Have We Forgotten Ali Nimr?

Arrested at 17 for attending pro-democracy protests, Ali Nimr faces execution in Saudi Arabia//ITV

Arrested at 17 for attending pro-democracy protests, Ali Nimr faces execution in Saudi Arabia//ITV

Written by: Zanab J.S. 

Nusra al-Ahmed has not seen her son outside of prison walls in 5 years. She describes each hour as "60 beats of pain," knowing that Ali Nimr could be executed at any moment without so much as a phone call.

Arrested at 17 in 2012, Ali Nimr was attending a pro-democracy march in Qatif when Saudi state police began an imminent clampdown on the mass of activists and protestors. Beaten badly and immediately handcuffed, Ali was stuffed into a truck and driven away from Qatif, unaware at the time that he would not see his hometown again. 

Accused of "stealing from a pharmacy, igniting a petrol bomb and rioting," Ali was never given the chance to present his defence, nor were any of the accusations substantiated against him.
Ali Nimr would sit in Saudi prison for 3 years facing interrogations, beatings, psychological and physical torture before a sentence would be applied to his case. In 2015, the same year Saudi Arabia would be inducted as the chair of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Ali Nimr would be sentenced to death. Specifically, public beheading and crucifixion--an arcane, ancient punishment reserved only for the worst of offenders. 

Ali's sentencing violates sacrosanct international law: under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, individuals cannot be executed for crimes committed as a minor. 

Human Rights, Shia Islam and Democracy in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is one of the world's foremost documented human rights violators. Having been announced as the greatest threat to children, and the nation to kill the most children in illegal acts of warfare, Saudi Arabia graced the U.N.'s blacklist of "child killer" countries for 3 days before the U.N. redacted their standing due to pressure from Riyadh. 

Executions are rampant in the kingdom; from petty theft, to accusations of murder result in immediate executions. In 2015 alone, the year of Ali Nimr's death sentencing, Saudi Arabia executed 151 people.

Slave and child labour, illegal executions, forced marriages and war crimes, Saudi Arabia's political fibre is imbued with perpetual human rights violations. The legal system presumes guilt upon accusation, and arrested persons are rarely informed of why they are going to jail. Presenting a fair legal defence is all but impossible in the shadowy kingdom. 

Saudi Arabia is ruled by the Al-Saud family, a collection of historic billionaires comprised of some of the richest people on earth. With a monopoly on oil production and airtight relations with the United States, United Kingdom, and powerful members of the EU, Saudi Arabia's mistreatment of religious minorities, women, the LGBTQ community, and activists is often overlooked in favour of continuing strong diplomatic relationships. Respect for the royal family is paramount. Any threat to their rule is decimated on sight. With portraits of the ruling family on buildings and billboards in every district, city and province, constituents of the kingdom are regularly reminded of where they stand. 

Religious freedom is all but entirely limited in Saudi Arabia. A dictatorial theocracy at best, and aristocracy at worst, the framework of the KSA is built upon Wahhabism, a major thread of Sunni Islam, which--as practiced in Saudi Arabia--rejects the legal validity of non-Muslims and minority sect Muslims.

In Saudi Arabia, Shia Muslims are the prime target under theocratic policies. 

Domestically Shia Muslims are terrorized by "religious" and state police who monitor their activities in the eastern province of Qatif where most Shias--like Ali--reside.

On top of crippling limitations faced by Saudi citizens, Shia Muslims experience an additional murderous onslaught from the Saudi government. Textbooks in schools portray Shia Muslims as members of society which must be killed in order to preserve "true" Islam. Shias living away from Qatif, and especially those in proximity to the capital, live in a perpetual state of hiding, pretending to be Sunni in school and at work. Painted as an inherent enemy, Saudi Arabia employs Sunni supremacy in the most lethal of ways to repress their Shia minority. 

"These brutal executions are the latest act in the Saudi Arabian authorities’ ongoing persecution of the Shi’a minority. The death penalty is being deployed as a political weapon to punish them for daring to protest against their treatment and to cow others into silence."
-Lynn Maalouf, Director for Research at Amnesty International’s Beirut office

Amnesty International reports that executions are a primary tool used to terrorize Shia Muslims and prevent them from protesting their mistreatment and decrying Saudi's support for anti-Shia organizations.

Internationally, Saudi Arabia has funded countless terrorist Sunni supremacist organizations which seek to decimate Shia Muslims, and of course, non-Muslims and minority sect Muslims. The primary ideology of ISIS and their Shia genocide can easily be traced to the state sanctioned religion practiced in Saudi Arabia. 

America and other allies enforce Saudi's sectarianism. 

Unlike the messages of support received by Egyptians, Libyans and Syrians by the Obama administration and various British and Canadian parliamentarians, protests and calls for democratic reform from Shia Arabs were not addressed by the world's most "democratic" nations.

In fact, the Shia Arab spring was not broadcast in majority of countries aligned with the kingdom. The hundreds of thousands mostly Shia Bahrainis protesting in Manama barely made it onto TV in the Western world, while Qatif's protests and resulting police violence remains unheard of. 

