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Kenyan activist arrested in Qatar speaks out

A Kenyan blogger who’s been held incommunicado by authorities in Qatar for the past two weeks has finally been offered permission to speak to his family.

Malcolm Bidali, 28, was arrested days after he spoke to human rights organizations on alleged continued abuses of workers, mostly migrants, in the peninsular Arab country.

Blogging under a pseudonym, Noah, the 28-year-old Bidali wrote about labour rights issues, including long working hours, issues with wages, working conditions and unsuitable accommodation and conditions at his workplace.

Malcolm was working as a security guard until he was arrested by authorities on May 4.

According to ITV, a British free-to-air television channel, Malcolm phoned his mother on Thursday morning, following an intervention from the Kenyan ambassador in Qatar.

The phone call lasted 10 minutes and he was accompanied by two security guards whilst making the call.

He is unhurt but is being held without charge in solitary confinement and has no access to a lawyer or legal advice. He did not say why he is being held.

The family has demanded to know where he is, why he is being held, how they can orchestrate his release and get him a lawyer or legal advice.

“Whilst it is wonderful to have heard from Malcolm, and to know he is all right, there is further work to do relating to the above outstanding issues,” said Maggie Turner, mother of Malcolm who lives in Jersey, British Islands.

On Friday, the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) joined other organizations in requesting to be furnished about Malcom’s whereabouts.

“Bidali is an activist and blogger whose articles have offered deep insight into the working and living conditions of migrant workers in Qatar,” KHRC said.

“He has been on the front line fighting to reform Qatar’s labour laws by sharing his own experiences as a migrant worker in the country.”

It added that the issues that he has been raising through social media are in the public domain, so it is preposterous for the authorities to pick on him.

His articles provide a close look at the working and living conditions of some Gulf state low-wage migrants.

He spoke about overcrowded dorms, seized passports, a lack of privacy, and his failed attempts to get better care.

Malcolm had spoken to a coalition of civil society organizations and trade unions a few days before his arrest about his life in Qatar.

“Days before his arrest and detention, he had spoken to various civil society organisations about the poor working and living conditions of migrant workers. He had also raised concerns over possible reprisals, particularly from his employer, as he was speaking up against the poor treatment of migrant workers,” KHRC explained.