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Racism in Saudi Arabia

Racism in Saudi Arabia extends to allegations of imprisonment, physical abuse, rape,[1] overwork, and wage theft, especially of foreign workers who are given little protections under the law.


Foreign workersEdit

Human Rights Watch (HRW) describes the working conditions of foreign workers, most of whom come from developing countries in South Asia, as "near-slavery" and attributes them to "deeply rooted gender, religious, and racial discrimination". Workers are often unwilling to report their employers for fear of losing their jobs or further abuse.[2]

Saudi Arabia has more than 10.24 million foreign workers, who are engaged in manual, accounting, service and domestic work, accounting for one-third of the Kingdom's population and more than half of its workforce.[3]

In 2019, Saudi Arabia reportedly asked the WWE to remove Sami Zayn from the super showdown event that is taking place in Saudi Arabia due to his Syrian ethnicity.[4]

Historically urbanized Saudi citizens of non-Bedouin originsEdit

Saudi citizens of non-Bedouin origins (Hadar) face discrimination. These include multi-ethnic citizens from Medina and Taif in the Hijaz area, and from Jeddah, Mecca, and Yanbu in the Tihamah area. The diversity of these areas is in part because it had trade with the outside world. Saudi Bedouins call Saudis of non-Bedouin origins "Tarsh Bahar" (sea-trash), a term that dates back to the fall of the kingdom of Hejaz. The "Hadar", known for their distinctive dialect, considered themselves more sophisticated and civilized, while the Bedouin conquerors saw themselves as racially pure.[citation needed] Hijzies sometimes answer back by simply calling Bedouins "Soroob", (backward, or savage). Non-Bedouins are not usually allowed into the military services, with exceptions. Saudi Arabia has no laws against racism.

Other forms of discriminationEdit

Religious or sectarianEdit

Religion belief is often a basis of discrimination in Saudi Arabia, most prominently the discrimination against the Shia sect of Islam minority in the Eastern and southern regions of Saudi. The Shia are not allowed to join the military, and forbidden to hold key positions in government. This is in contrast with Hadar who have a long tradition of holding key positions in the government, dating back to the early days of the Saudi conquest of the Kingdom of Hejaz. The Sufi sects of Sunni Islam present in Tihamah and Hijaz are not exempt from scrutiny from the strict mainstream Wahhabi sect. Although there is a discrimination against non-Muslims (usually Western foreigners, Jews, Christians, etc), in general this goes unnoticed as these cases are relatively uncommon compared to those of other minorities.


In Saudi Arabia, antisemitism is commonplace. Saudi Arabian media often denounces Jews in books, news articles and with what some describe as antisemitic satire. Saudi Arabian government officials and state religious leaders often promote the idea that Jews are conspiring to take over the entire world; as proof of their claims they publish and frequently cite the fictional work, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as factual. [5][6][7]

Racism in mediaEdit

Racism or Tribalism of any kind is prohibited in Saudi media. Violators are punished and may be banned from media platforms. Recently King Salman's nephew was banned from media after referring to an individual as "tarsh bahar" during a call to a sports program.


  1. ^ Chamberlain, Gethin (13 January 2013). "Saudi Arabia's treatment of foreign workers under fire after beheading of Sri Lankan maid". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
  2. ^ Human Rights Watch (14 July 2004). "'Bad Dreams:' Exploitation and Abuse of Migrant Workers in Saudi Arabia". United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
  3. ^ Observer, Euromid. "Saudi Arabia: Abuse and mistreatment against foreign workers must stop". Euro-Mid. Retrieved 2018-08-28.
  4. ^ "Report: Saudi Government Told WWE to Remove Sami Zayn from Shows Due to His Ethnicity". June 2019.
  5. ^ al-Tall, Abdullah. "The Jews in World History according to Saudi textbooks". The Danger of World Jewry. pp. 140–141. Archived from CMIP report: the original Check |chapter-url= value (help) on 2007-09-28.
  6. ^ Hadith and Islamic Culture Grade 10. 2001. pp. 103–104.
  7. ^ "2006 Saudi Arabia's Curriculum of Intolerance" (PDF). Centre for Religious Freedom of Freedom House. 2006.