Countries claiming to support democratic revolutions ignored calls for help from Shia Arabs. Nations claiming to "protect democracy and promote human rights in the middle-east" ended up financing the military equipment being used against Shias in Saudi Arabia. 

As a young, Shia Muslim and pro-democracy activist, Ali Nimr is the poster-child for Saudi Arabia's brand of preventative execution; what better a way to quell any hint of dissent or pro-democracy from young Shias and activists in general than to crucify Ali? Who would follow in the footsteps of an activist whose path ultimately led to beheading? 

Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr, Appeals and International Silence

Late Sheikh Nimr, executed in 2016 for advocating anti-government protests in Saudi Arabia//ALALAM NEWS NETWORK

Late Sheikh Nimr, executed in 2016 for advocating anti-government protests in Saudi Arabia//ALALAM NEWS NETWORK

It is a likely possibility Ali Nimr's death sentence is not entirely a matter of the protest in 2012, or the Arab spring by which Shias in Qatif were invigorated. Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr, renowned Shia pro-democracy activist and religious scholar, was executed in January 2016 for his massively influential campaigns to reform Saudi Arabia. Accused of "terrorism" and never allowed a proper defence or trial, Sheikh Nimr--Ali's biological uncle--is thought to be one of the obvious reasons Ali Nimr is facing such punishment. It is perhaps this relation upon which the weight of Ali's sentence is placed. 

The international community of Saudi allies, business partners and advocates initially shied away from Ali Nimr's situation. Through persistent activism, several political figures began the initial inquiry to Riyadh's decision. Toothless remarks from Canada, the United States and the U.K. came as no surprise to those aware of Saudi Arabia's influence. 

Ali Nimr's mother begged the Obama administration for intervention in 2015 but received no response. Various petitions garnered thousands of signatures, but Ali's story never headlined or made it to the front page as it so desperately needed to. Even Jeremy Corbyn's public demand that David Cameron involve himself with Riyadh in Ali Nimr's case resulted only in a few days of trending on Twitter.

By 2015 it had become clear that even the final appeal, for which Ali's parents were the most hopeful, would be rejected. 

And it was. Ali's fate was sealed a year later when the final appeal of his death sentence declared null. As of now, Ali awaits beheading and crucifixion for unsubstantiated crimes he was convicted of as a minor--a blatant violation of human rights law so highly revered by Saudi's staunch allies. 

The outcry surrounding Ali Nimr has been muffled by some of the most powerful countries on earth--his imminent execution has made clear the hypocrisy of the world's 'guardians' of human rights. The United States only sees human rights violations in its enemies, rarely in its allies, and never in Saudi Arabia. Canada enables human rights violations in Saudi Arabia by manufacturing the very military equipment used to brutalize Shia dissidents--all the while declaring Canadian laws as the standard of global human rights. 

Ali Nimr is the embodiment of Saudi's youth: restless, furious and undeniably selfless. At 17 Ali stood up to the most powerful monarchy on earth. At 22, Ali will stand up again--this time to an unlawful execution for unsubstantiated crimes. 

His father once said he can "feel the sword against Ali's neck", and certainly that has never been more true than today. With his fate all but sealed, Ali's only hope is locked in public outcry from every corner of the world; the kingdom of Saudi Arabia will not bend to one country, but it is possible it may bend to many. 

The question is, can we save Ali Nimr? Will we stand for Ali Nimr? Will those who claim to champion democracy come forward to help Ali Nimr?

For inquiries regarding this article, contact Zanab J.S. @zanabism

4 Reasons Why You're Wrong About Omar Khadr

Omar Khadr, following his release from Canadian prison in 2015//AFP

Omar Khadr, following his release from Canadian prison in 2015//AFP

Written by: Zanab J.S.

You don't have to like Omar Khadr.

You don't have to congratulate him on his engagement. You don't have to celebrate his 10.5 million dollar settlement with the Canadian government. You don't even have to believe in his "innocence."  

But what you can't do is imply Omar Khadr's civil suit against the government and his release from Guantanamo Bay was somehow unfair, unconstitutional or illegal. What you can't do is say the apology he received from the leader of this nation was undeserved. What you can't do is say he "should've been kept at Guantanamo". 

If any of the above skepticism sounds familiar, then this article is for you. 

#1: Omar Khadr Most Likely Did Not Kill American Army Medic Christopher Speer. 

In 2002, 15 year old Omar Khadr found himself in the midst of a life-changing moment: a firefight in Afghanistan which caused the death of one American medic, a number of Afghan belligerents and irreparable damage to Omar's body and psyche. 

Omar Khadr was charged with throwing a grenade during the firefight which resulted in the death of Christopher Speer--and it is this allegation which comprises the basis of justification for his torture, illegal confinement, violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom and the contemporary vitriol of many Canadians. 

However, incensed Canadians seem to be forgetting one thing: there is an overwhelming chance this allegation is not true. 

Omar Khadr at the age of 15//AFP

Omar Khadr at the age of 15//AFP

Aside from an extracted confession signed by a mentally abused Khadr following intense torture and threats, there is little evidence to suggest Khadr was the one to throw the grenade that killed Speer. 

