The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

"Free trade" and human trafficking in Jordan

Modern slavery in Jordan:
Tens of Thousands of Foreign Guest workers Stripped of their passports, trapped in involuntary servitude, sewing clothing for Wal-Mart, Gloria Vanderbilt, Target, Kohl's, Thalia Sodi for Kmart, Victoria's Secret, L.L.Bean and others.

In the Western factory, which was producing for Wal-Mart, four young women, including a 16-year old girl, were raped by plant managers. Despite being forced to work 109 hours a week, including 20-hour shifts, the workers received no wages for six months. Workers who fell asleep from exhaustion were struck with a ruler to wake them up.

At the Al Shahaed factory, also producing for Wal-Mart, there were 24, 38 and even 72-hour shifts. The workers were paid an average wage of two cents an hour. Workers were slapped, kicked, punched and hit with sticks and belts.

In a factory called Al Safa, which was sewing garments for Gloria Vanderbilt, a young woman hung herself after being raped by a manager.

All across Jordan, tens of thousands of foreign guest workers, mostly from Bangladesh, China, India and Sri Lanka, are routinely forced to work 100-plus hours a week while being cheated of upwards of half the wages legally owed them. Any worker asking for their proper wages can be imprisoned.

Factory bathrooms lack toilet paper, soap and towels. Dorm conditions are primitive, often lacking running water three or four days a week. Any worker speaking one word of truth about the abusive factory conditions will be attacked and forcibly deported without any of the back wages due them.

Jordan's apparel exports to the U.S. are up 2000 percent between 2000 and 2005, reaching $1.1 billion, and these garments enter the U.S. duty-free. (Garments from Jordan go to Europe as well as the U.S.)
It's incredible how this sweatshop model of manufacturing is spreading into new countries. Clearly the US companies commissioning this need to be held accountable, especially as I doubt the Jordanian legal system would be of any use. Prison terms for senior management and key shareholders come to mind.

And this of course in Jordan, which is meant to be a "model" for economic development and to have benefited so much from the Israeli-Jordanian-US QIZ agreement. But of course King Abdullah is "wise" and "moderate" -- not a short, fat Quisling.