Bangladeshi expat watches out for his community

Advocating for those who cannot protect themselves, Bangladeshi social worker draws media attention to his countrymen’s problems

Mohd Abdul Rouf Mowla

Reports about mistreated, harassed and unpaid housemaids regularly make the headlines in Kuwait. But a Bangladeshi social worker told Kuwait Times abuse and mistreatment often can be found in other professions beyond domestic labor, especially among the lowest skilled classes.

“The sad thing is that the plight of Bangladeshis is not taken seriously in Kuwait,” Mohd Abdul Rouf Mowla rued.
Mowla is the president of the Bangladesh Awami League’s Kuwait Central Committee which is connected to the party of Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Mowla is also the president of an expat media forum in Kuwait, whose members are linked to media organizations in Bangladesh. He works at the Ministry of Electricity and Water. He has three children – the eldest is 25 years old with an MBA degree in Bangladesh. The other two are with him in Kuwait and are studying at Jabriya Indian School. His wife is a part-time makeup artist and hair-stylist in Kuwait.

“The Bangladeshi government as well as Kuwaiti employers should be concerned about workers’ conditions, but no one bothers, and that’s why abuse and mistreatment is tolerated and accepted,” Mowla said. “Have you ever wondered about the condition of some Bangladeshi workers in Kuwait?” he added. According to him, the depressing truth is that few people, if not all, care about their conditions. “No one cares if they are being paid their salaries on time, have humane accommodation or get one meal a day at least,” he lamented.

“Although many are mistreated, they continue to work as they have been victimized by illegal visa traders to pay for the work visa to enter Kuwait – up to KD 2,500. How can one pay back such a huge amount in just two years with a monthly salary of KD 60? So, unfortunately, they are stuck and accept whatever comes their way. When you see a Bangladeshi sweeping the road in this extreme weather, remember it’s not only a job, but a struggle to survive. They need money and food to survive, but no one seems to care,” Mowla told Kuwait Times.

“For instance, Bangladeshis working in cooperatives are not paid. In fact, they are the ones paying their sponsors so that they (sponsors) can live like kings. They don’t get paid more than KD 60 – that is if they are paid at all,” he said. “The embassy does not care about our condition. But I hope with this article, we will be able to raise awareness of this issue and force them to act. We want our government to see the plight of our people and not turn a blind eye towards their misfortunes. I think we deserve better treatment,” he reasoned.

Mowla also regularly goes to the embassy to report labor cases. Kuwait Times has quoted him and sometimes sourced him in many of our labor protest articles. Take a look at these two stories about labor protest by Bengalis recently.

They are covered by Kuwait Times because there are people like Mowla who cares and never stopped sharing information about Bangladeshi community in Kuwait. (http://news.kuwaittimes.net/website/bangladeshi-workers-back-work-3-day-sit-protest/) and (http://news.kuwaittimes.net/website/bangladeshi-workers-stage-sit-protest/).

“I need help especially in calling the attention of our Embassy or most of the time in order for the company to listen (to workers demand); normally I call the Kuwait Times news desk and they normally send reporters to cover and highlight our issues. Only if they are published most of the time stories about Bangladeshi workers are heard; they will act only if they are highlighted in the media, if they aren’t they won’t bother,” he said.

Mowla is an editor of a monthly Marulekha magazine and secretary general of Bangladesh Journalist Union-Kuwait. “I started helping Bangladeshis in Kuwait as a social worker when I saw the need for it – in 1982 to be precise. After the war, our government stopped sending domestic helpers to Kuwait. Later, only male workers were allowed, who are now suffering from relentless abuse and mistreatment,” he said.

Mowla started working in Kuwait in 1977 and has been a “savior” for many of his compatriots. As social worker, he have worked and extended help to many and some of them were unforgettable undertaking. “When I am free I usually visit our poor compatriots and give some food to them. I usually got ‘thank you’ messages after the help and after solving their problems. I only got satisfaction, I feel like I am very fulfilled especially if their cases are resolved. I love what I am doing and will continue to do so as long as I am still capable and alive,” he concluded.

By Ben Garcia

This article was published on 31/08/2017