According to Sandy Garrasino of the National Observer, photos of the crime scene in 2009 appear to contradict the report provided by the prosecution team itself. According to Garrasino, the meagre and contradictory evidence would never have resulted in a charge had the trial taken place in Canadian jurisdiction, let alone several tribunals. Certainly, the reputation of Omar Khadr would be very different had Canada fought for his return. 

Upon analysis of the photos and the testimony provided, it seems only 2 possible scenarios could have occurred and neither of those scenarios include the prospect of Khadr throwing a grenade. 

With the evidence in his favour, and the wrongdoings of the American army and sloppy attempts to criminalize Khadr stacked against them, the overwhelming anger of Canadians at "rewarding a murderer" is no longer based in reality, and is challenged by well analyzed facts. 

#2: Canada Violated the Charter of Rights and Freedom, as Well as International Law

There is an idea floating among Canadians that the Harper government's lack of apology and decision to prevent Omar's repatriation, unlawfully, was somehow for the sake of the greater good. We know now, 15 years and 2 unanimous Supreme Court of Canada rulings later, that they were not. 

In 2008, federal judge Richard Mosley ruled that the Canadian government had violated international law by interrogating Omar instead of petitioning for his repatriation. 

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When Omar's defence team sought the release of videotapes containing the illegal interrogations of Khadr, the government claimed the footage would "jeopardize national security" to prevent the SCC from allowing its release. In the end, the SCC ruled against the Canadian government, citing a violation of s. 7 in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom. 

The highest court in Canada had finally confirmed what activists, journalists and advocates had always argued: the Canadian government had a duty to protect Omar and seek his repatriation. Their decision to instead aid the American government and unlawfully interrogate and siphon information from Omar was a violation of both Canadian and international law. 

#3: Omar Khadr Was a Child Soldier, Not an Enemy Combatant 

At 15 years old, Omar was considered a child soldier by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the United Nations, the foremost international body to recognize juveniles at war. Despite concerns presented at multiple points throughout his imprisonment, the U.S. wrongfully tried and sentenced Khadr as an adult.

Omar Khadr with long time defence lawyer, Dennis Edney//2017 AFP

Omar Khadr with long time defence lawyer, Dennis Edney//2017 AFP

It is without question Omar Khadr's involvement with the Afghan belligerents is reprehensible, and certainly there is a conversation to be had about the fateful life events which led him to embrace such an environment. But these questions cannot be directed to a young teenager in a war zone, they must be directed to his guardians, his parents--those who are responsible for the well being of children. 

It is universally accepted that child soldiers are products of volatility; young, impressionable children following the orders of their seniors, led to terrifying places and lengths by adults who can influence them. Certainly, 15 year old Omar Khadr is not an exception to this rule, and certainly, he cannot be blamed for crimes directed by adults who failed him. 

For the United States to treat Omar as an adult, and for the Canadian intelligence community and government to enable this decision is a violation of universally accepted laws surrounding child soldiers and the commitment to their protection and rehabilitation. 

We do not need the multiple SCC rulings against the Harper administration to know that the Canadian government failed Khadr when he needed them most. To realize this, one only needs to see the video of Khadr, young, terrified and having been sleep deprived for 21 days, being interrogated by Canadian officials who were sworn to help him. 

#4: The Charges Laid Against Omar Khadr Were Illegitimate at Best, Unlawful at Worst

Until Omar, no children had been tried for war crimes since World War II. This in itself tells a story of America's thirst to prosecute anyone fitting the profile of 'the enemy.' Having invaded and failed in Iraq, and watching the embers of tactical failures in Afghanistan mount higher and higher, it is not difficult to envision a reality where the U.S. needed to claim a victory through the conviction of Khadr. 

"The recruitment and use of children in hostilities is a war crime, and those who are responsible – the adult recruiters – should be prosecuted. The children involved are victims, acting under coercion...Anyone prosecuted for offences they allegedly committed as a child should be treated in accordance with international juvenile justice standards providing special protections. Omar Khadr should not be prosecuted by a tribunal that is neither equipped nor required to provide these protections and meet these standards."
--Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF

As a child soldier, Omar should never have been held accountable for crimes committed as a child under coercion of adults. The United States failed their commitment to international juvenile justice standards, to their constitution, and to the spirit of human rights as a whole. The Canadian government, fully complicit in enabling the prolonged torture of Khadr for 15 years, stood idly by as the U.S. attempted to lay the direst of charges on a child. 

Omar Khadr was failed not only by his father, who allowed Omar's indoctrination into the most dangerous of operations, but by two of the most powerful and (allegedly) democratic nations in the world. He was failed by Canada, his home, his birthplace, and punished for 15 years for crimes  that could not be attributed to him. When there is a failure of such a massive accord, and a violation of constitutional and charter rights on such a prolonged scale, a due must be paid. 

The story of Omar Khadr does not begin in Bagram air base following the firefight in Afghanistan, it does not begin in Guantanamo, or in the home of Dennis Edney, Khadr's first home following his return to Canada--it begins when Canadians and Americans alike are able to admit to their mistakes and take responsibility for the insurmountable pain and torture afflicted on a young child, and can apologize for their shamelessness, betrayal and disruption of justice. 

