Main Menu
Street Children

Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery

Poverty drives the unsuspecting poor into the hands of traffickers

Published reports & articles from 2000 to 2025                   

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has an oil-based economy with strong government controls over major economic activities.

About 40% of GDP comes from the private sector. Roughly 6.4 million foreign workers play an important role in the Saudi economy, particularly in the oil and service sectors.

The government is encouraging private sector growth - especially in power generation, telecommunications, natural gas exploration, and petrochemicals - to lessen the kingdom's dependence on oil exports and to increase employment opportunities for the swelling Saudi population, nearly 40% of which are youths under 15 years old. Unemployment is high, and the large youth population generally lacks the education and technical skills the private sector needs. Riyadh has substantially boosted spending on job training and education, infrastructure development, and government salaries.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Description: Description: Description: Description: SaudiArabia

Saudi Arabia is a destination country for men and women trafficked for the purposes of involuntary servitude and, to a lesser extent, commercial sexual exploitation. Men and women from Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Sudan, Ethiopia, and many other countries voluntarily travel to Saudi Arabia as domestic servants or other low-skilled laborers, but some subsequently face conditions indicative of involuntary servitude, including restrictions on movement, withholding of passports, threats, physical or sexual abuse, and non-payment of wages. Women, primarily from Asian and African countries are also believed to have been trafficked into Saudi Arabia for commercial sexual exploitation; others were reportedly kidnapped and forced into prostitution after running away from abusive employers.

Some Saudi men have also used legally contracted “temporary marriages” in countries such as Mauritania, Yemen, and Indonesia as a means by which to sexually exploit migrant workers. Females as young as seven years old are led to believe they are being wed in earnest, but upon arrival in Saudi Arabia subsequently become their husbands’ sexual slaves, are forced into domestic labor and, in some cases, prostitution.   - U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June, 2009   Check out a later country report here and possibly a full TIP Report here



CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Saudi Arabia.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to verify their authenticity or to validate their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Human Trafficking are of particular interest to you.  Would you like to write about Forced-Labor?  Debt Bondage? Prostitution? Forced Begging? Child Soldiers? Sale of Organs? etc.  On the other hand, you might choose to include precursors of trafficking such as poverty and hunger. There is a lot to the subject of Trafficking.  Scan other countries as well.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.


Guest Worker May Lose Digits, Toes After Being Tied Up in Bathroom for a Month

Hassan Adawi, Arab News, Jeddah, 23 March 2005

[accessed 21 December 2010]

[accessed 24 June 2013]

A 25 year-old Indonesian guest worker will have several of her fingers, toes and part of her right foot amputated because of gangrene after being tied up for a month in a bathroom by her Saudi sponsor.  The Indonesian Embassy noted that 2,000 housemaids have been repatriated to Indonesia so far this year, with many alleging maltreatment, nonpayment of wages or physical abuse.

Saudi Arabia and contemporary slavery

Pat Roush, March 15, 2003

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 11 September 2011]

American women who have married Saudi nationals and are inside the kingdom along with their female children – some of whom have now reached adult age – are subjected to a situation in which another person or persons have complete control over their lives, with all rights and attributes of "ownership." They were forcibly abducted or kidnapped in clear violation of the laws of other countries and court orders issued by other countries. They were removed from their country to a country beyond the reach of law enforcement and court orders.

These women – which include my adult, American-born daughters – have been hidden away in family compounds for years, deprived of all the choices of basic living, including religion, choice of spouse or age of marriage. They have been denied freedom of movement, freedom of torture, equal rights of women relating to all issues of family rights, the right to education, the right to remedies. Many of them are subjected to wide abuse other than slavery – mental and physical torture, including rape. Their basic human rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other instruments of international human rights law are being sacrificed.

They are kept captive with no hope of ever escaping. Some are told that they can leave, but their children must stay. They must choose between freedom and their children – a "Sophie's Choice" no mother should ever have to make. I have met women who have done just that, and others who hunger for the breath of freedom so badly that they are contemplating doing it – such a high price to pay.

Saudis Import Slaves to America

Daniel Pipes, New York Sun, June 16, 2005

[accessed 21 December 2010]

It's shocking, especially for a graduate student and owner of a religious bookstore - but not particularly rare. Here are other examples of enslavement, all involving Saudi royals or diplomats living in America.

