As Qatar Airways continues its expansion into North America, adding the cities of Boston, Atlanta and Los Angeles in 2016 alone, a U.S. based human rights NGO has stepped up its campaign calling for a boycott of the airline.
The Alliance for Workers Against Repression Everywhere (AWARE), based in Washington has long fought against what it calls the exploitation of workers in Qatar: “Exploitation of labour remains rampant at one of the world’s largest building projects located in Doha, Qatar”.
AWARE cites a number of human rights abuses levied against the tiny Middle East nation including:
- Worker deaths at the controversial 2022 FIFA World Cup site could be as high as 4,000 by completion.
- 1.4 million workers must get the permission from their employer to leave the country under the kafala labour system.
The organisation also points to wider discrimination in the State of Qatar including the fact that marital rape is not illegal and homosexuality can be punished by imprisonment and even whipping.
Qatar recently announced that the kafala employment system would soon be abolished in favour of contract based law. However, the British Broadcasting Corporation reported James Lynch from Amnesty International as saying: “This new law may get rid of the word ‘sponsorship’ but it leaves the same basic system intact”.
Mike Lux, a political consultant, who sits on the board of AWARE now wants to draw the attention of travellers to alleged abuses happening within Qatar Airways. He said: “We want folks to understand that there are severe human rights violations in Qatar and part of the human rights violations are done by the airline itself and more of them are done by the country that owns the airlines and controls it”.
Lux claims that the discrimination of female employees at Qatar Airways is an ongoing concern and has alleged that the airline dismisses women who get married, become pregnant or are overweight.
Qatar Airways said in August 2015 that it would ‘ease’ it’s policy against female employees from getting married or starting a family. Rossen Dimitrov, senior vice president at Qatar Airways confirmed the changes: “As the airline matures, the workforce matures,” he said. “You can’t turn to someone who is 35 years old and say ‘No, you can’t have a family, wait.’ We want to retain people”.
As the battle between Human Rights groups and Qatar Airways heats up, Dimitrov, who is in charge of Cabin Crew at the airline was quoted as saying in June 2016: “I will resign if even one case is proven to be true where a woman lost her job over pregnancy or for being ‘overweight’ during my tenure of managing cabin crew.”
Photo Credit: Qatar Airways