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Filipino women in Kuwait target of attacks.doc

Filipino women in Kuwait target of attacks.doc

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Many Filipinos in Kuwait say the attacks are part of a long-standing pattern of abuse and discrimination against Asians, who have been relegated to the lowest levels of the emirate’s social and economic pecking order.
Many Filipinos in Kuwait say the attacks are part of a long-standing pattern of abuse and discrimination against Asians, who have been relegated to the lowest levels of the emirate’s social and economic pecking order.

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Publication: THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS PubDate: 4/23/1991 Head: Filipino women report attacks by Kuwaitis They say

assaults reflect mistreatment of Asians Byline: Ed Timms Credit: Staff Writer of The Dallas Morning News Section: NEWS Edition: HOME FINAL Page Number: 1A Word Count: 1145 Dateline: KUWAIT CITY KUWAIT CITY -- Anna B., a 38-year-old Filipino nurse, lies in a hospital bed, recovering from injuries she suffered when a man in a Kuwaiti army uniform slammed her head with the butt of an M-16 rifle. He was trying to rape her. The hospital dormitory where she was attacked is in a compound guarded by Kuwaiti soldiers. Anna B. is afraid to go back even after her injuries heal. She is not alone in her fears. Since the liberation of Kuwait, at least 20 Filipino women reportedly have been attacked by men they identify as Kuwaitis, or soldiers dressed in what appear to be Kuwaiti uniforms. Many Filipinos in Kuwait say the attacks are part of a long-standing pattern of abuse and discrimination against Asians, who have been relegated to the lowest levels of the emirate’s social and economic pecking order. If they overcome their fear of retaliation from Kuwaitis to complain about the abuse, they are met with police indifference, say Filipinos who have lived in Kuwait for many years. Such attacks are contrary to the stated policy of Kuwait’s leadership. Crown Prince Saad al-Sabah has vowed to prosecute any Kuwaiti responsible for an illegal attack on a foreign worker. But reports of abuse continue. Bureaucracy has effectively blocked many Filipinos from food cooperatives that were available to all residents of Kuwait before the war. Foreign workers must obtain a ration card to buy items from the cooperatives. “The office is only open for a few hours during the day,” a 45-year-old Filipino store clerk said. “If you are working, you can’t get the card. If you don’t have the card, you can’t use the cooperative.” Since the liberation, separate lines for Kuwaitis and foreign workers are common at public institutions such as food cooperatives. “But there really is no line for Kuwaitis,” said Ramon, 50, a Filipino laborer. “We must wait for hours. If we complain, they tell us it is their country.”

Kuwaitis who worked for the government have been promised back pay for the months they were idle during the seven-month occupation by Iraq. Filipino medical workers employed by the government, who continued to staff the hospitals after the invasion, have been unable to learn whether they will get back pay or not. They do know that they have not been paid since the liberation. Many Filipinos hoped that they had left poverty behind in the Philippines for good jobs and high pay in Kuwait. Some couples have worked in Kuwait for years while their young children were raised by relatives in the Philippines. Although Kuwait, unlike their home country, offers them a chance for economic security, many arriving Filipinos have learned that they would earn only a fraction of what had been promised. Kuwaiti employers routinely hold the passports of their foreign workers. Many employers fled after the Aug. 2 invasion without returning the passports, thus making it much more difficult for their employees to leave Kuwait. Lacking the financial resources of Kuwaitis, many Filipinos became destitute during the occupation. “Mercy flights” organized by the Filipino government require substantial re-payments from participants before they can work outside the Philippines again. In Kuwait, a population of more than 40,000 Filipinos has shrunk to fewer than 3,000. Yet even as the Kuwaiti government vows to reduce the number of foreign workers, it seeks to bring in more Filipinos as laborers to support the experts fighting oil field fires. And Kuwaitis unaccustomed to menial work periodically cruise outside Kuwait city’s Roman Catholic church after Mass hoping to find a Filipino willing to work as a maid -- a low-paying job with unpleasant occupational risks. The Rev. Angelo Madelo, a Filipino priest at the church, said that even before the Iraqi occupation, Filipino women working as maids periodically accused employers of assaulting them. But since the liberation, he said, such attacks appear to be increasing. “It’s becoming worse,” he said. “If it’s not stopped now, I’m sure it is going to happen with others.” Other nurses who live in the same dormitory as Anna B. are trying to cope with the memories of the soldier who was determined to rape one of them. After Anna B. escaped, the soldier approached another nurse in the building and asked whether she had any friends who would take money for sex. When she managed to run into another room and lock the door, the

soldier tried to shoot it open. Mary, a 35-year-old Filipino nurse who hid Anna B. from the soldier and treated her head wound, can’t understand why Kuwaitis seem angry toward Filipinos. “We remained,” she said. “The Palestinians stayed. We kept the hospitals open while the Kuwaiti doctors and nurses ran. “We expected thanks after the liberation because we helped them. Instead, we are treated worse than before.” Filipinos also have been the victims of attacks that were not sexually motivated. This month, Sophia, a 45-year-old Filipino who manages a Kuwaiti-owned shop, said she was abducted with two Lebanese neighbors from her apartment complex by two armed men who claimed to be police officers. The Lebanese men were mistaken for Palestinians and accused of looting a nearby home that belonged to a member of Kuwait’s royal family. Sophia said she was kicked in the chest and struck in the head with a large ashtray while being interrogated. The two Kuwaitis forced her into their car and drove around town for several hours, she said. She was soaked in blood from a head gash. “I asked to go to a hospital,” Sophia said. “They told me no hospitals were open.” Five hours after she was abducted, the men ordered her out of the car in front of her apartment complex. Her two neigbhbors, after being beaten, also were set free. “I do not understand why this happened,” she said. “During the occupation, we supported the Kuwaitis. We helped them. Now they are free . . . and we are being punished.” Like other Filipinos complaining of treatment at the hands of Kuwaitis, she asked that her real name not be used, fearing retaliation or expulsion. Since the liberation, evidence indicates that not everyone is paying attention to the government’s stated policy of prosecuting Kuwaitis who attack foreign workers. One Western diplomat said such attacks may be the work of soldiers who are disobeying orders, or of civilians directing pent-up anger toward the Iraqis against foreign workers. Sophia blames much of the abuse on Kuwaitis who fled the country when Iraq invaded. “Those who were here, they understand what we did. The ones who stayed outside, who came back, they’re the bad ones,” she said. Father Madelo said that regardless of who is responsible for specific attacks, the abuse reflects a pervasive attitude among

Kuwaitis. “They do anything they want -- especially with Asians,” he said.

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