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  • Writer's picturePaakhi M

The Kafala

This is a collaboration with Layfax! To know more about the Kafala system check out @lay.fax's post!

Nimah scrubbed the saucepan she had just cooked in, while tears trickled down her face, stinging her wounds. Her employer had just thrashed her for not being able to cook 'good food'. Being one of the migrant domestic labor as a part of the Kafala system in Qatar, she never imagined that this was how she would end up.

The Kafala System is used to monitor migrant laborers working in the Gulf countries. It only allows workers to migrate if they have an in-country sponsor, called a Kafeel.

A few years back, she had migrated to Qatar from Bangladesh after she got a job under a Kafeel (the owner of a worker under the Kafala System). She knew that it wasn't the ideal situation, but she could only come to work in the Gulf state through her sponsor. Though her identity was tied to him, she would have never thought that she would become his slave.

It started okay, but slowly, her smallest mistakes had the direst consequences. Her employer, whom she called Kafeel, was not forgiving. The system never did anything lawful by her. Her legality in the country was in the hands of Kafeel, and whenever she did anything that threatened him, or anything to escape him, he would threaten to destroy her passport. He made her falsely sign documents that she had received her wages, just to get him to return her passport. To return the only identity she had left of her own.

"Qatar becomes the first Gulf Country to introduce reforms in the Kafala System!"

Nimah read the newspaper headline as she picked it up from the floor. The reform entailed an increase in the minimum wage and allowed her to leave from under her Kafeel's ownership without his permission. Her first instinct was to throw the newspaper away. Yes, it was her only escape right now, but if her Kafeel discovered about this, the mere frustration of this reform will make her victim to his rage.

This system renders the worker helpless, especially because their identity and legality lies in the hands of their Kafeel.

Walking quietly in the garden, she hid the newspaper in the bushes, deciding that if God wills it, Kafeel will get to know it from somewhere else. Though her faith in God had faded significantly over the years, she still believed that when she needed it direly, God would help her.

But He didn't.

A few hours later, another employer called her Kafeel up and told him to look at the TV news to understand more about the reforms.

"That is the problem, you are not grateful! We give you everything you need to survive, and still! Now, this reform! I don't need to increase your wage! And, don't you dare leave!" her Kafeel yelled. Nimah was shaking, she couldn't imagine what would happen next.

"You know what? I won't let you," he stated, with a stark look in his eyes. He marched towards his room, and she knew what he was going to do.

"No! Please, I won't leave! I promise!" Nimah cried, falling at his feet. He kicked her away and took her passport in his hands, almost confirming its fate. Nimah continued crying for mercy, but he threw her passport in the fireplace. She tried to save it, but her employer held her away from the fire.

Nimah watched her only identity slowly fade away into an abysmal blackness. As the flames engulfed it, she could feel her faith in God vanishing completely. She felt herself being condemned to slavery for the rest of her life.


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