For more information about this article, tweet the author @zanabism.

A.N.: This article is dedicated to Omar Khadr and all child soldiers currently in the midst of a war they did not ask for. 

Culture, Not a Costume: What Appropriation Looks Like in the Fashion Industry

By: Chau Nguyen

Edited: Fizza Joffrey

Celebrities, fashion designers, and even people in your neighbourhood take on the codes of cultures – but how does one objectively define the boundary between cultural appreciation and appropriation, especially when the answer is so grey and big names in the industry are constantly dismissive of it? 

The very concept of creativity is to be inspired, to sample, and then to refine into something new. Artists from all walks of life start their humble beginnings by using pre-existing objects and nothings around them to be inspired; with fashion designers, there’s absolutely no doubt that one must be inspired by everything and nothing to come up with a collection of eye-catching pieces. Facets of culture is a significant source of inspiration for designers when they need new ideas. Of course it can be done well, but the industry is known for being conversational and outrageous – the fact that fashion has blurred the boundaries of cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation is no newsflash. 

The fashion industry is infamously known for its elitist and exploitative nature; from textile workers to models, and especially for individuals outside of the industry, there is a general feeling that their heritage and culture has been misused for the blind-sighted needs of the industry.

From magazine editorials to runways, to even empty phrases of an ‘African-inspired collection’, consumers and individuals who hold value for the industry must start considering the cultural ethics and morals of the industry and calling out designers. The industry itself must also be held accountable for being uneducated and narrow-minded about the complications of appropriation. 

Valentino S/S 2016//SRC

Valentino S/S 2016//SRC

Valentino is one of the many names in the fashion world to receive backlash for appropriation in their 'African-inspired' Spring/Summer 2016 collection. The clothing, which may or may not have been inspired by elements from traditional 'African' dresses, was a troubling companion to a glaring offense; the use of the cornrow braids styled into the hair of models. 

White models. Not one black model on the runway.

Adding fuel to the fire, Valentino continued to anger social media by putting forth a campaign for that very collection again. This time, the white, cornrows-styled models were now posing in 'Africa', surrounded by local villagers. There was debate that the campaign itself surpassed appropriation into clear racism and white superiority. 

Other designers, like London-based KTZ, have also faced backlash – they were blasted for using sacred symbolism of Inuit culture in their Winter/Fall 2015 collection. A number of garments had patterns based on traditional Inuit designs, all without consent. Salome Awa, a Nunavut native, had gone ahead with a complaint letter addressing the issue of appropriation to the brand and, after apologising, the collection was pulled from retailers. 

Some names in the industry have argued that fashion is about bringing individuals together with a sense of style, and that by ‘mixing’ together cultures with traditional attire, hairstyles, music, and even mannerism, that the industry and society will become better adjusted to cultural diversity. After all, isn't this industry, with its mass diversity of insiders to outside consumers, ideally positioned to become the next melting pot of cultures?

KTZ F/W 2016 / Sacred traditions of the Inuit culture//SRC

KTZ F/W 2016 / Sacred traditions of the Inuit culture//SRC

The damage of cultural appropriation is rather hard to comprehend when one doesn’t have an understanding of white supremacy, and pervasive anti-blackness. Historically black hairstyles (cornrows, twists, locs) have always, and admittedly still are, stigmatised and deemed 'unprofessional' by many businesses; many individuals lose jobs because of their hair. It becomes an eye-twitching moment to then see a white celebrity figure (See: Lena Dunham) wearing cornrows, suddenly turning the once-dismissed hairstyle into a trend that pulls away at centuries of black history. 

Origins of the Native Headpiece//SRC

Origins of the Native Headpiece//SRC

There’s more to it – from bindis, to the 'watered down Chinese-kimino' (which has been purposely worded wrong to bring a sense of the uncomfortable), to even the most sacred of Native headdresses; it becomes unsettling and upsetting to see white supremacy fashionably adopt parts of oppressed and minority cultures, while actual individuals of said cultures are demonized.

Beyond the industry, the annual holiday of Halloween oxygenates cultural appropriation; Professor Belk (1990) states that 'Halloween is seen as a holiday which focuses on the power of inversion – it's about turning the social norm into something that is not the norm.'

It's fine, of course, to dress up as celebrities or public figures because it's the social norm to see the humour in portraying in a well known personality--but when you try to dismantle a culture for the sake of this holiday – especially a culture that is presently (or in the past) experiencing oppression in one form or another – there is no inversion. This is when we begin to reinforce existing power structures. 

One of the most infamous 'costumes' (I use this term with as much respect as possible because it is not a costume, it is a culture) would be the Native American headdress. One too many times has capitalism seen the purchase and wear of the sacred headdress - built from individualized eagle feathers and even using colours and Navajo-inspired prints on the clothing.

