• The perils OFWs face in increasingly tense Middle East


    A JANUARY 4 Arab News report said 3 Filipinos–and later the number rose to 4–were among 44 people arrested in an operation on December 23 to 31 by “special authorities” in Saudi Arabia for being “suspected terrorists.”

    The online portal (http://www.arabnews.com/saudi-arabia/news/859961) reported that the December operation bagged “44 suspects, including three Filipinos, five Syrians, four Yemenis, a Sudanese and 31 Saudis.” The report did not name the persons arrested.

    No information, if any, sent to the Foreign Affairs department by the Philippine Embassy in the Saudi Kingdom has been made public.

    Current events in the Middle East have given our Filipinos working and living there reasons to be concerned over their situation. There are some 1.2 million Filipinos in Saudi Arabia, maybe several hundred thousands illegally. And up to another 500,000 other Middle East countries, including Israel.

    The usually hostile relations between Saudi Arabia, the largest, most militarily powerful and richest Arab and Sunni Muslim country, and its rival Iran, the also large, rich and militarily powerful non-Arab and Persian Shiite Muslim country have finally come to a head.

    Saudi Arabia executed 47 persons detained for being rebels and Shiite foes of the Sunni Kingdom, including a long-held Shiite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr of whom Iran was fond. Nimr al–Nimr was arrested in 2012 for being the instigator of the anti-Saudi monarchy activities in the Kingdom’s Shiite majority and oil-rich Easter Province. Nimr’s execution triggered demonstrations against the Saudi monarchy in Iran, which culminated in the burning of the Saudi Embassy and a consular office. The Arabs suspected the Iranian authorities of having instigated or at least encouraged the anti-Saudi rallies. So, the Saudi government immediately broke diplomatic relations with Iran.

    The following Migrante-Middle East (M-ME) issuance sums up the feelings and the situation of Filipinos in Saudi Arabia.

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    Pinoys apprehensive, vigilant amid rising tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran

    Migrant rights group based in Saudi Arabia today (Jan. 5) said overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are apprehensive but vigilant amid rising tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

    The other day, Saudi Arabia cut its diplomatic ties with Iran following condemnation on Saudi’s execution, among the 47 executed, of one of its influential Shiite clerics who were critical to the Sunni Royal family.

    Bahrain followed Saudi Arabia to cut its diplomatic relation with Iran. It is expected that other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states will follow the same move isolating Iran from the rest of the mid-east countries.

    “Sentiments of most of the OFWs in the Kingdom: apprehensive but vigilant due to the perceived volatile political rift between the Saudi govt. and Iran,” said John Leonard Monterona, coordinator of Migrante-Middle East (M-ME).

    Monterona observed that so far there are no huge demonstrations inside the Kingdom that will undermine its internal peace and order situation.

    “If there are demonstrations these were outside Saudi Arabia,” Monterona, who is based in Riyadh, Saudi’s capital, added.

    He issued an advice to all Filipinos in the Kingdom to shun activities that could be perceived as terroristic acts amid the reported 44 suspected terrorist nabbed last week, 4 of whom are said to be Filipinos, citing an Arab News report.

    Monterona called on the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to validate that report and seek to get detailed information about the alleged 4 Filipinos nabbed among the 44 suspected terrorists.

    He added that the Philippine government should keep an eye on the Saudi-Iran rift and consider readying its evacuation and emergency plans to secure the safety of its nationals working and living in the Kingdom.


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