Kuwait influencer not sorry for Filipino worker remark
24 July 2018|10 Dhul Qa’dha 1439|Gulf News
A Kuwaiti social media star remained unapologetic on Monday over comments she made against new laws aimed at improving conditions for Filipino domestic workers, despite a backlash on the internet.
Sondos Al Qattan faces criticism for a video posted on July 10 to Instagram, where she has 2.3 million followers, in which she attacked measures introduced in May that grant Filipinas working in the Gulf state one day off per week and prevent employers from keeping their passports.
Qattan, known for her internet make-up tutorials, told AFP by phone that the outcry was “unjustified” and did not require an apology.
“All I said was that the employer was entitled to keep the servant’s passport, and that many Kuwaitis and Gulf nationals agree with me,” said Qattan.
“I have the right as a kafil (sponsor) to keep my employee’s passport, and I am responsible for paying a deposit of up to 1,500 dinars (around Dh17,998),” she said.
Qattan insisted the practises are not an “insult to the employee, and do not concern humanity or human rights because I did not deprive the employee of her salary or beat her”.
“The servant lives in the house just like the owners, he eats the same food, sleeps, rests and goes out shopping… this is a natural right. He’s not like a waiter who works fixed hours, so we give him a weekly leave,” she added.
Qattan’s comments in the now deleted clip sparked outrage on social media, with many Twitter and Instagram users calling on brands that work with the makeup artist to sever ties.
Migrante International, an advocacy outfit for Filipinos working overseas, called on Qattan to apologise and likened her comments to those of “a slave owner”.
On May 11, Kuwait and Manila signed an agreement regulating domestic labour, following a diplomatic crisis that led to a ban on Filipino workers going to work in the Gulf country.
In February, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte imposed a partial ban on workers travelling to Kuwait after a Filipina maid was murdered and her body found in a freezer.
The crisis deepened after Kuwaiti authorities in April expelled Manila’s ambassador over video footage of Philippine embassy staff helping workers escape employers accused of mistreatment.
Brands begin to cut ties with controversial Kuwaiti influencer
Three international brands, including cosmetics giant Max Factor, have cut ties with Sondos Alqattan, the Kuwaiti social media star, amid calls for a boycott of businesses linked to the influencer.
Alqattan has received significant backlash since she posted a video of herself criticising Kuwait’s new labour laws to Instagram last Thursday
On Monday afternoon, Max Factor said it would suspend all work with the make-up artist.
“Max Factor Arabia was shocked by the comments made…regarding the new labor law in Kuwait,” a spokesperson told Gulf News. “Max Factor Arabia is taking this incident very seriously and have immediately suspended all collaborations with Sondos.”
Earlier in the day, French perfume brand M. Micallef and London-based Chelsea Beautique fired the beauty and fashion influencer.
Cosmetics brand Chelsea Beautique, meanwhile, said in a statement that they had decided to remove a video, sponsored by Alqattan, from their channels.
“We believe that decent working conditions should be provided to everyone and such behaviour does not represent our brand’s core beliefs,” it added.
Some international brands that have worked with Alqattan, including MAC Cosmetics, Shisheido, Etudes House, and Anastasia Beverly Hills, had not issued statements on the matter at the time of writing.
Despite attempts to contact local representatives, the companies have not responded to multiple requests for comment.
They face a growing backlash on social media, where users are calling for a boycott of the brands’ products.
A number of local companies, including Al Jazeera Perfumes, Beauty Pop DXB, Yara Jewellery, the Cambridge Weight Plan, and online store Boutiqaat, where Alqattan sells her range of cosmetics, have also not responded.
Be Organic, a Kuwaiti honey company which has previously sponsored Alqattan, said in a message that it was “not interested in publishing anything right now.”