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This Arab Celebrity Is Being Called Out For Saying Domestic Workers Shouldn't Get A Day Off

"They get a day off every single week! What's left?" Sondos al-Qattan said.

Last updated on July 23, 2018, at 11:22 a.m. ET

Posted on July 20, 2018, at 10:06 a.m. ET

This is Sondos al-Qattan. She's a makeup blogger based in Kuwait.

Sondos al-Qattan / Instagram

She has 2.3 million followers on Instagram, as well as more than 100,000 on Twitter. She mainly posts about makeup.

Sondos al-Qattan / Instagram

But on July 14 she posted a video in which she discussed hiring a domestic worker. The clip was taken down, but not before it was ripped and parts of it were rapidly shared on Twitter. It remains up on YouTube.

Sondos al-Qattan / YouTube

In the video, she says, "For people who want to go get a Filipino domestic worker, what are these ridiculous work contracts you've got to sign?"

Sondos al-Qattan / YouTube

Al-Qattan was referencing laws introduced last year that aimed to provide some protections for domestic help employees who work in the region's notorious Kafala system.

Sondos al-Qattan / YouTube

The Kafala system is used to monitor workers, mostly laborers or domestic help, in countries including Kuwait, Jordan, Qatar, Iraq, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. One of the most notorious parts of Kafala is the understanding that employers confiscate the worker's passport.

In 2015, workers in Kuwait were finally given some protections, with the country's national assembly passing a law requiring employers to give them one day off a week, 30 days of annual paid leave, and other basic employment rights, according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report from the same year. In 2016 and 2017, the government passed legislation attempting to ensure a basic minimum wage for household workers. The most recent HRW report on Kuwait noted, "Migrant workers remain vulnerable to abuse, forced labor, and deportation for minor infractions including traffic violations and 'absconding' from an employer."

In Kuwait, there are an estimated 600,000 domestic workers — mostly women from Asian or African nations and often from the Philippines. These workers are often abused. According to a monitoring group, roughly 120 Filipino workers died last year, with the majority recorded as suicides.

Al-Qattan says, "But how can you have a servant in your house who gets to keep their passport with them? Where are we living? If they ran away and went back to their country, who'll refund me?"

Sondos al-Qattan / YouTube

"Even worse is that they get a day off every single week! What's left? Honestly, with this new contract, I just wouldn't get a Filipino maid. She'd only work six days a week and get four days off a month."

Sondos al Qattan / YouTube

People online were furious about al-Qattan's remarks.

Rawana Lobaid / Twitter
The Sbeitan / Twitter
f6oommm / Twitter

"A day off is the minimum. She's a human being, not a machine."

Polisphilosophy / Twitter

"This is the most basic human right. Why don't you work seven days a week and give your passport to your boss? Where is your humanity?"

Some said they needed to report her on Instagram.

I am Buchok / Twitter

And others recommended boycotting her products and recommendations.

Alamira Alonto / Twitter

Following the outcry, al-Qattan has disabled comments on her Instagram and deleted negative remarks.

Van2x / Twitter

BuzzFeed News has contacted al-Qattan for comment.

Ikran Dahir and Munzer al-Awad contributed reporting to this story.


Qattan later released another video in which she stood by her initial remarks. She said she was pleased that her video had gone viral because "maybe that will help her as an employer get more rights".

بالفيديو - بعد اتهامها بالعنصرية.. سندس القطان توضح موقفها من العمالة المنزلية

She also put out a full statement on her Instagram, clarifying her position and stating that she did believe that employers should hold employees' passports.


The Philippines was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.