Saudi sheik: 'Slavery is a part of Islam'

WorldNetdaily, November 10, 2003

[accessed 21 December 2010]

[accessed 22 January 2020]

A leading Saudi government cleric and author of the country's religious curriculum believes Islam advocates slavery.  "Slavery is a part of Islam," says Sheik Saleh Al-Fawzan, according to the independent Saudi Information Agency, or SIA.  In a lecture recorded on tape by SIA, the sheik said, "Slavery is part of jihad, and jihad will remain as long there is Islam."  His religious books are used to teach 5 million Saudi students, both within the country and abroad, including the United States.

*** ARCHIVES ***

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Saudi Arabia

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 22 June 2021]


Undocumented workers were not protected by labor laws and were particularly susceptible to forced labor, substandard wages, and deportation by authorities.


Most child labor involved children from other countries, including Yemen and Ethiopia, forced into begging rings, street vending, and working in family businesses.

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 5 May 2020]


A number of amendments to the labor law that went into effect in 2015 granted broader rights and protections to workers in the private sector. However, the law does not apply to household workers, who are governed by separate regulations that provide fewer safeguards against exploitative working conditions.

Foreign workers—who make up more than half of the active labor force—enjoy only limited legal protections and remain vulnerable to trafficking and forced labor, primarily through employers’ exploitation of the kafala visa-sponsorship system. In 2014, the Ministry of Labor ruled that expatriate workers who are not paid their salaries for more than three consecutive months are free to switch their work sponsors without approval. In practice, foreign workers are subject to periodic mass deportations for visa violations or criminal activity, though due process is often lacking in such cases. Government programs give preferential treatment to companies that hire certain percentages of Saudi citizens and penalize those that fail to meet such targets.

Kingdom of Slaves in the Persian Gulf

Sam Badger, Giorgio Cafiero and Foreign Policy In Focus, 16 September 2014

[accessed 5 May 2020]

INDENTURED SERVITUDE - A key plank in the Gulf’s foreign labor apparatus is called the kafala, or “sponsorship,” system.

The system entails middlemen who travel to Southeast Asia and sell the right to work in the Gulf to prospective migrants. Once in debt to the middlemen, who “sponsor” the workers’ right to travel to the Gulf, the laborers are expected to pay off their debt to the sponsor by working long hours—often in the construction industry, where workers labor away in temperatures that can rise above 50 degrees Celsius, or 122 degrees Fahrenheit.

Yet because permission from their sponsor is required to seek a new employer, foreign laborers are often trapped in their jobs. This ensures that their paltry wages are used to pay off the debt incurred by their travel. Without citizenship or any political rights, and unable to exit the country—their passports are frequently seized by authorities upon arrival—these foreign workers are trapped in what can only be described as virtual slavery or indentured servitude.

Foreign women employed as domestic workers for the GCC’s wealthy residents are particularly vulnerable to exploitation. Secluded in private homes and typically denied the right to leave, they’re often trapped with employers who withhold pay and subject them to appalling episodes of physical assault and sexual violence.

Saudis address human trafficking concerns

United Press International UPI, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 16, 2007

[accessed 21 December 2010]

The Saudi Human Rights Commission voiced concern over human trafficking gangs exploiting immigrants and foreigners during the pilgrimage season.  Commission spokesmen Dr. Zoheir al-Harethi said people making their pilgrimage to Mecca plan to find employment but instead find themselves exploited by local gangs.  Harethi said immigrants "fall prey to gangs that use them for begging and prostitution" and noted many of the exploited are children, al-Arabiya said Friday.

U.S. human trafficking report misses progress: Saudi

Reuters, RIYADH, Jul 8, 2007

[accessed 21 December 2010]

"Examining the American report on human trafficking, we felt that it was misleading ... It contains descriptions, opinions and understandings that are not necessarily true," Turky Al Sudairy, head of the government's Human Rights Commission said in a statement published in Saudi newspapers.

"While we accept that there are some who mistreat (domestic) workers, and this is not acceptable, there are laws that stipulate punishment and the Commission will not hesitate to reveal practices and violations."  Around a third of Saudi Arabia's 24 million population are foreign residents, mostly blue-collar workers from Asian countries. Over a million work as housemaids, and reports of abuse are common. Saudi employers often retain their passports.

