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Migrant rights activist detained incommunicado by Qatar

On May 13, 2021

Update: Malcolm Bidali has now been held in solitary confinement by the Qatari authorities for over three weeks. No charges have been filed. and there are growing concerns for his safety and well being. The coalition of organisations campaigning for Malcolm to receive due process has issued a follow-up statement calling on Qatari authorities to immediately release "Mr. Bidali, who appears to have been detained for the peaceful exercise of his human rights."

In a phone call to his mother on 20 May, Malcolm said he was being held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day and that he had no access to a lawyer. 

Malcolm is also suspected to be the target of a phishing attack.

On April 26, a Twitter user tagged Mr. Bidali in a tweet containing a graphic which Human Rights Watch had used for an August 2020 report about wage abuse in Qatar. The tweet also contained what appeared to be a YouTube link to a Human Rights Watch publication. 

However, according to Amnesty International’s analysis, the link led to a suspicious URL capable of recording the IP address and other data about the person who clicked on it. This is a social engineering tactic known as phishing and may have been used to identify or locate Mr. Bidali.

State security forces seized Mr. Bidali from his home on May 4, barely a week after the phishing attack. 

“Though we cannot confirm who was responsible for the phishing attack on Malcolm Bidali, his arrest shortly afterwards suggests he was targeted for his activism,” the organizations said. 


Download the letter here.
13 May, 2021

Malcolm Bidali, a Kenyan national working as a security guard in Qatar, has been forcibly disappeared and held incommunicado by authorities.

Malcolm, under his pen name Noah, has been writing a series of articles on the plight of migrant workers in the country.

A coalition of organisations has called on the Qatari authorities to reveal his whereabouts and to ensure his right to due process is respected.

The text of the press statement:


13 May 2021

Qatar: Fears grow for forcibly disappeared migrants’ rights activist

Qatari authorities must urgently reveal the whereabouts of Malcolm Bidali, a Kenyan national who has been forcibly disappeared since 4 May, when he was taken from his labour accommodation for questioning by the state security service. Malcolm is a security guard, blogger and activist, who has been vocal about the plight of migrant workers like himself and has written for a number of online platforms. A week before his arrest, Malcolm gave a presentation to a large group of civil society organizations and trade unions about his experience of working in Qatar.

A coalition of organizations working on the rights of migrant workers in Qatar -, FairSquare, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Business & Human Rights Resource Centre - have contacted various Qatari authorities in the week since Malcolm’s detention. On 11 May a joint letter was sent to the Qatari authorities, urging them to investigate Malcolm’s disappearance as a matter of urgency. Late on 12 May, the government confirmed that Malcolm Bidali has been detained and is under investigation for violating Qatar’s security laws and regulations. However, the authorities have not yet disclosed his whereabouts. 

The organizations said:

“Since arriving in Qatar three years ago Malcolm has been on the front line of the fight to reform Qatar’s labour laws, including by writing about his experiences as a migrant worker in the country. It has now been more than a week since anyone heard from Malcolm, and we are extremely concerned for his well-being, and that he may have been detained in reprisal for his legitimate human rights work.

“Despite our repeated requests to the Qatari authorities, we are still in the dark as to Malcolm’s location and the exact reason for his detention. We urge the authorities to disclose Malcolm’s whereabouts, and ensure he is protected from torture and other ill-treatment. Further, they must outline any internationally recognizable offense against him and ensure his right to due process is fully respected, including ensuring he has legal assistance. If Malcolm is detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, he must be released immediately and unconditionally.”

Download the letter here.