Philippine maid murdered in Kuwait

This 15 February 2018 video from the Philippines is called So goodbye, angel Joanna Daniela Demafelis R I P.

From Associated Press:

Family grieves Philippine maid found dead in Kuwait freezer

By Jim Gomez

MANILA, Philippines — Feb 16, 2018, 6:00 AM ET

The body of a Filipino housemaid found stuffed in a freezer in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait was flown home to her grieving family Friday, as attention focused on the plight of millions of mostly poor Filipinos toiling abroad.

As Joanna Daniela Demafelis’ remains were wheeled to the Manila airport‘s cargo bay, her sister broke into tears and embraced the casket before being pulled back and consoled. A brother wept quietly, speechless and overwhelmed by emotion.

“I hope my sister will be given justice”, Demafelis’ brother, Jojit Demafelis, later told reporters.

Demafelis’ body was found Feb. 6 in a Kuwait City apartment that had reportedly been abandoned for more than a year. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said her body bore torture marks and there were indications she was strangled.

Her death is the latest overseas tragedy to befall a worker from the Philippines, a major labor exporter with about a tenth of its 100 million people working abroad. The workers have been called the country’s heroes because the income they send home has propped up the Southeast Asian nation’s economy for decades, accounting for about 10 percent of annual gross domestic product.

Philippine officials are under increasing pressure to do more to monitor the safety of its worldwide diaspora of mostly house maids, construction workers and laborers. There are also calls for the government to boost employment and living standards at home, where nearly one in four people live in poverty, so that fewer people need to find work abroad.

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano stood with the Demafelis family at the airport Friday and said a prayer.

“Her death is very tragic but will also be a rallying point for all of the government agencies to be more aggressive abroad in helping our OFWs be protected”, Cayetano told reporters, using the acronym for overseas foreign workers.

Duterte has ordered a ban on the deployment of new Filipino workers to Kuwait, where he said some Filipina workers have committed suicide due to abuses.

Cayetano said Kuwait had expressed outrage over Demafelis’ death and promised do everything it could to render justice. He said the Philippines lodged a protest over the case and at least six other recent deaths mostly of Filipino housemaids in Kuwait and asked that the Philippine Embassy be given access to investigations by Kuwaiti authorities.

Demafelis’ family told The Associated Press on Friday that Joanna was 29-years-old and the sixth of nine children born into a poor farming family in the central province of Iloilo. She left for Kuwait in 2014 to be employed by a Syrian and Lebanese couple and had never told anyone back home that she was being mistreated.

Kuwaiti police believe Demafelis had been hired by a Lebanese man and his Syrian wife who later left the country, according to local media reports citing police for the information. Authorities found her body when they raided the apartment over an eviction notice.

It’s unclear how the woman remained missing for so long or if Kuwaiti police had requested extradition for the Lebanese man and his Syrian wife. Police said the two are wanted on suspicion of writing bad checks.

Philippine officials say they are re-examining how to better detect and stop abuse of its workers abroad. A Filipino labor officer in Kuwait has been recalled after reportedly failing to adequately help Demafelis’ family when they reported that she was missing.

“If there is a complaint already, even if we can help them, it’s still too late like when they’re already dead”, Cayetano said at a news conference. “They should have been helped when we found out that there was abuse or as soon as they lost contact with their family.”

Still the sheer number of Filipino workers abroad makes monitoring their wellbeing an overwhelming task. That is often complicated by the workers not having proper travel and work documents, such as in Kuwait where nearly 11,000 of the more than 252,000 Filipino workers are in the country illegally or not properly authorized.

The Philippines has banned the deployment of its workers some countries, but many desperate Filipinos chose to stay, even in war-torn Iraq and Syria.

“Despite the offer to repatriate, to pay for their tickets, many chose to stay because there is no employment or less employment possibilities or they’ll earn much less money in the Philippines”, Cayetano said.

He said the long-term solution was for the Philippines to strengthen its economy so Filipinos won’t be forced to look for greener meadows.

