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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 November 2018

Major beauty brand drops Kuwaiti influencer Sondos Al Qattan, who remains unapologetic over comments

She said keeping an employee's passport was not a human rights breach because "I did not deprive the employee of her salary or beat her"

Ms Alqattan's statement about new regulations governing employment of migrant Filipino workers has enraged people. 
Ms Alqattan's statement about new regulations governing employment of migrant Filipino workers has enraged people. 

Social media influencer Sondos Al Qattan says the reaction to her comments over changes in labour law for Filipino workers in Kuwait is unjustified, and she does not feel she needs to make an apology.

The controversy began when Al Qattan posted a video to her 2.3 million Instagram users complaining that new laws meant Filipino workers in Kuwait had the right to keep their own passports and have a day off. Her comments resulted in a huge backlash on social media.

On Monday, Al Qattan posted a statement on her Instagram account calling the backlash "rumours", and saying that she treated all her employees fairly, saying that she doesn't "impose long working hours". The statement, as seen below, does not contain an outright apology; in it, she also thanks those who called her "beautiful from the outside."

Max Factor Arabia issues statement

Max Factor Arabia, which has worked with Al Qattan, says it will sever ties with the beauty influencer. In a statement to The National, the cosmetics company said that "Max Factor Arabia was shocked by the comments made by the influencer Sondos Al Qattan. Sondos’ comments are personal and do not represent either the values or the principles that Max Factor Arabia stands for. Max Factor stands for women's empowerment and supporting every woman to express her individuality, irrespective of ethnicity and occupation. Max Factor Arabia is taking this incident very seriously and have immediately suspended all collaborations with Sondos."

Shiseido who have colloborated with Al Qattan told The National that “Shiseido does not support or align with the recent statements made by Sondos Al Qattan.”

MAC, who has featured in Al Qattan's posts, has yet to issue a statement.

More of Al Qattan's follow up comments

Talking to news agency AFP, Al Qattan stood by her original comments over the new laws: "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," Al Qattan said. "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 (about Dh18,000)," she said.

She also said keeping an employee's passport was not a human rights breach because, "I did not deprive the employee of her salary or beat her."

What caused her to comment in the first place?

Al Qattan's comments came after a months-long diplomatic row between Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Kuwait over the treatment of domestic workers. The discord began in February when a murdered Filipina maid was found in her employer's freezer in Kuwait City.

Duterte then spoke out about the "inhuman" treatment of migrant workers, and he banned workers from travelling to Kuwait. The ban was lifted after the two countries worked out an agreement for safety guarantees for Filipinos employed in Kuwait. These new rules don't apply to all nationalities living in Kuwait. These agreements led to Al Qattan's outburst. The original video was deleted but a translation of what she said in it is as follows:

"These contracts [maids contracts] are a mere comedy. I am told about the conditions [of the contract] and I am shocked. She [the maid] asks for a break every five hours, maybe this seems normal. But how can one keep a maid at home and not keep her passport? If she [the maid] takes off/leaves one day, who will compensate me? What's worse than this is when the servant asks for one day off a week. To be honest, with this new law and these new contracts, I do not wish to hire a Filipina. She goes out one day a week and works for 6 days which brings her total days out to four a month and one has no clue what happens during those four days when her passport is in her possession."

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Read more:

MAC Cosmetics severs ties with Sondos Al Qattan

Kuwaiti beauty blogger faces backlash over comments on Filipino overseas workers

Kuwait and Philippines strike domestic worker deal

Editorial: Death sentence for Joanna's killers sends strong message

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