Sudairy said the authorities had taken stringent measures to regulate the labor market, which he said was subject to abuse by recruitment agencies. He said Saudi Arabia has laws to prevent child labor.  "The efforts being exerted have not finished yet and we cannot claim such a thing," Sudairy said.

New study shames human traffickers

Patrick Mathangani, The Standard, May 11, 2007

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 11 September 2011]

Countries in the Middle East have been named as the worst culprits of human trafficking.

A new report by an international trade unions’ umbrella organisation says Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen are notorious destinations for women trafficked from Kenya.

Its report, ‘Trafficking in Persons — The Eastern Africa Situation’, notes that women and children were favourite targets for well-organised trafficking rings, which operate freely for lack of solid laws against the vice.

Saudis deny human trafficking allegations

Mariam Al Hakeem, Gulf News, Riyadh, August 13, 2006

[accessed 5 May 2020]

The Saudi government has denied a recent report released by the US Department of State ranking the kingdom as one of the largest human traffickers in the world.

Saudi Ambassador Criticizes U.S. Human Trafficking Report

Associated Press AP, NASHVILLE, Tenn., June 06, 2006,2933,198468,00.html

[accessed 21 December 2010]

Al-Faisal said Saudi Arabia has imposed regulations to control mistreatment of servants and employees, prosecuted those accused of mistreatment and opened shelters for victims.

Key Witness missing in CO slavery case against Homaidan Al-Turki and Sarah Khonaizan

Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 8th, 2006

[accessed 21 December 2010]

[accessed 5 May 2020]

An Indonesian woman who was kept as a virtual slave and who was also a key witness against a Saudi Arabian couple, Homaidan Al-Turki and his wife, Sarah Khonaizan. A modern day slavery case where the victim was forced cook clean and was sexually abused.

Forced-Labor Charges For Saudi Prince's Wife

Stephanie Ebbert and Scott Goldstein, The Boston Globe, Winchester, Mass., March 31, 2005

[partially accessed  21 December 2010 - access restricted]

The wife of a Saudi prince was arrested yesterday for allegedly forcing two Indonesian housekeepers to work for her family at homes in Arlington and Winchester for meager wages over nearly two years.

Saudi Arabia Prostitution Facts

Preecha Sa-Ardsorn, "Saudi woman procurer surrenders before police," The Nation, 19 July 1998

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 11 September 2011]

Both women had contacted Suna in hopes of finding high paying work in Saudi Arabia, but instead were forced into prostitution. The women were forced to travel, in a tiny compartment below the truck's undercarriage or empty oil tank of the vehicle tanker in the scorching sun, from one construction site to another and to offer their sexual services. Upon arriving in the Saudi capital, they were forced to share a five-metre-by-four-metre room with seven other girls, one of whom was Suna's sister. They were told that they would be engaged in prostitution, not restaurant helpers as promised, if they wanted to live.

Trafficking and forced labour of children in the United Arab Emirates continues

Pakistan Press International PPI, Lahore, 09 October 2004

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 11 September 2011]

ANSAR BURNEY TRUST RESCUES TWO MORE 'CHILD CAMEL JOCKEYS' IN UAE - . The Ansar Burney Welfare Trust International is the only human rights organisation working since last several years practically against slave labour in Middle East and Arab Countries to rescue the innocent children working as child camel jockeys in very worst circumstances. It has rescued total 318 children in this current year, 147 children on slave in UAE and 171 children from Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Muscat, Kuwait and other parts of the Arab and Middle East countries and sent them back to Bangladesh, Pakistan, Srilanka and other respective countries for their rehabilitation

Saudi Religious Leader Calls for Slavery's Legalization

Daniel Pipes, Lion’s Den, November 7, 2003

[accessed 21 December 2010]

Muslims, in contrast, still think the old way. Slavery still exists in a host of majority-Muslim countries (especially Sudan and Mauritania, also Saudi Arabia and Pakistan) and it is a taboo subject. To enable pious Muslims to avoid interest, an Islamic financial industry worth an estimated $150 billion has developed.