In fact, it's actually illegal within the United States 'to offer or display, or even sell any goods in a manner that falsely suggests that it is Indian produced, or inspired by (a tribe).' (If you're interested, Urban Outfitters were sued by the Navajo nation). While the Halloween pieces may not go as far as claiming truth from a tribe, turning it into a costume that holds no value peels away at centuries of traditions and culture, which additionally adds onto the discrimination that so many Native American individuals and communities experience.

The question of cultural appropriation will never come to a conclusion because its answers will always float amidst the grey zone; perhaps the best way to analyze cultural appropriation is with the simple recognition of, and respect for, culture that inspires the arts in a way that does not damage or disrespect people who actually belong to said culture.

Moreover, at the end of the day, it is a responsibilityto prioritize the respect of a culture. Cultural appreciation is more than just a fashion accessory for a music festival, and it certainly amounts to more than the industry motto of ‘expressing yourself through clothes.'

For questions about this article, contact Chau Nguyen @jeou.tumblr.com 

PROPAGANDA WARS: UNTOLD STORIES OF ALEPPO

REUTERS/RAPTOR-F22

REUTERS/RAPTOR-F22

Following commentary pertains to developing stories. Updates will be made as necessary to maintain the veracity of information presented in this article. Please email contact@outsidermag.co for further clarification or proposed amendments. 

WRITTEN BY ZANAB J.S. 

In 2003 the United States of America invaded Iraq under the pretence its dictator, the now late Saddam Hussein, harboured weapons of mass destruction (WMD). 14 years later this speculation still remains largely unfounded

Iraq, at this point in time, was considered too dangerous for independent foreign journalists to enter. However, the lack of verifiable evidence to prove the presence of WMD in Iraq did not stop journalists around the world, and especially those in the U.S., from confirming their existence

Regardless of the scarce number of journalists actually on the ground, the publication of news about Iraq and their infamous WMD, did not lessen in quantity from the mouths of major news broadcasters in America

The desperate desire for information and constant, updated news from Iraq was an encouraging combination for mainstream media sources to indulge in secondary, potentially compromised sources.

The information attained from these sources in Iraq was, by principle, questionable. 

Media outlets cited information from groups specifically opposed to the Saddam regime, and consequently, groups who needed the support of the American military to oust him. The confirmation provided by these groups was not influenced by verifiable truth, but rather their desire to overthrow Saddam. Journalists, analysts and broadcasters failed to critique and question much of the rationale touted by the Bush administration for pursuing an invasion of Iraq. 

Opposition party advocates were treated as sources on the ground, with no regards to their obvious partiality. Those who wanted an end to the Saddam era confirmed the myth that was Iraqi WMD, and it was these compromised sources which qualified for front-page material. 

Propaganda was treated as truth. Not once, not twice, but regularly and for weeks prior to the invasion. News broadcasters cemented theories on rationale provided by political parties--both domestic and those in Iraq--committed to the removal of Saddam. This resulted, inevitably, in what may be the largest retraction of wartime information in decades. 

For years the original reporters of Iraqi WMD citing opposition propaganda did so with impunity. Only after the end of the invasion and withdrawal of troops was their reality confirmed. 

This is not an uncommon phenomenon, nor is it something Americans have not seen before. The 20th and 21st century of news broadcasting has initiated a new era of global awareness that did not previously exist. The desire to constantly update the information we know--on blogs, social media, message boards--only fuels the practice of disseminating secondary information by popular media.

Years later in 2016, the pattern repeats in Aleppo. 

Factions of the Free Syria Army are the only groups America has yet to ordain as “moderate” and mostly secular in their ideology. Despite possible temporary alliances with Al-Qaeda, "selling" journalists as hostages to Al-Qaeda, having involvement with some Islamist factions, and reports of defectors leaving FSA to join AQ, major factions of FSA are still regarded as a largely secular opposition movement. 

Some of the major contingents of armed opposition forces which remained in Aleppo until recently, however, do not share this ideology. 

As of December, 2016, two opposition groups reportedly led the way in Aleppo: Al-Nusra (now known as Jabhat Fateh al Sham) and Ahrar-ul-Sham. 

Al-Nusra was the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda until July 2016 when its leader, Al-Jolani, announced their separation from AQ indefinitely. With blessings from AQ leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Al-Jolani elaborated the organization would no longer be connected with its parent organization, but that there was no change in ideology. 

Ahrar-ul-Sham is a Sunni Salafist militant organization which originated in late 2011. AuS worked alongside ISIS until 2014 when clashes amongst the two groups began. One year later, ISIS retaliated against AuS by launching a series of attacks which killed prominent AuS leaders. 

Despite being directly connected to Al-Qaeda and ISIS, the large contingents of Nusra and Ahrar-ul-Sham are curiously called “rebels” by the New York Times and several other news publications. 

It is here the alchemy begins in the newsroom; Nusra, which was a faction of Al-Qaeda until only a few months ago, and Ahrar-ul-Sham, a Syrian opposition group which originates and maintains an Islamist militant ideologue, are consistently and interchangeably described as the “armed rebels” in Aleppo. 

In my mind, at least, the term rebels resonates as a synonym for secular, non-Islamist anti-government forces working to restore democracy and freedom in Syria—not factions of Al-Qaeda, and not armies of extremists formerly aligned with ISIS. Despite this, Nusra and Ahrar-ul-Sham are referred to as rebels in an overwhelming majority of the publications available.

