Sondos AlQattan – Kuwaiti Instagram Influencer Who Likes to Keep Passports
5 mins read
A Kuwaiti Instagram beauty influencer shocks the world and destroys her image overnight following her outrageous remarks on the new labour laws.
When I started this website, I promised myself not to get involved in the negative and bring out the best of the world and its culture to my readers. However, what happened over the past couple of days with one Kuwaiti beauty influencer, who I refuse to refer to as a star, got far too deep under my skin.
Sondos AlQattan is a Kuwaiti beauty influencer who has over 2 million followers on Instagram. Last Thursday, a story broke out by the Turkish channel TRT International where one can see Sondos make bizarre remarks and be in outright rage about the recent changes in employment law for domestic workers from the Philippines in Kuwait. In brief, the Gulf region has been widely criticised for its many cases of inhumane treatment of the domestic workers and their kafala employment system – more on that later.
“If they run away and go back to their country, who will refund me? Honestly, I disagree with this law. I don’t want a Filipino maid any more.” – Sondos AlQattan
The Philippines government imposed a ban on its citizens for working in Kuwait after the murder of a Filipino domestic worker. Her body was found in a freezer in the Gulf state. As a result, President Duterte worked with Kuwait to adjust the labour laws for the Filipino workers. The new law was passed in May; it included the rights of the workers to keep their passports as well as to have a day-off once a week minimum.
Our heroine here got really ticked off; she recorded a passive-aggressive rant on her social media expressing how she thought it was not fair. “How can you have a servant at home,” Sondos complained, “who keeps their own passport with them? What’s worse is they have one day off every week.” Let these comments, particularly the word “servant”, sink in for a moment…
She continued her rant, “The new laws that have been passed are like a pathetic film. For her [domestic worker] to take a day off every week, that’s four days a month. Those are the days that she’ll be out. And we don’t know what she’ll be doing on those days, with her passport on her. If they run away and go back to their country, who will refund me? Honestly, I disagree with this law. I don’t want a Filipino maid any more.”
Let me just say what followed was simply glorious; the public outrage prompted this seemingly-infuriated persona to disable the comments on her own Instagram profile. They demanded the brands she works with to cut their ties. Max Factor Arabia, M. Micalle, Phyto, Chelsea Boutique have already suspended their associationswith her and more are planning to follow the suit.
AlQattan eventually came around to release a statement that was anything but apologetic. In fact, she seemed to defend her stance on the subject, claiming that she felt we were all equal humans with equal rights, while also saying that “the passport of any expat employee should be in thepossession of the employer to protect the employer’s interests.” How confusing and adorable at the same time. I won’t go further and would rather share the original below.
Max Factor Arabia, M. Micalle, Phyto, Chelsea Boutique have already suspended their associations with her and more are planning to follow the suit.
I would also like to say a few words about this genuine problem. Here is a girl who seems to come from a relatively high standard of living yet with catastrophic views on workers’ rights. In her defence video (also below), she claims that this whole issue is not as important as botox. This is a person who has over 2 million followers, many of whom are from younger audiences. Perhaps it is long overdue that brands start paying closer attention to who they work with. It is one thing to work with a media outlet, whose views are more transparent; however, it is a whole different game when one starts to work with a person who could turn out to be a Pandora’s Box at some point in the future.
Additionally, I would like to mention the kafala system. It allows the local employers to bind their employees to them. It often leaves the workers in a situation where they simply cannot take their own passports and leave the country. A recent feature on Gulf Insider found that 100,000 Ethiopian migrants in Lebanon are working under this sponsorship system, other workers from Bangladesh, the Philippines and other South-East Asian countries don’t fall too short in numbers. If you’d like to know more about it, click here.
In conclusion, I wonder how many more of such influencers exist out there and how we can resolve this issue. Perhaps Sondos AlQattan is genuinely unaware of the magnitude of her statements. Perhaps the social and legal acceptance of kafala labour system is what makes her think that her opinion is fair. One thing for sure, she should learn from this experience and be proud that she brought the world’s attention to this problem. She may have destroyed her career, but she did far more good for humanity than she ever could with makeup by showing the world the possible reality of a domestic worker’s life in the Gulf region.