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Female Migrant Workers Speak Out About Harassment In Qatar’s World Cup Hotels

New Age Islam News Bureau

18 November 2022

• Golfer, Racer, Boss: Young Women Aiming High In The Middle East

• At Least 342, Including 69 Women, Children, Killed In Iran Protests: Rights Group

• Croatian Football President Praises ‘Fascinating Journey’ Of Saudi Women’s Football

• Statistics On Kuwaiti Women Married To Expats

• International Women’s Ice Hockey Championship – Kuwait And UAE Win Their Matches; Colombia Leads

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Female Migrant Workers Speak Out About Harassment In Qatar’s World Cup Hotels


Coaches, players, fans and migrant workers tell us about their experiences in Qatar. Illustration by ESPN


Louise Donovan

17 Nov 2022

As Hope* arrived to start her cleaning shift, her eyes anxiously scanned the room. If she spotted him, her heart sank. She might spend the next eight hours dodging his requests for a date, for a kiss, for more than that.

Over an 18-month period from mid-2020, Hope’s male supervisor at the hotel in Qatar where she was employed repeatedly sexually propositioned her, she says. When she refused his advances, he gave her extra housekeeping work for no additional pay.

“I was feeling low,” she says on the phone from her home in Kenya, where she returned at the start of this year after her contract in Qatar came to an end. “Because when someone tells you such things, you ask yourself: ‘why is he taking advantage of you?’”

The plight of the tens of thousands of men who travelled thousands of miles to help build Qatar’s World Cup dream and the exploitation that many faced has been widely documented.

Yet rights groups say the problems facing migrant women have not been explored or scrutinised in the same way, and their voices have been largely absent from the debate on migrant workers’ rights in the lead up to the tournament.

Women working in the global hospitality industry are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment and gender based violence. A survey by the Unite union found that over half of respondents had directly experienced sexual harassment and assault in their workplaces.

The Guardian and the Fuller Project spoke with five women, including Hope, employed at different hotels in Qatar between 2017 and 2022 about their experiences. They detailed allegations of sexual harassment and physical and verbal abuse. Most of these hotels are among more than 100 now endorsed by Fifa, football’s governing body and the tournament organiser.

The testimonies of women interviewed for this piece, as well as those of experts who have worked extensively with female hospitality workers in Qatar, suggest few feel able to report sexual harassment should it occur.

“There’s been so much focus on [men working in] construction and the stadiums, as they are central to the tournament,” says Isobel Archer, Gulf programme manager at the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, a non-profit that has researched working conditions in Qatar’s hotels. “But [sexual harassment] is absolutely happening in hotels.”

Although men dominate the country’s migrant workforce, government data shows nearly 300,000 migrant women worked in Qatar as of June this year.

In 2020, female migrants made up just over a fifth of hotel workers, according to the most recent government statistics, although this is probably a significant undercount as the figures exclude subcontracted workers, say rights groups. To cope with the influx of 1.3 million football fans, an additional 108 hotels were built ahead of the start of the tournament.

Archer says that high-profile sporting events are linked to a rise in violence against women, further increasing the risks facing women hotel workers and anticipates the same happening during the World Cup.

She says that urgent action has to be taken by hotels, which will be packed to capacity with football fans, to protect women and allow them to be able to report abuse safely without fear of repercussions.

“I don’t think we’ve seen any evidence that hotels are doing anything, frankly, [to support women],” she says. “And [the women] simply won’t be able to speak up.”

Qatar representatives said the five women’s stories were extreme cases which were not the reality for millions of female workers. Fifa said it took any allegations of misconduct extremely seriously and had a clear process in place for anyone who wanted to report any such incidents.

While women hotel workers across the world face a disproportionate risk of gender based violence compared to other industries, rights groups say that those working in Qatar could find it particularly difficult to report the abuse they may face.

A report published this year by Equidem, a labour rights organisation, said gender-based violence and harassment are “a fact of life for women” at some Fifa World Cup hotel partners. Equidem’s researchers contacted more than 800 migrant workers across the region, male and female, but only 10% agreed to have their experiences recorded.

Some women, like Hope, dread deportation. Others might have paid illegal and exorbitant recruitment fees, forcing them to stay in jobs with abusive conditions. Despite sweeping labour reforms in 2019, with migrants now allowed to change jobs or leave the country without an employer’s permission, workers say little has changed. Employers still have a huge degree of control over employees’ lives and with migrant worker unions banned, there are few routes to effectively raise grievances.

Migrant women who come to Qatar, mostly from Africa and Asia, are often the main breadwinner for their families. Many are reluctant to speak out because they fear losing those jobs, says Ann Abunda, founder of Sandigan, a Kuwait-based domestic worker organisation. When she asked her network to inquire about issues of harassment in Qatar’s hotels, more than a dozen women replied, either directly via social media or through her contacts in Qatar.