A pro-labor group, Migrante International, said it was ironic for Duterte to ask Kuwait to improve the plight of Filipino workers there when they left the Philippines because of difficult conditions, including low wages, unfair labor contracts and recent tax increases that have caused commodity price hikes. It called Duterte and past presidents “false messiahs.”

Duterte said last week he did not want a quarrel with Kuwait, but he warned he may resort to drastic steps, such as a complete ban on the deployment of Filipino workers, if Kuwait and other governments fail to safeguard Filipinos.

Duterte said 82 Filipino workers died in Kuwait in 2016 and that number rose to 103 last year, though he didn’t specify the cause of death.

“What are you doing to my countrymen? And if I were to do it to your citizens here, would you be happy?” asked the volatile Philippine leader.

The Philippines’ relations with some countries have at times been strained over the condition of its workers. In 1995, Singapore proceeded with the execution of a housemaid for murder despite appeals and outrage from Manila.

The Asian neighbors temporarily withdrew their respective ambassadors. Relations were normalized a year later.

Associated Press writer Hussain al-Qatari in Kuwait City contributed to this report.

Protests erupt over government corruption and poor public services in Kuwait: here.

Harsh political prisoner sentences in Kuwait

This video says about itself:

Kuwait Uprising: Gulf oldest monarchy under attack

8 December 2012

While countries like Egypt may now be turning another page in their Arab Spring revolution, one of the oldest Gulf Monarchies is still on page one.

Largely unnoticed in the West, Kuwait’s rulers are cracking down on protesters and blocking the opposition’s political moves.

But all of this is energizing the resistance even more.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain, 28 November 2017:

Opposition figure jailed for 9 years

KUWAIT: Leading opposition figure Musallam al-Barrack was among dozens sent to prison yesterday over the storming of parliament by protesters in 2011.

Mr Barrack, who was released from jail in April after already serving two years, received the harshest sentence of all — nine years.

More than 50 defendants, all previously acquitted by a lower court, were given prison terms from one year to five.

Kuwaiti disabled helpers protest

This 2010 video is called The Suffering of the Disabled in Kuwait.

From the World Socialist Web Site, 30 December 2016:

Kuwaiti staff working for Public Disabled Authority hold protest

Several members of staff working for the Public Authority for the Disabled, a government agency, held a one-hour protest outside the headquarters on December 24. The protest was over low pay but also to demand the resignation of the director of PAD. The employees are angry at the slow response by PAD in providing handicap signs and other facilities.

Not everyone in Kuwait has problems like disabled people and their helpers.

This August 2016 video says about itself Prince of Kuwait‘s Supercar Line Up at Dorchester HotelLondon.

After Bahrain, Kuwait moves event to Trump’s hotel

This video says about itself:

27 July 2014

There are at least 120,000 Bedoon jinsiyya (without nationality) in Kuwait today, suffering from the lack of human rights in a State that wants to deny their very existence. Over the past couple of years, stateless activists and protesters have stepped up their efforts in campaigning for equal rights and recognition for the Bedoon. Increasingly, average Kuwaiti citizens are joining the ranks of the protesters and have brought a new dynamic to the issue.

During the United States Republican party primaries election campaign, candidate Donald Trump proposed to ban all Muslims from coming to the USA. Candidate Jeb Bush reacted by moaning that then he would no longer be able to receive the Saudi royal family in the USA. There are strong links between the Bush dynasty and the Saudi royals; with, eg, Saudi secret police boss Prince Bandar being nicknamed ‘Bandar Bush’.

Now, it looks like Trump’s proposed ban is against poor refugees from wars (often, Pentagon and CIA wars) and human rights violations in mostly Islamic countries; not against rich, powerful people of those countries. Like the British Conservative government also bans poor refugees while welcoming rich Middle Eastern princes. Like the French government uses Islamophobia to damage civil liberties at home and wage wars abroad; but at the same time closes public beaches to the public to make them private beaches for Saudi royals.

