Bahrainis condemn local who slapped migrant worker

Authorities arrested four suspects in connection to the incident that went viral on social media

Ismaeel Naar
Ismaeel Naar - Al Arabiya News
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A viral video is currently making the rounds in Bahrain after a local man slapped an Asian migrant worker, while he was cheered on by his friends behind the camera. His victim held his face in shock, unable to react.

The video quickly angered many Bahrainis on social media, with many voicing their reactions using the hashtags #Bahraini_slaps_Indian and #Migrant_Worker_Gets_Slapped.

The victim eventually received some justice after Bahrain police announced the arrest of four men in connection with the incident. The men are believed to be the attacker and those who filmed the incident.

The very brief video did not only shock citizens but also attracted the attention of the country’s foreign minister, Khalid al-Khalifa.

“He came all the way from his country, putting up with estrangement and separation from his family, to work so hard for some money,” Khalifa wrote on Twitter. “And then, a despicable person comes along and slaps him. May God grant him his rights from the aggressor.”

One of the many Bahraini to take to twitter to voice their anger was 28-year-old Maryam al-Thawadi.

She said: “The Bahraini community condemns this cowardly act regarding the slapping of an Asian expat worker by a local. The sole act of an uneducated person does not reflect the manners or ethics of Bahrain’s community.”

According to Human Rights Watch, there were 458,000 migrant workers in Bahrain in 2012, making up 77 percent of the total work force in the country. Major religions and nationalities have lived peacefully side by side for many years.

But there were violent attacks by government opposition protestors towards migrant workers in 2011, with one incident leading to the death of a Pakistani citizen.

Mohammed Al Sayed, spokesman for moderate group Citizens for Bahrain, told Al Arabiya News: “Bahrain is a country where more than half the population are expats, many have been living here for decades, because they feel like it’s home due to the welcoming nature of our people. And due to absence of any form of discrimination towards them.”

One Bahraini citizen, however, told Al Arabiya News that the problem with such incidents does not necessarily stem from an individual but rather, the society.

“The people in question here (Bahrainis) are divided into three tiers - those who are advocates of expat laborers' rights, those who respect those rights, and those who deny them. The latter, I am at peace to say, are strongly rejected and condemned by the former,” said 23-year-old Dunia Mudara.

“But in reality, we as a people will not change unless we change all of what is within us. We are beginning to see that change through the social media pressure that was used in helping capture the suspect,” she added.

One such change Bahraini youth are using is through viral ‘what would you do’ videos. Omar Farooq, a young media personality who amasses 133,000 followers on Instagram, directed a short film of a few youths harassing a South Asian car washer. The film was a social experiment in seeing how many bystanders would stop and help the victim. While some took action, many did not.

Police are currently investigating the matter. It is rare for authorities to speak out and release statements on social media over this kind of incident according to BBC Trending - which spoke to Marietta Dias of the Bahrain’s Migrant Workers Protection Society.

“While expatriates enjoy a certain level of freedom in Bahrain, low-income workers are particularly vulnerable. They might not report abuse because they are too nervous to confront authorities, or they might not be taken seriously. In this case, instant action was taken, sending a clear message," she told BBC Trending.

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