The challenge ahead is clear: Muslims must emulate their fellow monotheists by modernizing their religion with regard to slavery, interest and much else. No more fighting jihad to impose Muslim rule. No more endorsement of suicide terrorism. No more second-class citizenship for non-Muslims.

Slavery in Saudi Arabia

Posted by Robert on Jihad Watch, November 4, 2003

[accessed 21 December 2010]

In Islam Unveiled I explain the theological and legal reasons why slavery persists in some Islamic societies — notably Mauritania and Sudan. I had a little bit of information on slavery in Saudi Arabia in there but for reasons I don't recall it didn't make the final draft. Still, slavery was only abolished in Saudi Arabia in 1962, and there are numerous indications that it continues today.

Women Who Wed the Wrong Wahhabi

A version of this column by Ilana Mercer was published by The Hudson Institute, June 19, 2003

[accessed 8 February 2016]

She describes her constituents as women who  "…have married Saudi nationals who were sent to the United States to study in our colleges and universities. Once they accompanied their Saudi husbands back to Saudi Arabia, they soon found out that they lost all civil rights and became prisoners. Their children fall into that same category of slavery and are denied even the basic human rights."

The Overthrow Of The American Republic - Part 30

Sherman H. Skolnick, 22 March 2003

[accessed 21 December 2010]

Point by point, I discussed the findings of a unit of the United Nations which had documented a terrible truth. Here it was, late in the 20th Century, I told the crowd, that Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, according to undisputed details of the U.N. unit, each had huge numbers of BLACK CHATTEL SLAVES. Saudi, according to the findings, had about one hundred thousand such slaves and Kuwait about fifty thousand of the same.

The world must know about this

Susan Taylor Martin, St. Petersburg Times, July 23, 2002

[accessed 21 December 2010]

[accessed 5 May 2020]

When 29-year-old Ramani Prianka accepted a job in Saudi Arabia, she thought it would be a pleasant way to earn more money than she could ever make in her native Sri Lanka.  After all, she would be working indoors -- as a housemaid -- for a well-to-do, educated Saudi couple. He was the manager of a big hospital; she was the principal of a school.

How tough could it be? Very tough, Prianka quickly discovered. The house had 20 rooms and 13 bathrooms, and Prianka, the only maid, was expected to clean every one every day. There were nine children, and Prianka had to wash all their clothes and cook all their food. Seven days a week, she was up at 4:30 a.m. and never got to bed before midnight. All this for the equivalent of $26 a week.

Last year, at least 2,800 Sri Lankan housemaids ran away from their Saudi sponsors, claiming they had been overworked, sexually abused or physically mistreated by jealous wives. They are among the countless foreign "guest workers" in Saudi Arabia who live and work under conditions that are sometimes compared to modern-day slavery.

Held Against Their Will

John Randall Peacher, Jul 14, 2002, comment on item: Hearing on "Should the United States Do More to Help U.S. Citizens Held against Their Will in Saudi Arabia?" --

[accessed 21 December 2010]

Not only should the US Government support and provide assistance to citizens held against their will; but we should examine why we are supporting a dictatorship that is holding MILLIONS of persons against their will. The Kingdom of Saud is guilty of imposing virtual slavery upon the women of Saudi Arabia. Not only American service personnel are victims; and victims they are. Americans, not allowed to have religious observances on holy days, women not allowed to drive or dress as they wish when leaving military bases, not alowed to be in possion of another Holy Book, the Bible.

President Wahid: Slavery Widespread in Saudi Arabia

Indonesian Observer, JAKARTA, March 2, 2000

[accessed 21 December 2010]

He expressed concern that many Saudis may treat their Indonesian servants as slaves and sexually harass them.  Many Indonesian women who have worked abroad come home with horror stories of being raped and badly treated by their foreign bosses.

But according to Wahid, the Indonesian media often makes inaccurate reports on what goes on in Saudi Arabia.  "The media’s descriptions created a public perception that our women workers were raped. The situation is not like that. The Saudi people still believe in the old Islamic teaching, which is belief in slavery. So a woman who works for them is considered a slave," he said.  For some men in Saudi Arabia, sexual relations with a housemaid are not considered as rape, because they believe that such a practice is permitted by their beliefs, he added.

Wahid also stressed the Saudi government does not believe in slavery, but the practice is still common in society.

