Wednesday, December 21, 2016


The life of migrant workers going overseas for employment is a hard, lonely and often miserable one. Often the pay’s not that much; barely enough to send home perhaps. Workers are also at the mercy of their employers regarding workdays and shifts. They also risk alienation in a foreign land with people who, if they’re not fortunate enough, would act in a derisive manner towards them. Such was the case of a migrant working as a cleaner in Saudi Arabia who got some mean shade thrown at him when his photograph was posted on social media. Thankfully something heartwarming happened.

In the story related on Al-Arabiya, a cleaner by the name of Nuzroul Abdul-Kareem from Bangladesh was photographed by an anonymous source while he was looking at a display of gold jewelry on a storefront after work in Riyadh. The picture was uploaded on Instagram, where Abdul- Kareem’s forlorn posture while gazing at the gold necklaces on display went viral got an unprecedented amount of social media ridicule, especially with the mean caption enclosed with the shared picture: “This man deserves to only look at rubbish.”

But just as the unfortunate Bangladeshi’s image was ripped on the internet, there also followed some sympathetic words for his sake, and in their wake were things even Abdul-Kareem could never have imagined coming from his picture. Though he had been unnamed in the viral photo, his identity was sought by Abdullah Al-Qahtani, who ran the Twitter page “Ensaniyat”, which means “Humanitarianism” in English. His tweet requesting information on Abdul-Kareem’s whereabouts got shared over 6,000 times and elicited messages and phone calls to Qahtani, from claims that the caller was the cleaner in question, to helpful Samaritans that pointed him in Abdul-Kareem’s direction, which he confirmed three hours after his initial post.

Meanwhile a sudden outpouring of goodwill began to make itself known. A well-off Saudi benefactor got in touch with Abdul-Kareem with the surprise offer to buy him a gold jewelry set. Later another Twitter account, belonging to a Saudi sports channel executive, posted photos of a stunned and proud Abdul-Kareem holding up a jewel display case and an envelope allegedly containing an undisclosed amount of Riyals. Not bad for a migrant working as a municipality cleaner earning only SR700 ($187) a month.

And the gifts for the lucky 65-year- old have just kept on coming according to Qahtani. More cash gift as well as in kind, ranging from bags of rice to honey, to round-trip plane tickets so Abdul- Kareem could visit home, and even two smartphones (iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy) are poised to make their way into his well-worn but fortunate hands. “I am very thankful,” he says of all this.

The “Ensaniyat” page was started by Qahtani as a means for social media users to connect with people in need in Riyadh. Abdul-Kareem’s presents came all over not just the Saudi capital, but the entire Gulf region. God is good.

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