Source: Mankato YWCA

There's no denying that racism is, unfortunately, alive and well in countries across the Middle East. 

Whether it's because of a person's skin color or nationality, millions of international and regional expats who live and work in Arab countries are often forced to deal with it on a daily basis.

We spoke to a few of them and here's what they had to say about their encounters with racists...

"My madam would always refer to me as her Sri Lankan"

Suti, a 39-year-old Sri Lankan domestic worker, has worked in Lebanon for over two decades, having arrived in the country when she was just a teenager.

Speaking to StepFeed, she recounted the racism she faced in the first household she was assigned to work in. 

"My madam would always refer to me as 'her Sri Lankan,' and I would overhear her talking  about me with her friends," she said. 

"She'd say the most horrible things. That I came from a 'dirty' country and that she had to teach me everything, including how to eat using cutlery," she added.

Suti left the home of her first employer after a few months of working there and was transferred to another household, where she was treated better. By that, we mean she was receiving her most basic of rights.

"Racism is everywhere in Lebanon"

Even though she did feel better working for a new family, Suti still faced racism outside her second employer's home.

"Racism is everywhere in Lebanon, in restaurants, in public places, even in hospitals. People treat you differently just based on class and race, it's not fair. I love the country, I know its language, I've served families here for 20 years, but to many locals, I am still just that 'Sri Lankan'. They don't even bother to know my name," she explained.

"People often assume I am a domestic worker just because of my skin color"

Rita, a 40-year-old Indian nurse who works in Kuwait, has encountered her fair share of Arab racists. 

"I've been in Kuwait for five years, and while I can't say everyone is racist here, 80 percent of people are," she explained. 

"It's completely unacceptable and at times even embarrassing to witness. How can educated people, who claim to be better than everyone else, act like this? I've had some call me 'yal hindiyya' (you Indian) at malls and people often assume I am a domestic worker just because of my skin color. There are racists everywhere, but with Arabs, it's on another level," she added.

"Arab racism is multi-layered"

During her interview with StepFeed, the nurse also explained the irony of Arab racism.

"Arab racism is multi-layered, the degree to which people respect or hate a foreigner depends on where exactly they come from. For example, if you're Indian, you deserve no respect, but if you're American, you do. Some are also classist, if you're an Indian expat who has money, they treat you differently, if you're poor, you face more racism," she stated. 

When asked if she ever thought of leaving the Gulf country because of the issue, Rita said:

"I do think about it from time to time but I have a family to support. It's hard. I honestly think foreigners in Kuwait and in other Gulf and Arab countries are treated so badly because these racists know we need to work, they know we're in need and take advantage of that. Is there anything more despicable?"

"So many people here think they’re entitled to treat me badly just because I am Filipino and they’re Arab"

Lenny, a 27-year-old Filipina saleswoman who works at a retail store in Qatar has dealt with racism on a daily basis since she arrived in the Gulf country in 2014. 

"I deal with racists every single day. Whether it's at the store or when I am out. So many people here think they're entitled to treat me badly just because I am Filipino and they're Arab," she said. 

"There was once a customer who got angry because he felt me and my colleagues were slow to respond to a request he made. He started screaming, saying things like 'you Filipinos are good for nothing' and 'if a local would accept to work in your place, we'd be better off, but this kind of job is below us'," she added. 

Lenny also said that she never responds when she hears a racist comment. When asked why that is, she explained:

"I need to keep working, to be honest, and I worry that if I ever stand up to them, I'll be kicked out of the country. If I didn't need the money, I would've left this place a long time ago. Even though not everyone is racist towards us [Filipinos] here, the majority treat us like we’re below them and it's just so hurtful."

International expats aren't the only people who face racism in the region

Arabs who leave their homelands to work in neighboring countries are also subjected to it. Speaking to StepFeed, Mohammad, an Egyptian who has lived and worked in Saudi Arabia for 10 years told us more about the racism he often faces.

"When I first moved here, I'd heard stories about racism faced by fellow Egyptians who were based in Saudi, but I never thought it would be this bad. People think that it's just international expats (mainly Asians) who're subjected to racism in this region, but that's not true, Arab expats face the same, if not worse," he said. 

"Locals think you're after their jobs, so that's where most of the hate stems from. However, there's more to it. Some nationals just believe they're more important than everyone else, because they're locals. They think that because you're an expat, they can scold you or humiliate you and you shouldn't be defending yourself or hitting back," he added.

"It's such a shame to live with this and to have my kids grow up in a place where they're constantly told that they're different, less than and undeserving. But it's the only thing I can do to ensure they get a chance at living a better life in the future," he explained.

"I think that instead of running away from a problem, we should face it"

In an interview with StepFeed, 29-year-old Maria, a Lebanese interior designer based in Bahrain, said that while she does experience racism in the country, she believes people of other nationalities have it harder.

"Being Lebanese, I am still viewed as a 'foreigner', and at times I do hear racist comments but I have it so much better than people who come from other countries," she said. 

"The way I am treated here sometimes reminds me of how expats are treated in my home country. Racism is everywhere in our region and it’s just outrageous. To be labelled because of where you come from, to have to constantly walk on eggshells just because you're not a national, I face that in Bahrain," she added. 

When asked if she'd ever considered leaving the country because of the racism she faced, Maria explained: 

"I don't think I would. Even though there are people who are racist here, there are also others who aren't. In addition to that, I think that instead of running away from a problem, we should face it. I personally call out people who are racist and tell them straight up that what they're doing is unacceptable."