Recently, the Bahraini regime moved its annual National Day celebration to President-elect Donald Trump’s lavish Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

And it looks like the Kuwaiti regime has followed suit.

From Associated Press:

Kuwait Moves Annual Washington Party to Trump‘s Hotel

DEC. 20, 2016, 2:54 P.M. E.S.T.

WASHINGTON — One of the Middle East’s richest nations said Tuesday it would host its annual Washington party at Donald Trump’s new hotel, underscoring the president-elect’s unusual status as the owner of a major venue for events in the U.S. capital.

Salem Al Sabah, Kuwait’s ambassador to the U.S., said the party would take place Feb. 25, adding that he hopes guests like the “new hotel in town.” He said no one pressed him to move the Kuwaiti National Day event from its regular venue at the Four Seasons. Although Kuwait did not have a contract with the Four Seasons for the party, the date had been set aside for it to possibly take place there.

“I do not know President-elect Trump,” the ambassador told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “I do not know any of his people. None of his people have contacted me.” He added: “I thought would be exciting for our guests to see a new venue. It looks great. It looks cool. So let’s do it.”

Al Sabah noted that last year’s reception occurred at the Newseum, a museum promoting the media.

Nevertheless, the move to Trump’s $200-million renovation of the Old Post Office Pavilion could reinforce questions raised about the incoming president’s possible conflicts of interest. House Democrats already have warned that they’ll make the splashy hotel a headache for Trump if he doesn’t dump his ownership stake before taking office Jan. 20. Trump has a six-decade lease on the property.

The Trump Organization is moving to remove thorny overseas relationships, canceling hotel licensing deals in Azerbaijan, neighboring Georgia and Brazil.

Al Sabah ridiculed the notion that he would choose the D.C. hotel to curry favor with the next administration.

“We have very deep economic, military and cultural ties; we’ve had tens of thousands of American troops in our country,” he said, noting Kuwait’s basing of forces for U.S. operations in Afghanistan and to fight the Islamic State [ISIS] group. “You think a two-hour reception in a ballroom does that?”

UAE implicated in Trump election ‘finance for favours’ probe: Report. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Lebanese-American businessman George Nader, an adviser to the UAE’s crown prince: here.

Trump’s Empire Expands: here.

INSIDE THE LAWSUIT LED BY CONGRESSIONAL DEMOCRATS AGAINST TRUMP “More than 190 Democratic lawmakers sued President Donald Trump in federal court on Wednesday, saying he had accepted funds from foreign governments through his businesses without congressional consent in violation of the U.S. Constitution.” [Reuters]

THE STATE DEPARTMENT PROMOTED IVANKA TRUMP’S BOOK ON TWITTER Yes, that would probably appear to be an ethics violation.

Kuwaiti cleaning workers not paid

This video says about itself:

6 January 2015

A service learning project done by students of the American University of Kuwait to raise awareness about the difficulties faced by migrant workers in Kuwait, and how they fall victim to bad practices and abuse.

From the World Socialist Web Site today:

Protest in Kuwait over pay arrears

Cleaning workers recently held a protest in Kuwait to highlight the fact that they have not received their wages for the last three months.

Rare bustard bird smugglers busted in Kuwait

This video is called MacQueen’s bustard/Houbara bustard (Chlamydotis macqueenii) in Display.

From BirdLife:

Kuwaiti coast guards foil bid to smuggle at-risk bustards for falconry trade

By Majd Abu Zaghlan, 8 Sep 2016

Earlier this month, coast guards in Kuwait intercepted a ship attempting to smuggle 100 Asian Houbara Chlamydotis macqueenii, a bustard recognized as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. The species is threatened by hunting and trapping throughout its range, particularly in its wintering habitat of Pakistan and Iran. The bird is in high demand in the region for use as live prey in falconry training.

In a press statement issued by the Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior, the Public Relations and Security Media Department explained that the Coast Guard Department was inspecting foreign ships that were heading to Doha Port, when they discovered the Iranian ship with its load of birds. Also discovered on board were 16 falcons of various species, mostly the Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus.

