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Thursday, January 27, 2022

Rights groups urge Qatar to provide information on detained security guard


Security guard and labour rights activist Malcolm Bidali, better known online by his pseudonym ‘Noah Articulates’, was arrested by authorities on May 5th.

A coalition of human rights organisations have called on Qatari authorities to disclose details regarding the arrest of a Kenyan national who worked as a security guard and was actively engaged in highlighting issues related to migrant workers in his workplace.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and GCC-based advocacy organisation Migrant-Rights.org were among a group that penned a joint letter to say they have not heard from Bidali since May 4th when he was taken from his company accommodation for questioning by the authorities.

“We are extremely concerned for his well-being, and that he may have been detained in reprisal for his legitimate human rights work. If Malcolm is detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, he must be released immediately and unconditionally,” read a joint statement by the human rights organisations.

A representative from the coalition of organisations told Doha News that authorities in Qatar responded to the May 11th letter to confirm Malcolm had been arrested and is being investigated, though no more details were provided.

The representative said no charges have been filed against Bidali as of yet and since there is no formal case against him, he was unable to have any legal representation. According to Qatari law, everyone is entitled to a lawyer only if and when charges are levelled against them and formal case proceedings begin.

Bidali, known by his pen name “Noah”, is a vocal migrants rights advocate who gained popularity for blogging about violations he witnessed in Qatar.

His Instagram page ‘Noaharticulates’ regularly addresses issues he faced as a security guard working in the affluent Msheireb Downtown area.

“Our concern is that someone active on those issues disappeared. We haven’t heard from him and we are not getting a confirmation that we can reach out to him,” the representative added.

In a statement to Doha News, a Qatari government official confirmed Bidali’s arrest.

“On May 5 2021, a Kenyan national was taken into custody and placed under investigation for violating Qatar’s security laws and regulations,” the official said, though they fell short of specifying the alleged breaches, ten days after his arrest.

“The individual retains all his rights under the law. All procedures of the investigation are being carried out in accordance with Qatari law,” the official assured.

The coalition representative confirmed Qatari authorities had acknowledged the letter and said it is “looking into it”.

Doha News contacted the Kenyan embassy in Qatar but has yet to receive a response.

Editorial Note:

It was only a couple of weeks ago that we at Doha News covered World Press Freedom Day, where we tapped into progress made by Qatar to improve the plight of journalists in the country. From allowing the revival of Doha News, to expressing its commitment to protecting press freedom, as mentioned by the Canadian ambassador to Qatar in an oped, authorities have made there intentions clear.

In recent weeks, the government has also swiftly stepped in to stand on the side of hundreds of employees in labour disputes following several peaceful protests in the country.

In light of this, the suspected reasons for Bidali’s detention are both surprising and concerning. If he is being held for reasons unrelated to his activism, authorities should consider sharing this information to avoid damaging developments made in progressing issues of migrant rights as well as freedom of expression.

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