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Saudi Arabian oil giant sparks outrage after using a South Asian man as ‘human hand sanitizer’

March 12th, 2020

The recent developments related to the COVID-19 global pandemic have caused not only panic and fear among people but also brought out the racist in us and the inequality of healthcare privileges among social classes that shows how big the gap between the poor and rich is. 

A Saudi Arabian company has come under fire after pictures of its migrant worker dressed up as a human hand sanitizer dispenser sparked outrage among people online, calling the blatantly racist stunt “dehumanizing and disgraceful.” 

The Middle East literally enslaves South Asians and treats them as if they’re animals. This is dehumanising and disgraceful. https://t.co/1UtidKMDpj

— Hannan (@Pakiiinextdoor) March 10, 2020

Saudi Aramco, a state-owned oil giant, drew flak for having a man who appears to be of South Asian origin wear a  surgical mask and huge mobile hand sanitizer amid the coronavirus outbreak. According to a report, the worker seems to be walking around inside and outside one of the company’s buildings and distributing sanitizer to staff members.  

People quickly called out the company for the racist act and pointed out the pre-existing and widespread racism in many Middle Eastern companies, and how the inappropriate stunt speaks volumes about the public’s perception towards migrant workers in the Gulf region. 

The humiliation & rendering of some lives as disposable apparently has no bounds. Aramco’s apology should be noted but the fact that someone in leadership thought this was appropriate to begin with speaks volumes about the public perception of migrant workers in the gulf. https://t.co/HOD21jjsxI

— Laya Behbahani (@LayaBehbahani) March 11, 2020

Others even described the move as a “shocking contempt for human dignity” and an “egregious violation of human rights,” while some said that it only shows that “slavery was never abolished, [it’s] just repackaged.”

Shocking contempt for human dignity in #SaudiArabia’s oil company @Saudi_Aramco.

Picture shows an Indian employee dressed up as a mobile hand sanitizer for the convenience of #ARAMCO’s American executives. https://t.co/RuCFNKR5NY

— Tarek Fatah (@TarekFatah) March 11, 2020

The humiliation, abuse and torture endured by the South Asian workers in Saudi Arabia is an egregious violation of human rights. Our people depend on the money from this labor but it is so hard earned in a loveless, cruel place. https://t.co/Cp9yo5rT9t

— 🐅🌸🐅Tanaïs 🌸🐅🌸 (@hiwildflower) March 11, 2020

Slavery was never abolished here, just repackaged. https://t.co/W1gFWeWLVl

— Naser (@NaserMestarihi) March 10, 2020

In a statement released via Twitter, Aramco expressed its “strong dissatisfaction with this abusive behavior that was used to emphasize the importance of sanitization, without the approval of the company’s concerned party”.

إشارة إلى الصور المتداولة في وسائل التواصل الاجتماعي لأحد الزملاء مرتدياً ما يشبه عبوة للتعقيم في أحد مرافقها، تود #أرامكو السعودية أن تعرب عن استيائها الشديد من هذا التصرف المسيء الذي أريد به التأكيد على أهمية التعقيم، دون أخذ موافقة من الجهة المعنية بالشركة.

— أرامكو (@Saudi_Aramco) March 10, 2020

“The company immediately stopped this act and took strict measures to prevent it from happening again,” the tweet in Arabic reads. However, people online are urging the company to apologize not to the public but to the involved migrant worker.

لاتعتذروا لنا اعتذروا من الشخص نفسه وكرموه وانشروا صور تكريمه ،،، وصاحب الفكره اللي ماخاف ربي ولا احترم العامل لبسوه التعقيم وخلوه يلف الشركه يوم كامل . pic.twitter.com/rsCEadk9Dy

— خـالـد (@khaled_alsahmi) March 10, 2020

In a time where anyone — regardless of social class, gender, race, religion or political standpoint — can be affected by or exposed to the virus outbreak, it’s disheartening to see how discrimination still prevails and how most of us seem to have contracted different kinds of societal diseases that not even advanced medicine can cure.

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