Kuwait Environment Protection Society (KEPS– BirdLife International’s Kuwaiti partner) investigated the case and confirmed that all the birds on board had been poached from the wild and were being transported without any legal documents. The offenders are currently in custody and will be dealt with according to Kuwaiti law. Commenting on the issue, Wejdan Al-Oqab, KEPS Secretary General, says “There are hundreds of birds, including Houbara and eagles, illegally killed every year”.

“We are working hard to protect threatened animal populations and work closely with law enforcement agencies to protect biodiversity and enforce national and international wildlife laws to ensure that the trade of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival”.

Numbers of Asian Houbara have fallen dramatically in recent decades. The species is threatened by a number of factors, including the degradation of their vegetation habitat by livestock grazing, but hunting remains the biggest threat to its future.

The species is protected under international wildlife treaties. The Asian Houbara bustard is roughly the same size as a turkey and typically has a large, speckled sandy brown upper body, a creamy white underside and long legs, a slender neck and a wingspan that can reach 1.5 meters. Its colouring acts as camouflage in the desert and sandy plains, providing a challenge for hunters and their falcons.

The Houbara Bustard is the game bird of choice for Arab falconers, because it is a good match for the falcons. There is such strong demand for the bird in the region that some hunters are willing to use illicit means to acquire them.

“We need to raise awareness to change attitudes towards endangered species and to control the channels of social media in which this illegal trade is now thriving” says Al-Oqab.

The overexploitation of Asian Houbaras has been a constant concern for bird conservationists for the past 30 years”, said Patricia Zurita, CEO of BirdLife International. “BirdLife itself has a project on the species in Uzbekistan which is producing important new evidence on the stresses the species faces but also on what needs to be done to save it. Hunters will have to bind themselves to quotas so that their traditional sport can become sustainable and be managed on a scientific basis. This is actually a win-win opportunity that hunters and conservationists should seize urgently.”

Kuwaiti striking oil workers’ victory

This video says about itself:

19 April 2016

Hadley Gamble reports from Kuwait City where oil workers have gone on strike resulting in the country’s oil output being cut in half.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Oil strike ends after pledge

Thursday 21st April 2016

OIL UNIONS in Kuwait ended a three-day strike over pay cuts in the state-owned industry yesterday, having won a pledge of no reprisals against workers.

The unions said the action showed their “ability to affect the production process.” …

Opposition parties warned over the weekend that the emirate’s government was moving to dissolve the oil sector unions and directing the prosecutor general to investigate their leaders.

“We’re glad to announce that the strike has succeeded in preserving the rights of the workers in the oil sector,” [trade union spokesperson] Mr Fadhel said.

Kuwaiti regime banning oil workers’ unions

This video says about itself:

17 April 2016

More than 7,000 oil workers in Kuwait have begun an open-ended strike to protest government plans to cut wages and benefits. The strike threatening a slash in production comes during talks in Qatar discussing an output freeze to boost oil prices.

“The overall number of workers exceeds 13,000, and here we have 7,000 [taking part in the strike],” the oil workers union chief Saif al-Qahtani was quoted as saying by TASS. He added that the union is aiming to reach their goals by halting output. Hit by the sharp nosedive in world crude prices, the Kuwait government is considering a new payroll scheme for industry employees. If introduced, it will include the country’s 20,000 oil workers, meaning an automatic cut in their wages, benefits and incentives.

“The strike will go ahead as planned,” union chief al-Qahtani told AFP, holding the industry and the oil minister responsible. In addition to cutting wages and benefits, the workers are also protesting plans to privatize parts of the industry.

The workers’ union boycotted negotiations called for Thursday by the Social Affairs and Labor Ministry. On Saturday, they also turned down an appeal from Kuwait‘s acting Oil Minister Anas al-Saleh to call off the strike. …

Kuwait is OPEC’s third largest oil producer with deposits making up to eight percent of the world’s reserves. According to rough estimates, the country’s industry extracts around three million barrels per day.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Government set to ban oil unions after walkout

Monday 18th April 2016

KUWAITI oil unions face a ban after members went on strike yesterday over government cuts to pay and other benefits.

