Qatar, FIFA, and Labor Exploitation – My Senate Testimony

“… in the most extreme examples, foreign migrant workers have become suicidal after being trapped without pay by employers in Qatar. They have been forced to depend on charity from others simply to eat. Meanwhile, their family members in poor communities in their countries of origin can face eviction and other serious challenges…”

US Senate Testimony on Qatar Labor Exploitation by Sunjeev Bery
U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security

Hearing - 2015-07-15 - Qatar FIFA - Senate - Sunjeev Bery

“Examining the Governance and Integrity of International Soccer”
July 15, 2015
Verbal Remarks (PDF) / Written Testimony (PDF)Hearing Page / CSPAN Video

Media:  New York Times (1, 2), GuardianUSA TodayReutersBloombergVice NewsMcClatchy DC, Roll Call

Full Text of Verbal Remarks:

“Chairman Moran, Ranking Member Blumenthal, distinguished members of the Subcommittee, and distinguished guests: On behalf of Amnesty International, thank you for the opportunity to address the issue of human rights in Qatar and the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup has brought into global focus the shocking conditions that are routine for migrant workers in Qatar.

Under Qatar’s Kafala employment sponsorship system, foreign migrant workers cannot change employers or leave Qatar without the permission of their current employer. Even if an employer is not paying the employee, the employer can still block the employee from changing jobs or leaving the country.

In 2012, the Qatar National Research Fund funded a survey of some 1,000 low-income labor migrants: Continue reading

Repressive U.S. allies in the Middle East: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the battle against “Islamic State”

On Thursday, I spoke with CCTV America about Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other repressive governments reported to be supporting U.S. actions against the armed group calling itself “Islamic State.”

Click to watch.

Interview - CCTV - 2014-09-25 - US allies and ISIS

Iraq’s Crisis: 3 Quick Points for U.S. Policymakers

As the latest crisis in Iraq unfolds, here are three basic points for U.S. policymakers to keep in mind:

  1. The protection of civilians must be a top priority in Mosul and in every Iraqi community facing armed conflict.
  2. The Iraqi central government has an abysmal human rights record that has left communities scarred. Government human rights violations have widely been seen as a significant factor in widespread popular discontent.
  3. The U.S. government must push the Iraqi central government to make significant human rights reforms in order to address long-term public discontent and instability.

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500,000 civilians are reported to have fled Mosul following its takeover by one or more armed groups that include those belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS). This follows the reported displacement of close to half a million Iraqis in Fallujah since January, following ISIS’ expulsion of Iraqi security forces there.

ISIS armed groups, Iraqi security forces, and other potential armed groups must avoid repeating the violence against civilians that took place in Fallujah. Iraqi government forces have used indiscriminate shelling in Fallujah in the past six months, including on hospitals and in residential areas. There have been over 5,000 civilian deaths.

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  • The Iraqi central government has an abysmal human rights record that has left communities scarred. Government human rights violations have widely been seen as a significant factor in widespread popular discontent.

Thousands of detainees languish in prison without charge. Many of those who are brought to trial are sentenced to long prison terms or to death after unfair proceedings. In many cases, convictions are based on “confessions” extracted under torture.

Iraq remains one of the world’s most prolific executioners with at least 169 executed in 2013. As with prison terms, death sentences can also follow “confessions” extracted under torture. In many cases, such “confessions” are televised nationally.

Torture and other ill-treatment inside prisons and detention centers is rife and routinely goes unpunished.

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  • To ensure stability in Iraq, the U.S. government must address popular discontent by pushing the Iraqi central government to make significant human rights reforms.

Iraq’s long-term human rights crisis can no longer be viewed by the U.S. and other external governments as “Iraq’s problem” or an internal matter. To ensure security and safety in Iraq, widespread popular discontent must be addressed by pushing the Iraqi central government to end its terrible human rights record.

Interview: The Pope’s Call for Action on Refugees and Migrants

 

"When it comes to immigration, Pope Francis says our globalized world has led to globalized indifference to their suffering. Boston Cardinal O'Malley is working to end that indifference. What role does the Church play in worldwide immigration crises?"

Thousands are fleeing economic hardship, repression, and violence via boats from North Africa in a desperate attempt to reach Europe’s shores.

Today I joined a panel on Huffington Post Live to talk about Pope Francis’ recent call for action on refugees, migrants, and asylum-seekers attempting to enter Europe.

You can watch the clip here.

Is Bahrain Hearing the World’s Advice? Join Me At A Talk About Human Rights in Bahrain

On Wednesday, I’ll be speaking about human rights in Bahrain at a DC panel organized by Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB).

More info here, or see below:

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Under the Universal Periodic Review, every country in the world goes through a human rights review by its peers in the United Nations.  How has Bahrain fared under its review?  How well has Bahrain’s government implemented the recommendations of governments and civil society?

On Wednesday, I will get into the details when it comes to this repressive ally of the United States.