ATLANTA, May 16, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On June 1, Qatar Airways, an airline owned by the State of Qatar, an oil-rich dictatorship in the Middle East, begins daily service from Atlanta to Doha, Qatar. It's been widely reported by international media that every week approximately 29 migrant workers will die – total deaths are estimated to be 4,000 – building the 2022 FIFA World Cup soccer facilities in Doha because of deplorable working conditions. Thousands more will suffer other horrifying abuses as workers across business sectors, including Qatar Airways employees, have little to no protections, and some can be legally held in indentured servitude.
The expansion of the State of Qatar's commercial enterprises, including Qatar Airways, reflects the smoke and mirror tactics used by the Qatari government to hide the inhumane treatment of its most vulnerable workers. The de facto marketing arm of the state, Qatar Airways, is expanding rapidly across the globe and touts itself as "luxurious" and "world-class," while at the same time masking egregious human rights abuses being committed within the country.
The Alliance for Workers Against Repression Everywhere (AWARE), a nonprofit organization working to bring international attention to policies and business tactics that harm workers' rights, calls on Georgia residents, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, the Atlanta City Council, and all Americans who consider traveling on Qatar Airways to ask themselves: "Do I want my money to underwrite a company and a nation that oppress human rights?" AWARE will be leading an international campaign using the hashtag #boycottQatar as Qatar Airways launches this new service from Atlanta.
Qatar Airways, itself, has abused its employees, who work under the careful watch of the Qatari government. In Doha, the airline mandates that its employees live in company housing with strict curfews, where their personal lives are monitored, and bans workers from marrying without its permission. Female employees who become pregnant can be terminated. Women must follow strict grooming policies including weight limits, a throwback to an era when age and sex discrimination were the norm. In April, the airline's CEO, Akbar Al Baker, callously dismissed the very valid human rights protest by American workers at a Qatar Airways event in Boston, calling them "ignorant people," as reported by the Boston Herald.
Qatar Airways has stated publicly that the airline "is bound by the laws of the countries it serves, and it tailors its employment practices accordingly." According to Human Rights Watch, Qatar's laws prohibit all migrant workers, which make up 99% of the workforce, from unionizing or protesting, and leave them unprotected from human trafficking, forced labor, and other rights violations. Domestic laborers are excluded from the country's labor laws, even as they face outrageous sexual and physical abuses; are forced into 100-hour+ work weeks; and are held against their will with their passports confiscated by employers who cite the Kafala sponsorship system, which effectively allows employers to deny workers their exit visas. Workers often complain they are denied wages and are forced to live in unsanitary housing. The LGBT community in the state lacks any protection, as being homosexual is illegal there and can be punishable by death. Journalists who have attempted to report on these egregious human rights abuses were illegally detained and questioned last year.
Headed by social justice advocate Mike Lux, AWARE has a specific focus on the rights of oppressed workers. "While we work to change government policy in the U.S., consumers can speak now with their wallets and make travel choices other than Qatar Airways," said Lux. "Don't fly with governments and airlines that have blood on their hands."
It is imperative that state and local government officials, and the citizens of Atlanta, are made aware of Qatar and Qatar Airways' litany of abuses against workers, including the airline's own employees, women, and those in the LGBT community. All Americans should demand transparency and basic human rights for people everywhere, especially from those we allow to do business in our country.
To learn more or to join the conversation, visit: allianceforworkers.org @Alliance4Wrkrs #boycottQatar
TO SCHEDULE AN INTERVIEW WITH MIKE LUX, CONTACT: Jesse Brown at (443) 961-4833 or [email protected]