Thousands of workers gathered for demonstrations at the start of the local working week in the town of Ahmadi, headquarters of the state-run Kuwait Oil Company.

Kuwait Oil Company Workers’ Union spokesman Adel al-Fadhel said workers opted to picket after government officials failed to meet the union’s demands to spare salaries and benefits from cuts.

The changes are seen as part of a broader attack on workers’ living standards amid the current slump in world oil prices.

The government rejected our proposals and is adamant on decreasing employee salaries,” Mr Fadhel said. “This is not acceptable.”

But authorities have meanwhile taken steps to dissolve the oil-sector unions and have directed the prosecutor general to investigate their leaders.

Kuwait oil workers on strike

This 17 April 2016 video series says about itself:

Thousands of employees at Kuwait’s national oil company went on strike on Sunday, in protest against cuts to wages and benefits.

Gulf War in 1990, and later wars

This video from Canada says about itself:

To Sell A War – Gulf War Propaganda (1992)

Aired in December 1992 as part of CBC programme The Fifth Estate. The programme was directed by Martyn Gregory and produced by Neil Docherty.

It exposes the Citizens for a Free Kuwait campaign as public relations spin to gain public opinion support for the Gulf War. As well, it reveals that Nurse Nayirah was in fact Nijirah al-Sabah, the daughter of Kuwait‘s ambassador to the United States Saud Nasir Al-Sabah, coached by Hill & Knowlton to forge her infamous testimony about Iraqi soldiers removing babies from incubators, which was widely reported and repeated throughout the media.

By Lindsey German in Britain:

The Gulf War: Where it all began

Saturday 1st August 2015

Stop the War’s LINDSEY GERMAN surveys the past 25 years of Western intervention in the Middle East

TWENTY-FIVE years ago this week, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein launched his invasion of neighbouring Kuwait. Iraq was deeply indebted following Hussein’s lengthy war with Iran, and he wanted to cut oil production in order to raise prices. He had a number of grievances against Kuwait, which would not waive Iraqi debts and was keeping oil production high, as well as allegedly drilling in Iraqi territory.

He could be forgiven for thinking that such an action would be at least tolerated by his erstwhile ally, the US superpower.

It had, after all, backed Hussein for much of the bloody Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. It had intervened on Iraq’s side to ensure the defeat of its main enemy in the region, Iran, shooting down an Iranian civilian airliner over the Gulf in 1989.

A conversation between Hussein and the US ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie shortly before the invasion seemed to reinforce that view.

But in fact the US, under president George H W Bush, father of the Bush who launched the war on terror in 2001, took the invasion as a cause for war.

A UN resolution was immediately passed condemning the invasion and demanding withdrawal.

Later in the year the US issued an ultimatum to withdraw or face war.

The shooting and bombing war began in early 1991. The air war was unlike any seen before. In six weeks the US flew 88,000 sorties, aimed largely at Iraqi cities and their civilian populations. More munitions were dropped in these six weeks than on Germany in the whole of WWII.

It was a gross military imbalance that led to an early defeat for the Iraqi forces and their retreat from Kuwait back to Iraq.

The US bombing and shooting of retreating Iraqi troops on the Basra road — called a “turkey shoot” by one US pilot — caused mass public revulsion internationally. The war was a turning point: it marked the end of a long period dominated by the cold war, with the existence of two nuclear-armed major superpowers.

This tended to stop “rogue states” from acting unilaterally by agreement between the two powers. The US won the cold war with the collapse of the Soviet bloc from 1989 onwards. So the timing was highly significant.

After decades of cold war it marked a new departure in the post-WWII world. The first Gulf war, as it came to be called, was conducted in a way that reflected this transition.

It was stressed as a multilateralist operation, including UN involvement and backing. But at the same time the US was determined to show that it was the world’s sole policeman, hence the aggressive bombing campaign, the pursuit on the Basra road and the imposition of no-fly zones and sanctions on a defeated Iraq, further weakening its economy and infrastructure.

