Kuwaiti Blogger Defends “Racist” Comments of Filipino Workers

Kuwaiti blogger and social media influencer Sondos Al Qattanuploaded a video on social media this month bemoaning new regulations that allow domestic workers a day off every week and the right to keep their passports, which employees often confiscate.

By Joon Kim

TAIPEI-A Kuwaiti beauty artist and blog influencer may have found herself dealing with internal troubles that embroiled after publishing a brief video on Instagram, where she made disturbing commentary on domestic Filipino helpers.

Several notable cosmetic businesses who have endorsed high profile contracts with makeup celebrity Sondos Alquattan, including Max Factor Arabia and Shiseido, called out in social media for her “insensitive” comments.

Max Factor Arabia, an international cosmetic line, said it was both “shocking” and did not align with its principles. It has since “immediately suspended all collaborations” with the influencer. M. Micallef, a luxury perfume outlet, has also followed the lead, severing ties.

Spokespersons for Shiseido, Etude House, and Phyto, have told local media that Ms. Alquattan’s comments were personal, but declined to comment on whether they would cut ties with her, based on future activities.

Beauty brands cut ties with Sondos Alqattan over a controversial video in which she criticised the rights of Filipino workers.

Migrante International, a Filipino human rights organization, condemned Ms. Alquattan’s comments as “derogatory,” comparing her to “a slave-owner.” Other migrant associations demanded a public apology and even threatened her to be blacklisted.

However, Ms. Alquattan remains on high ground, and has yet to retract her statement. She explained to Agence-France Presse that a lot of Gulf nationals agree with her. “All I said was that the employer was entitled to keep the servant’s passport,” she said.

The original video, partly obtained by the Daily Mail Online, appears to show her sitting in the backseat of a car, unleashing a furious tirade about how the Philippines has provided for its domestic servants excessive breaktime and carrying accounts for personal identification.

“How can you have a servant at home who keeps their own passport with them?” Ms. Alquattan says. “What’s worse is they have one day off every week. If they run away and go back to their country, who will refund me?” She ends with a concession. “Honestly, I disagree with this law. I don’t want a Filipino maid anymore.”

The video went viral in South Asia and the Gulf states, prompting public outcry from both Kuwait and the Philippines.

She deleted the video days thereafter. On July 24, she reopened Instagram, stating that “not all which appears to look as a good working condition is in-fact true.”

“That said, it is also important to note that we are all people and people occasionally make mistakes,” Ms. Alquattan wrote. “The fact about having the passport of an employee in the possession of the employer does not in any way give an indication about a human being.”

That law was signed in May, after a Filipina maid’s body was found decomposing in an apartment freezer in Kuwait City, on February. President Rodrigo Duterte had until then outlawed the deployment of new Filipino workers to Kuwait.

Representatives for both countries signed a defensive memorandum that same month, recognizing several workers’ rights, including passports, housing provisions, and a daybreak from the workplace.