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Saudi Arabia: Honouring The Pakistani Hero Of The Jeddah Floods

At the end of November Saudi Arabia's second largest city, Jeddah, was hit by heavy floods, blamed on poor infrastructure and mismanagement of city works construction. Many lives were lost, and even more people would have died had it not been for acts of heroism such as that of Pakistani Farman Ali Khan.

Pakistani blogger MtRtMk writes:

Nowadays, all one hears in news bulletins is how a bomber in Pakistan claims _ _ number of lives. Here is another Pakistani. He is from Swat as well, the region racked by violence. He has 14 lives to his name. Only, he didn’t hurt anyone, he saved them. Working in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, during the recent floods, he saved 14 strangers and died trying to save the 15th. His name is Farman Ali Khan.

Eman Al Nafjan at Saudiwoman’s Weblog gives the full story:

Black Wednesday is what many people have been calling 25th of November when Jeddah got its heaviest rains that resulted in flooding and the death of over 120 people. Videos, photos and articles on the flooding and the damage are aplenty online, but one story I believe has not got its due attention. Farman Ali Khan was a 32 year old Pakistani migrant worker at a grocery store in Jeddah. In his six years in Saudi Arabia, he had only been able to visit his family back home twice. His youngest Jarira, 4 years old, has never seen her daddy alive. This man who had every reason to save himself, as he is his family’s sole provider and yet he set out that day to save as many people as he could.

Farman Ali Khan saved 14 people from drowning. His neighbor told reporters that Farman gave him his wallet and cell phone for safekeeping. He then tied one end of a rope to a pipe and the other around his waist and stood at the edge of the heart of the flooding looking for people to pull out. Those he couldn’t reach swimming and wading, he would reach to them with a wood pole. He kept going back until the water got the better of him and he went under.

Farman left behind his wife and three daughters, Zubaida, 7, Madeeha, 6, and Jarira, 4.

Saudi blogger Almaha writes:

Jeddah was afflicted last month by heavy rains that caused deaths of hundreds of people. What happened is Allah's will but what's shocking is a city like Jeddah in the rich country Saudi Arabia still has no sewage system and it has neighborhoods built arbitrarily. So when the rainstorm hit, the city became flooded. It's the corruption we have in Arabia that caused this catastrophe. But this post is not for expressing my anger or talking about the corruption we have in Arabia. It's for sharing an article I translated from Arabic into English.

The article Almaha translated was by journalist and blogger Maram Meccawy, published in full on her blog [Ar] and in a slightly edited form in Al Watan newspaper [Ar]. Almaha translates:

Even though we know in our hearts that our country and the Arabian Gulf have been built and still are by the hands of Asian workers who work under scorching sun, live in overcrowded and poorly ventilated places, and wait months before they are paid, some say they have come to our country out of greed and they don't do anything for free. And that they are the source of all evils in our angelic societies!. Some even shamelessly demanded their deportation from the two holy cities as if they are terrorists or invaders…I can say the media has contributed a lot to the spread of this negative image. It focuses on their crimes and mistakes extensively but when it comes to their positives and the great services they provide for our country, it's almost nonexistent. Even when one of those ordinary workers is a victim of greed, extortion, or mistreatment by a Saudi citizen or an institute, it is not difficult for our conscience to justify their crimes and present them as exceptions and not worthy of attention.

Then Wednesday flood came and people showed their true colors. Some recorded their heroic actions in gold, others marked them with shame and disgrace. Today I will talk about the first kind, about the hero of Jeddah. […] He was 32 years old. He saved 14 people before the flood swept him away in his way to rescue the 15th person. Our hero's name is Farman Ali Khan, a hero from Pakistan. His mind was occupied with one thought when he saw people crying for help…what could he do to help them? He did not say I'm a foreigner and I don't care. He did not stand by as some of our men did only taking pictures by their expensive cell phones of people fighting when they could help. He did not even justify himself as many did by saying he had a house full of women and that he was their only breadwinner. […] On the other hand, a few days after the disaster, a video showed us something that makes any Saudi ashamed. A clip of a Saudi man shouting at Saudi volunteers in Jeddah distributing humanitarian aid to people in affected areas and saying ” Give to Saudis but not to foreigners”.

The translated post continues:

Back to our hero, Farman. People in Jeddah agree that this man's memory must live on in the city. And here they are demanding a street or a square be named after him. They are also demanding that his family be taken care of financially for life. Others requested that his family be given the Saudi nationality in gratitude for his sacrifice. Is there anything more nationalistic than giving your life for your country and for your people? […] Let this sad occasion be an opportunity for us to rethink our treatment of expats both at the individual level in our daily interaction with them and at the state level with regard to their rights and sponsorship laws, etc. Let our appreciation of Farman's sacrifice be “Let ‘Farman’ be against discrimination”.

A Facebook group has been set up called The Campaign To Honour The Pakistani Martyr Farman Ali Khan Who Saved 14 Lives In The Jeddah Floods [Ar]. At the time of writing it has nearly 26,000 members, the majority of whom are Saudi.

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