Despite the evidence stacked against them, there is no mention of their sectarian stance, no mention of their human rights abuses, and little to no mention of their hostage taking. 

Amnesty International has continuously condemned the the coalition lead by AuS and Nusra for carrying out “indiscriminate” attacks against civilians in the past, and their possible use of chemical weapons in the Sheikh Maqsoud district of Aleppo. Video evidence obtained by Amnesty shows Fateh Halab—a coalition of brigades led by AuS and large contingents of Nusra—carrying out mortar, rocket and artillery attacks which have adversely targeted civilians. 

Amnesty reports many of these armed opposition groups have acquired and used chemical weapons on YPG Kurdish forces, consequently severely impacting civilians in the region. A physician reported to have treated civilians and combatants for several symptoms relating to chemical attacks and there is witness testimony of “yellow smoke” arising from attack sites.

According to Amnesty International’s MENA deputy, Magdalena Mughrabi, various brigades from Fateh Halab may have committed war crimes in the process of carrying out blanket attacks: 

“The relentless pummelling of Sheikh Maqsoud has devastated the lives of civilians in the area. A wide array of armed groups from the Fatah Halab coalition has launched what appear to be repeated indiscriminate attacks that may amount to war crimes [...] By firing imprecise explosive weapons into civilian neighbourhoods the armed groups attacking Sheikh Maqsoud are flagrantly flouting the principle of distinction between civilian and military targets, a cardinal rule of international humanitarian law[...]The international community must not turn a blind eye to the mounting evidence of war crimes by armed opposition groups in Syria. The fact that the scale of war crimes by government forces is far greater is no excuse for tolerating serious violations by the opposition.” 

Rupert Colville, the U.N. spokesman for human rights, relayed reports of summary executions of civilians, prevention and killing of civilians from fleeing rebel territory and the use of “human shields” by the opposition in Aleppo. 

“During the last two weeks, ­Fatah al-Sham Front and the Abu Amara Battalion are alleged to have abducted and killed an unknown number of civilians who requested the armed groups to leave their neighborhoods, to spare the lives of civilians.”

This instance, like many other reports of criminal activity under the command of amalgamated rebel forces, remains largely unreported by major news outlets. 

For visiting journalists in Aleppo, the dangers of indiscriminate attacks are accompanied by the added threat of kidnapping. Amnesty International has reported of non-state armed opposition groups kidnapping journalists in Aleppo on sight. Whereas ISIS beheads foreign journalists, Nusra holds them for ransom. Due to the many dangers they face, it is not unreasonable for journalists to have stayed away from Aleppo for firsthand reporting. 

The lack of writers on the ground has not, as it seems, relented the constant publication of news. Journalists writing from Lebanon and Turkey have continuously tracked the situation with developments akin to firsthand reporting, while in reality relying on secondhand information. 

To keep up with the desire for incessant updates in Aleppo, journalists in distant locations rely on the same tactics as their predecessors in Iraq; secondary sources. Writers take statements from unnamed officials often cited as “sources close to the opposition leadership” or “sources close to the Syrian government” as evidence for the points in their work. The same concerns from 2003 still ring true today; one cannot treat information from a source that seeks to profit by promoting their narrative as truth. Remarkably enough, the same organizations which have threatened to kidnap journalists are being trusted with the authenticity of their statements. 

Of course, the argument can be made that unbiased activists from Aleppo are providing updated news as well. But in order to validate this claim, one would have to invalidate the evidence which suggests activists in rebel-held Aleppo may only exist under the approval of Nusra and AuS. 

The question worth asking is this: if parts of rebel-held Aleppo are too dangerous for foreign independent journalists to enter, and civilians living in such places are detained for speaking against the opposition leadership, how are independent activists allowed to freely report their conditions under the surveillance of these organizations? After all, it has long been established that Al-Nusra (and to a lesser degree, AuS) are not in the business of promoting unflattering visions of themselves.

It was only recently that even pro-democracy marches held by protestors in FSA controlled Maarrat al Numan was immediately targeted by Jabhat al Nusra members.

According to Philip Luther, MENA programme director for Amnesty International, civilians living under the control of AuS and Al-Nusra are subject to kidnappings and torture should they make critical statements. 

“[civilians] live in constant fear of being abducted if they criticise the conduct of armed groups in power or fail to abide by the strict rules some have imposed...”
- Philip Luther, MENA programme director for Amnesty International

How is it then activists from these areas in Aleppo can remain independent, or somehow immune from such violent policies? 

Is it absolutely impossible that the self-proclaimed independent activists in rebel-held Aleppo would be able to broadcast meaningful, truthful news? No. Is it curious the same organizations that threaten harm against anyone who speaks against them would enable non-partisan reporting under their control? Yes--especially when considering testimony of civilians who have faced the consequences of true, independent reporting under such leadership. 

A young media activist utilizing the alias "Issa" says the following about free-speech in areas dominated by Nusra rule: 

“[They] are in control of what we can and cannot say. You either agree with their social rules and policies or you disappear."