Women told her there was no point in reporting harassment because employers would not act and were angered by the complaint. “[Women] just don’t want to talk [publicly] about that,” says Abunda. “But they are saying it’s rampant.”

The country’s penal code also criminalises sex outside marriage. Police often do not believe women who report sexual violence, instead siding with men who claim it was consensual, which can lead to the survivor facing charges, says Rothna Begum, a senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Facing further barriers, all women in Qatar need to show they are married in order to access certain forms of sexual and reproductive healthcare, adds Begum. This can include treatment for sexually transmitted infections, HIV and pregnancy.

In an attempt to tackle violations, Qatar’s supreme committee has been auditing hotel working conditions, and an online platform for worker complaints was launched last year.

Yet rights groups say audits often do not detect serious abuse as they only provide a snapshot of the situation and rely on input from workers. Women are also reluctant to report issues as sensitive as harassment.

“Are you really going to disclose a violation against your body to a complete stranger during a corporate audit?” says Archer. “It’s just a very unlikely scenario.”

The Qatari government has said it will intensify labour inspections during the tournament, including extra health and safety checks. Mustafa Qadri, the executive director of Equidem, believes the increased scrutiny over the next month will ensure a degree of protection for workers. Yet fundamental structural problems such as migrant workers being unable to organise and their lack of freedoms won’t have been adequately addressed once the world’s attention moves on, he says.

Hotels are not creating an environment for workers to speak up, says Archer. Risk assessments need to be conducted in order to understand who their female migrant workers are and what might make them more susceptible to gender-based violence, she says. Management needs to be trained to spot signs of harassment and to communicate effectively with the entire workforce, particularly subcontracted female employees, who are often at higher risk. Hotels also need to be clear on the reporting process and next steps in terms of safeguarding as well as psychosocial and medical support.

There are reports that restrictions on consensual sex and women’s access to reproductive services may be relaxed during the World Cup. Should this happen, says Begum, the Qatari authorities need to ensure it applies to all women, not just fans, inform all women about the changes and ensure they continue beyond the tournament.

In response to the claims of harassment, Fifa said it was steadfast in its commitment to ensuring respect for internationally recognised human rights and takes allegations of misconduct seriously. The body also said it has a number of measures and reporting mechanisms in place for anyone wishing to make a complaint, including a workers’ welfare hotline. It added that it was implementing an “unprecedented due diligence process in relation to the protection of workers involved in the Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022, in line with Fifa’s responsibility under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.”

A Qatari official said anyone who came forward with a complaint would be supported and their complaint fully investigated: “Qatari law prioritises the safety and wellbeing of all women. Assault is criminalised under the penal code, and access to justice is a guaranteed right for everyone through the Qatari court system. Female foreign residents play an important role in Qatar’s economy and society, and we do not tolerate any infringement to the fundamental human rights of women or anyone in our country.

As in all countries around the world, unfortunate, extreme cases do occur and unscrupulous employers are a reality. But these extreme cases are not representative of the reality of life for the millions of foreign female residents who have lived in Qatar in recent decades. Protecting the rights of all women in Qatar – including female workers – is and will continue to be at the forefront of our priorities and vision.”

The cleaner’s story

Sally* was just trying to do her job. Her hotel cleaning shift was nearly over, tiredness was setting in, and the dirty sheets weren’t going to wash themselves. But the male guest asked for a kiss, she says. When she reported the incident to her supervisor, the reply was essentially: “You’re a woman, learn to handle your issues.”

What she experienced at the luxury hotel still affects her, says Sally. “I don’t like getting close to strange men because you never know their intentions. It brings back the memory,” she says from her home in Kenya, her voice tearful. “I never want to go back.” Management often took little action or sided with guests when female workers complained about harassment, say several.

Instead of dealing with harassment allegations directly, one cleaner describes a policy of swapping staff members in and out when guests behave inappropriately.

Once, when a guest tried to slap her, she alleges her supervisor responded by saying she shouldn’t have been serving him in the first place.

“It’s a bit disheartening,” she says. “Besides sexual harassment, maybe a guest is mishandling you or being rude. All these things you report but nothing [is done]. So you just have to deal with it. It made me feel very small. And vulnerable. At the end of the day, ‘the guest is always right’.”

For Sally, her friends at the hotel were quite literally her lifeline. When they heard her arguing with the male guest who asked for a kiss, they rushed in to help, she says. Six months later, they burst in again when they heard her say: “Don’t get any closer.”

This time, a senior supervisor snapped into action. The guest reportedly sent his apologies, though Sally wasn’t sure if this was true as he never said anything directly to her. Concerned about other women being sent to clean his room, she wanted the guest’s stay terminated.

