- Title: SAUDI ARABIA: Music video mocks Saudi Arabia's crackdown on foreign workers
- Date: 8th January 2014
- Summary: RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA (RECENT) (REUTERS) ACTOR WHO PLAYS SAUDI OFFICER IN VIDEO, AHMED AL-KHALDI, WATCHING THE VIDEO
- Embargoed: 23rd January 2014 12:00
- Location: Saudi Arabia
- Country: Saudi Arabia
- Topics: Arts
- Reuters ID: LVA74ZG2EDUIHWBU80WVZVSH7CMF
- Story Text: The crackdown on foreign workers in oil rich Saudi Arabia has been fodder for comedians living in the country, with one group posting a song online mocking the authorities and their approach to the deportation of foreign workers.
The comedy act of mostly Pakistani actors living in Saudi Arabia created an online YouTube channel called the Khalli Walli show and one video 'Ja Jawazat' (the passport department is coming) has had over two million views to date.
The world's top oil exporter is pushing its 9 million foreigners to resolve irregularities in their passports or face penalties including prison and deportation, and has carried out raids on shops, offices and marketplaces to check visas.
The founder of the Khalli Walli show, Pakistani actor Faez Choudhary, said that the song explores the plight of foreign workers living in Saudi in a comical way.
"The song Ja Jawazat is from the ground and it describes what is going on here in Saudi Arabia. I thought about the song, really it's a good idea, and then we made it in a comical way. I met with our group and I explained to them the idea and they liked the idea. They said: 'go ahead, let's film the song'. Then we filmed the song and posted it on YouTube, the number of viewers so far is 700,000. We hope that number goes up to one million or two million," Choudhary said.
The video follows a group of workers who are hiding from an immigration official, with Bollywood-style beats and comical choreography.
Saudi actor Ahmed Al-Khaldi played the immigration official in the video and described the scenes where workers are trying to escape from him.
"My character in the song is a passports officer, the workers are trying to escape from me, fleeing left and right of me and I try to catch them. In the end, there is a message for the passport officers, who are behind the violators," he said.
Choudhary, who was born and grew up in Saudi Arabia, now has his own visa managing rentals in a shopping mall, and, along with the rest of the group, is not facing deportation.
He said the group are creating more comical videos to post online and were rehearsing for a new song that featured a foreign worker having to say goodbye to his Saudi sponsor, entitled 'Saudization'. The term is used by locals referring to Saudi Arabia's policy of replacing foreign workers with Saudi citizens.
"We have a new project after the Khalli Walli Show and Ja Jawazat song. This time we tried to move to a sad song, called: 'Saudization', we are still working on it. The song explores the life of a foreign employee who was living here in Saudi Arabia and suddenly his residency's sponsor says good bye to him," he said.
Another member of the group, Pakistani actor Belal, said that they had received positive feedback from Saudi viewers despite the cultural differences.
"It was a big challenge to do a good work in this country where we don't belong to, we belong to Pakistan, it is Saudi Arabia, the crowd is different, people are different, Saudis are different . They think different and we think different, but when we did good work, they appreciated us a lot and a lot and they love us," he said.
The crackdown on foreign workers, aimed at ending a black market in cheap foreign labour and creating more jobs for Saudis, has led millions of people to go through the tricky process of changing their visas, while hundreds of thousands of other people have left the country.
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