Examples of such disappearances are not lacking.

An Idlib lawyer was detained after he criticized Nusra on Facebook: 

“I was happy to be free from the Syrian government’s unjust rule, but now the situation is worse.” 

The widespread disregard for partiality in the sources being cited has resulted in a deep lack of nuance in the reporting in Aleppo.

 

Whereas crimes of Assad are, rightfully, given swift condemnation, potential war crimes of the armed opposition are not discussed as zealously. Militants belonging to Al-Qaeda, Sunni salafist groups, and ISIS are given the same title originally reserved for secular armed resistance. While the siege of Aleppo makes headlines, the Shia villages of Kefreya and Fua which have been besieged by Al-Qaeda for years, has not yet graced the front pages. While news claiming pro-Assad forces broke the original ceasefire dominated the newsroom, it is not discussed that the suspension of civilian evacuation occurred only after Al-Nusra militants refused to simultaneously evacuate civilians from Idlib. In fact, the burning of buses meant to carry wounded and ill Shia muslims from besieged areas of Idlib has not yet gained any kind of notable traction at all. 

All of these atrocities and their missed appearance in the press is indicative of a deeply flawed approach to the broadcasting of news from Syria. The usage of potentially compromised news sources to substantiate popular narratives is something Americans have seen before, yet maybe not something that would immediately raise alarm among the consumers of news media. 

Another vague and poorly stratified concept is that of public opinion in Aleppo. Based solely on media representation in the Western world, it would be difficult to believe there could be anyone in Aleppo that supported, in any way, Assad and his forces. On the ground, however, the division is blurred. 

There are still legions of people that welcome Assad, his forces and their advance on the city. Videos of tens of thousands of Syrians celebrating Assad's advance circulated on the internet concurrently with reports of summary executions in rebel-held areas. Syrians celebrating in parts of "liberated" Aleppo were readily available, but were never the focus in Western media. 

It is not only Russian and Syrian news broadcasters claiming Syrians' support for Assad; at the beginning of the turmoil in Aleppo, rebel-leader Sheikh Tawfik Abu Sleiman suggested that there was still a majority of residents that supported the regime: 

"Yes it is true[...]Around 70% of Aleppo city is with the regime. It has always been that way. The countryside is with us and the city is with them. We are saying that we will only be here as long as it takes to get the job done, to get rid of the Assads. After that, we will leave and they can build the city that they want."
Abu Sleiman, in an interview with the Guardian in 2012

None of this, of course, negates the crimes of Assad. It is undeniable Assad and his forces have caused the majority of documented civilian casualties in Syria. According to Amnesty International, as well as the United Nations, Assad has been responsible for civilian deaths in a much greater capacity than any armed opposition group in Syria.  The most recent report of summary executions of 82 people in Aleppo (as reported by the U.N.) is reminiscent of the attitude of an unrepentant incumbent to a brutal family dictatorship. Whether it is blanket attacks of highly urban, heavily populated neighbourhoods, hospitals, or the latest seige in Aleppo which saw the removal of necessary transport routes to civilians, the Assad regime has never been conscientious of reducing civilian casualties.

Furthermore, the ability to determine public support for the regime remains difficult. Surveys claiming majority of civilians support Assad, such as the one presented by Doha Debates, may be reliable in theory, but one must confront the reality it may be impossible to gauge public opinion in a country and landscape where the distribution of anti-regime material has been immediately punished with detainment, torture and death. Is it even feasible to request an unbiased opinion in a place where criticism of the government is prohibited? 

 

The answer becomes clear when assessing the foremost actions of Assad forces in evacuating civilians from East Aleppo. Several men were reportedly apprehended from evacuation line ups by uniformed soldiers upon their entry to West Aleppo, their future whereabouts unclear. Activists elaborated the army was making an effort to detain people who had spoken against the regime, involved themselves in protests or media activism. But the distinction between "anti-regime" and "presumably anti-regime" is unclear: civilians from East Aleppo without any political ties, medics and teachers were also detained without explanation. Many civilians remained in East Aleppo as a last resort due to the fear of being detained, interrogated or worse. 

Just as the concerns raised in 2003 regarding the news coverage of WMD in Iraq was not an attempt to spare Saddam from condemnation, the questions raised today about news coverage in Aleppo are not meant to justify Assad's actions in Syria. Surely, anyone can agree regardless of the presence of WMD in Iraq, Saddam was still a dictator responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands of Shia Muslims and Kurds, and his death, most likely, was inescapable. The same way it is recognized the crimes of Assad must be addressed in a court of international law, and his dethronement is deserved at the very least.

The question here, rather, is a question of veracity: why has secondhand, unverifiable information dominated the newsroom regarding Aleppo? When will we confront the deep contradiction of supposedly non-partisan activists operating freely in the same areas where independent journalists are taken hostage--on one side by Nusra, and on the other the regime? For how long can we treat members of the regime, Nusra and Ahrar-ul-Sham as corroborative sources?  