Saudi Arabia:Open for Business

Amnesty International, Index Number: MDE 23/082/2000, Date Published: 8 February 2000

[accessed 21 December 2010]

[accessed 15 February 2018]

In this document Amnesty International highlights the appalling human rights record that Saudi Arabia has had in the past, and how the international business community needs to be aware of the direct impact that Saudi Arabia's record on human rights has on business interests.

Businesses and governments around the world have overlooked the appalling human rights record of Saudi Arabia in the past. One of the arguments being that business interests and requirements are unrelated to human rights. It is time for the international business community to open its eyes.

US Child Sex Slaves In Saudi Arabia

Herb Mallard, Co-Chairman, Americans Against The Sauduction Of Washington, Issue #17

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 18 September 2011]

[scroll down]

US CHILD SEX SLAVES IN SAUDI ARABIA - We are continuing a limited investigation of the nonparental abductions of US children by Saudi princes. We have interviewed past Saud family palace domestic slaves who have been assigned to care for child sex slaves primarily kidnapped from the US and Northern Europe. It seems procedurally after being routinely processed by the Saudi Arabian Government upon entry the children are immediately brought to the respective palace where they are indoctrinated through a brainwashing practice. The suborning technique through a system of rewards and punishments includes US child sex slaves being given a Saudi name while their US name and religious beliefs are expunged from their mind. If the children use their US name or religious beliefs at any time thereafter, they are severely reprimanded with further conditioning. In tandem, the US State Department policy is that it refuses to investigate US child sex slaves within Middle East unless they are given the US name of the child. - htcp.

The Plight of Foreign Workers in Saudi Arabia

Brian Evans

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 11 September 2011]

In November 1998 two Egyptian servants of Saudi Prince Turki bin Abd al-Aziz tied bedsheets together and lowered themselves from the rooms on the 29th floor of the Ramses Hilton where they had been imprisoned, unpaid, for months. The Prince, a full brother of King Fahd, has lived for 16 years on two floors of the five-star Cairo hotel since his expulsion from Saudi Arabia for "embarrassing behavior." The two servants, a butler and a cook, who were seriously injured when they crashed onto a 24th floor balcony, made familiar claims. They had been beaten, they had not been paid in months, and they had been held against their will along with many other servants who were still trapped inside. That these abuses were taking place outside Saudi Arabia was somewhat unusual. Although less publicized, similar occurrences are more common inside Saudi Arabia.

Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 26 January 2001

[accessed 21 December 2010]

[7] The Committee is concerned that the broad and imprecise nature of the State party's general reservation potentially negates many of the Convention's provisions and raises concern as to its compatibility with the object and purpose of the Convention, as well as the overall implementation of the Convention.

Human Rights Overview by Human Rights Watch – Defending Human Rights Worldwide

Human Rights Watch

[accessed 21 December 2010]


Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 29 March 2020]

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS – The government has not taken sufficient measures to improve its performance on trafficking issues, although it did name an official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to assume responsibility for trafficking in persons.

Foreign laborers', including domestic workers', passports were often illegally retained by their employers and can sometimes result in forced labor. Foreign nationals who have been recruited abroad have, after their arrival in the country, been presented with work contracts that specified lower wages and fewer benefits than originally promised. A reportedly small number of non-citizen women were thought to engage in prostitution, comprising a minor element of the trafficking problem in the kingdom.

SECTION 6 WORKER RIGHTS – [d] Child beggars were reportedly often non-citizens who had been trafficked into the country for that purpose or are Hajj or Umra over-stayers. The Ministry of Social Affairs maintained special offices in both Mecca and Medina to combat the growing problem of child beggars.

Human Rights Reports » 2004 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, February 28, 2005

[accessed 11 February 2020]

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS – Among the millions of foreign workers in the country, some persons, particularly domestic workers, were defrauded by employment agencies or exploited by employers; some workers overstay their contracts and are exploited as they have few legal protections. Many foreign domestic servants fled work situations that included forced confinement, beating and other physical abuse, withholding of food, and rape.

All material used herein reproduced under the fair use exception of 17 USC § 107 for noncommercial, nonprofit, and educational use.  PLEASE RESPECT COPYRIGHTS OF COMPONENT ARTICLES.  Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, "Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery – Saudi Arabia",, [accessed <date>]