorities for the "spread of misinformation," which is considered a criminal act in the kingdom.
Al Suroor United Group, the company that employs Makandar, denied his accusations as did the recruitment agency that first helped Makandar secure the job. According to the BBC, Al Suroor United Group said that Makandar is free to resign at any time and that he was just six months shy of finishing a two year contract.
The company insisted that not only has he been paid on time, but he has also received a bonus. Al Suroor United Group also began posting images of expat workers and their family members holding signs saying how the company had helped them achieve their goals.
After threats of legal action, Srivstava removed the video and issued an apology. However, according to the Washington Post, even though the video's removal and the apology initially brought the authorities to free Makandar, he has since been arrested again. It remains unclear what the outcome of Makandar's situation will be and Srivstava has appealed to India's minister of foreign affairs for help.
Yes! I'm a human rights activist, believe a human is my family member and humanity is my family. I apologies on behalf...
While Makandar's situation is still uncertain, kafala remains to be a major issue throughout the Gulf and the Levant region. Human rights groups have consistently called the system a form of "modern-day slavery " and reports of expat laborers being abused by their employers, committing suicide and even dying under suspicious circumstances are not uncommon.