“But they didn’t do that,” she says. “It’s not a privilege for them to have you. It’s a privilege for them to have guests.”

Source: The Guardian


Golfer, Racer, Boss: Young Women Aiming High In The Middle East


Esraa Aldkheil is the only female on the karting track in Riyadh. (File)


November 09, 2022

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: The Arabian peninsula is known for its conservative traditions but rapid social change is opening up new possibilities for women -- especially younger generations.

In a video project dedicated to young people in the Middle East, where more than half of the population is under 30, AFP interviewed women from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar and Bahrain.

The first part of the series focused on artists in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the Gaza Strip, Israel and Iraq.

'Start from zero'

Clad in black and red overalls, Esraa Aldkheil is the only female on the karting track in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, where some repressive policies are being rolled back.

By day, the 28-year-old works as a biophysical chemistry researcher to fund her dream: becoming the kingdom's first motorsports world champion.

By night, she races her male competitors, speeding around the track in a country where women were banned from driving until 2018.

"I see a beautiful future for me in Saudi Arabia," says Ms Aldkheil, who also clocks up two to three hours at the gym, five days a week.

Ms Aldkheil finishes fourth in the race, just off the podium -- but afterwards, she grins and points to the top step, where the winner stands.

"When you start from zero, there are enormous challenges to overcome to reach this level," she says.

"I keep working towards my goal. I want to be an example for all girls who are insecure."

'I'm the director'

Kafaa Mari dreams of becoming Yemen's first female education minister and rebuilding her country, shattered by eight years of war.

Ms Mari, 28, heads a body promoting "women's development" in the Hadramaut province of her deeply conservative homeland.

Driving up to her workplace in Seiyun, a soldier posted at the entrance stops her. "I'm the director here," she informs him proudly.

"I want to take part in making decisions, especially those that concern women," Ms Mari tells AFP, adding that women are still a long way from being considered "partners of men" in building their community.

The war has brought to light women's essential role in society, says Ms 1Mari, who hopes to restore the image of a country once known to the Romans as "Arabia Felix" ("Happy Arabia").

'Fast progress'

In an air-conditioned cafe in Doha, Jawhara Al-Thani is working on her "Women of Qatar" website, which aims "to uncover the rarely witnessed but ubiquitous roles of women in Qatari society".

Featuring portraits of successful and aspiring women on her website, Al-Thani -- a competition-level archer -- hopes "to help inspire many generations to come" in the conservative, gas-rich state.

"My personal experience varies drastically from other women in Qatar, I believe, and Qatari women in general," says the 27-year-old, who is among hundreds of members of the gas-rich kingdom's reigning Al-Thani family.

"I am very aware of my privilege and my fortune to have grown up in an educated family and in a family that supports one another regardless of gender."

Al-Thani is encouraged by the success stories, which she says are testament to the "very fast progress" in Qatar.

"If you look at who's on top, you see a lot of Qatari women," she says, but concedes they are "maybe not as much as we would like to see".

"As I said, very fast progress, very fast changes in a very small amount of time."

'We can win first prize'

Aged just 18, Habiba Maher is the first woman to play golf for Bahrain.

After practising on a manicured course in the capital, Manama, she returns home and shows off her collection of trophies and photos taken with Bahraini royalty.

"My dream is to take part in international championships... against female professionals from all over the world," says Ms Maher, who studies computer science at the American University of Bahrain.

"I dream of winning first place, of waving our national flag high and proving that we Bahraini women can win first prize."

Source: ND TV


At Least 342, Including 69 Women, Children, Killed In Iran Protests: Rights Group

Mahmut Nabi 


At least 342 people, including 43 children and 26 women, have been killed by security forces during ongoing nationwide protests in Iran, according to a human rights organization.

Iran has been gripped by mass unrest since mid-September over the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died in custody after being arrested by the country’s morality police.

Her family believes she was beaten in police custody, allegations that Iranian authorities have denied.

In a report on Wednesday, Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHRNGO) said it has documented deaths of protesters in 23 of Iran’s 31 provinces in the past two months.

“Of the 43 children, nine were girls and three were Afghan nationals. The 43 children were all under 18 years of age, but have not all been verified through document evidence,” the group said.

The highest fatality count of 123 was reported in the Sistan and Baluchestan province, followed by 39 in Tehran, 33 in Mazandaran, 32 in Kurdistan, and 23 in Gilan.

“Thousands have also been arrested in the last two months, with some being at risk of death sentences for security-related charges … in show trials,” read the report.

At least five people have been sentenced to death, IHRNGO said, adding that Iran’s judiciary “is not independent, but a part of the repressive system and the sentences lack all legitimacy.”