The war also shaped the next wars and the justifications for them. It had strong ideological components.

Citizens for a Free Kuwait was set up by a major US PR company which was in part funded by the Kuwaiti government in exile. A caucus on human rights in the US Congress heard evidence from a 15-year-old known only as Nayirah that she had seen Iraqi soldiers pull babies from incubators in Kuwaiti hospitals and leave them to die.

It turned out that not only were the stories false (even though they were repeated and endorsed at the time by Amnesty International) but that Nayirah was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US and a member of the ruling royal al-Sabah family of Kuwait.

The war centred however on economic and strategic questions: the access to plentiful and cheap supplies of oil; the need to defeat US enemies in the region, primarily Iran but now also Iraq; the ability to influence and control the crucial Middle East in a post-cold war world.

The US victory in the Gulf war only created greater instability in the region. Large numbers of US troops were stationed in bases in Saudi Arabia, a key US ally and one of the biggest customers of US arms companies. There was widespread opposition to this, including from Osama bin Laden, funded by the US to fight the Russians during their invasion of Afghanistan, but now increasingly its enemy.

The penalties on Iraq also created grievances as Iraqi people suffered, without them denting Hussein’s position. An estimated 500,000 children died as a result of sanctions.

During the 1990s the levels of US intervention increased, for the most part in the former Yugoslavia, culminating in the bombing of Serbia during the Kosovo war in 1999.

This was not a UN but a Nato operation, a major step in Nato’s increasingly unilateral actions involving out-of-area operations.

The bombing campaign, which lasted more than two months, was justified on the grounds of humanitarian intervention, a doctrine spelt out by an increasingly belligerent Tony Blair in his Chicago speech in 1999.

When planes were flown into the twin towers in New York just over two years later, the stage was already set for the war on terror.

Bush, aided by his closest ally Blair, immediately launched a war on Afghanistan, where bin Laden was based. It overthrew the Taliban government in a matter of weeks following the bombing and invasion of one of the poorest countries in the world.

But Bush’s real target was Iraq. Immediately after the September 2011 attacks he and his advisers tried to make a link between one of the suicide bombers, Mohammed Atta, and Iraqi secret services — a link which proved to be totally false.

During 2002, Bush and Blair secretly agreed to launch a war on Iraq, which they went on to do in March 2003, despite the largest wave of opposition against war ever seen internationally.

The war on terror had very little to do with combating terrorism, and everything to do with the US and its allies trying to take out its opponents in the form of rulers of “rogue states.”

It was a new imperialism designed for the post-cold war neoliberal era, and its consequences were bloody and brutal. Up to a million died in the course of the Iraq war, with 4 million internal and external refugees.

The war was met with resistance in every country and failed in its stated aim of stabilising the Middle East. Traditional US enemies, in particular Iran, are in a stronger position than when the war began.

The countries that have seen intervention — including Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria — are among the most unstable in the world.

Wars rage in large parts of the Middle East and Africa, and across Afghanistan and Pakistan. There is a real threat of the conflict in Syria and Iraq escalating into a much larger war across the region, with calamitous consequences for the people there.

Terrorism is a much greater threat than it was in 2001. The Western powers have responded with more wars abroad and with Islamophobia and crackdowns on civil liberties at home.

Yet all these wars have generated mass opposition. There are now regular polling majorities against most interventions, and many of the largest demonstrations of recent years have been against war.

The first Gulf war heralded a new era of wars without end, but also a mass protest movement against them.

Lindsey German is convener of the Stop the War Coalition.

On January 17, 1991, American bombers backed by one million ground troops began combat operations in Kuwait and Iraq. This was the beginning of an international US war campaign that has lasted 25 years, enveloping not only Iraq but also Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria and Somalia. Years of sanctions, bombings, a second invasion in 2003, an occupation, and a third and continuing war have resulted in the deaths of over 1 million Iraqis and thousands of American soldiers in Iraq alone: here.