The group stressed that “the numbers of deaths published are an absolute minimum” and the “actual number of people killed … is certainly higher.”

Several Western countries have imposed a slew of sanctions on Iranian officials and entities for what they call “repression of protests.”

The Iranian government has not yet come out with an official death toll.

Source: Anadolu Agency


Croatian football president praises ‘fascinating journey’ of Saudi women’s football

17 November ,2022

The president of Croatia’s football federation praised the development of women’s involvement in the sport in Saudi Arabia, during a ceremony ahead of a friendly match between the two countries on Wednesday.

Delegates from both countries’ football associations signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Riyadh, pledging to work together to explore areas of collaboration in the game.

Afterwards, Croatian Football Federation (HNS) president Marijan Kustić congratulated the progress that the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) has made in incorporating female players into the Kingdom’s footballing landscape.

“I was particularly impressed by the fascinating journey of [Saudi] women’s football in just a few years,” he said in a statement.

“It is truly a great story and I congratulate the SAFF team on the important work they are doing across different areas of the women’s game.”

SAFF women’s department supervisor Lamia Bahain and department head Aalia al-Rasheed received a gift of a Saudi jersey signed by members of the Croatian team, including Real Madrid’s Luka Modrić, Tottenham Hotspur’s Ivan Perisić, Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacić, and Inter Milan’s Marcelo Brozović.

Women’s football in the Kingdom has seen unprecedented investment in recent years as traditional restrictions on female participation in sports have lifted.

SAFF establish the country’s first women’s national team in 2021, which first played against the Seychelles in February of this year, winning 2-0.

Women’s and girls’ school leagues have also been established, and SAFF announced in August its bid to host the 2026 Women’s Asian Football Confederation (AFC) cup in the Kingdom.

The Saudi men’s team were defeated by Croatia by 1-0 on Wednesday, after a late goal from the 2018 World Cup runners-up’s Andrej Kramaric.

“Croatia is among the world’s elite football nations, and their national team captured the world’s attention four years ago by reaching the FIFA World Cup final,” said SAFF president Yasser al-Misehal in a statement.

“Their 2018 campaign will remain in the history books forever. We are pleased to have welcomed them in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia over the past few days ahead of their trip to Doha,” he added.

Source: Al Arabiya


Statistics on Kuwaiti women married to Expats

November 18, 2022

KUWAIT CITY, Nov 8: At a time when the issue of naturalization is being widely discussed in the country, particularly for the categories of non-Kuwaiti wives and children of Kuwaiti women married to foreigners, official statistics revealed that the total number of children of Kuwaiti women married to non-Kuwaiti men is 15,100 as of the end of June 2022.

According to statistics from the Public Authority for Civil Information (PACI), there are 19,429 Kuwaiti women married to non-Kuwaitis. This includes 17,429 Kuwaiti women married to Western nationals, 688 Kuwaiti women married to Asian nationals, 379 Kuwaiti women married to North American nationals, 246 Kuwaiti women married to European nationals, 57 married to South American nationals, 49 married to African nationals, and 39 married to Australian nationals.

The statistics revealed that the number of Kuwaiti women who are married to non-Kuwaiti men and do not have children is 4,329.

There are 2,552 Kuwaiti women with one child, 2,571 with two children and 2,519 with three children.

About 2,282 Kuwaiti women who are married to non-Kuwaiti men have four children, about 1,915 have five children, 1,249 have six children, 894 have seven children, 527 have eight children, 324 have nine children, and 267 have more than nine children.

The total number of Kuwaiti women married to non-Kuwaiti men reached 20,128 as of mid-2021. By Najeh Bilal , Al-Seyassah & Arab Times Staff

Source: Arab Times Online


International Women’s Ice Hockey Championship – Kuwait and UAE win their matches; Colombia leads

November 18, 2022

KUWAIT CITY, Nov 9: The Kuwaiti and UAE national teams achieved two remarkable victories defeating Luxembourg and Ireland in the ongoing Kuwait International Women’s Ice Hockey Championship at the Winter Games Club, while Colombia continued to lead the championship.

The Kuwaiti national team defeated Luxembourg (5-2) as Kuwaiti players displayed superb level of defense and attack in the three matches of the match, adding three new points, raising its score to six points, equal with the UAE and Luxembourg teams in second place.

In the second match, the UAE national team defeated Ireland with 2:0 first two halves in the third and last half UAE added three more goals while Ireland scored 2 goals with final scores as 5-2 UAE with its second victory were with six points, while Ireland suffered its third loss in a row.

In the third match, Colombia thrashed Andorra (16-0), and are leading the table with nine points, while Andoora after its third defeat are at bottom of the table without a score of points.

Source: Arab Times Online




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