With ever changing front-lines, coalitions that dissolve as quickly as they are named, and brutally irresponsible assaults in civilian areas, Aleppo is a testament to modern, 21st century warfare. News coverage and media activism of our time has become a victim of this onslaught. Unknowingly peddling propaganda has become common practice, and the hunger to know everything may have become the reason we know nothing at all. 

For further questions please tweet Zanab J.S. @zanabism. 

Author's Note: This article is written in solidarity with civilians in Aleppo, and Syrian civilians abroad who have suffered at the hands of the Syrian regime, insurgents, and foreign governments. For aid workers, teachers, and independent journalists who have been killed trying to educate, heal and excavate truth in Syria. 

COLIN KAEPERNICK'S RESOLVE VS. AMERICAN PATRIOTISM

WRITTEN BY JIBRIL ALI AND ZANAB J.S. 

Colin Kaepernick, now former, starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, garnered an overwhelming amount of criticism for his refusal to stand during the national anthem before a preseason game with the Green Bay Packers. Kaepernick cited the ongoing instances of police violence against black Americans and other minority groups in the United States as his primary motivation for protest. Following the wave of criticism and pressure, it was announced earlier today Kaepernick would be deprived of his starting quarterback position. It is unsurprising that the worst of the criticism was from hyper-patriotic, white Americans. Kaepernick’s actions resulted in anger from the team’s fan-base; from burning Kaepernick jerseys, to calling him the N-word  on social media, an overwhelming response to Kaepernick’s stance has been combative. The entirety of Kaepernick’s activism evolved into the use of a hashtag that suggests Kaepernick should "return to Africa". Unsurprisingly, this was lead by conservative pundits and even a certain Republican Presidential nominee.

 

Donald Trump's comments regarding Kaepernick's protest//NYDAILY

Sporting events have long served as a pulpit for acts of political defiance. The world of athletics, and especially American football, is popular enough that one moment of public dissent can be immortalized forever. Fittingly, there has existed a long-standing record of black athletes performing similar acts of protest. WNBA player and olympian, Tina Charles, has been condemned for wearing Black Lives Matter shirts and silently protesting with her teammates. WNBA player and olympian, Tamika Catchings, has also been acutely vocal on similar issues, criticizing the WNBA for its support of other causes, but its disregard for BLM. If we look further back, Muhammad Ali was once the most hated man in America upon his refusal to honor the draft during the Vietnam War--only one of many examples of Ali's resistance at the height of his career. Baseball legend Jackie Robinson, in a similar manner to Kaepernick, refused to salute and stand for the American flag.

 "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color...To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder...This is not something that I am going to run by anybody,I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. ... If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right"

--Colin Kaepernick's comments to NFL correspondent Steve Wyche

Upon localizing white patriotism within the conversation, the flaws amongst main arguments against and in favour of Kaepernick become easier to understand. The first, and most common response to Kaepernick’s protest revolves around the national adherence to the American military complex; the idea that Kaepernick, by ways of dismissing the national anthem, is somehow disrespecting veterans and their military service in protecting the liberties of Americans. The contradiction lies in the belief that liberties are protected by military service; were this the case, Kaepernick’s liberty to protest the national anthem and its associated symbolism would also be protected and free from scrutiny.

On the other hand, the nuance of Kaepernick’s protest is jeopardized when one in a mainstream, most likely liberal, space hears the same argument crafted in his favor. The most straightforward, pro-Kaepernick response is “America was founded on resistance; he's not wrong for choosing to sit during the national anthem. It's his right to stand up for what he believes in.” The complication in this rhetoric presents itself when his actions are reduced to his right to exercise freedom of speech, and his right to protest, which are important, but merely a foundation for a larger, more complex conversation.

 

To many Americans, the economic overthrow of the ruling British monarchy in order to achieve a loose definition of “independence” maintains the sanctity of the American flag. Aside from the fact this viewpoint avoids historical clarity, in that the American revolution was an economic one, rather than one based on social liberation, it additionally fails to recognize the demographic of persecuted Americans who did not prosper from so-called American independence. This becomes especially clear when one takes a moment to consider the horrendous crimes committed against Native Americans and African slaves well after the American Revolution.

There is a voiceless demographic in this country comprised of people of colour for whom the revolt that was the precursor to this nation's birth is not inspiring.

This reality flies over the heads of many. With statements from The Young Turks' Cenk Uygur like, “I believe in the ideas and principles of America, I stand for the anthem. You fight within the system, I think America has set up a good system for us to be able to succeed in that way.” This ideal is echoed in the rhetoric of many patriotic Americans. Criticism of TYT aside; it upholds the fantasy of a pluralist society that can accommodate both a black American calling for justice against police brutality, and a system which, on both state and federal levels, can acquit police officers for extrajudicial murder of black Americans. For many of us, Uygur’s ideology does not apply.

 

Furthermore, many Americans remain unaware of the withheld verse of the Star Spangled Banner which explicitly celebrates and promotes violence against African slaves:

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

This unsung stanza is representative of the views held by the author of the anthem, Francis Scott Key, who himself was a notorious slave owner, and believer in the degeneracy of non-white races.

Scott Key believed that African slaves were of “a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community.” Certainly, the national anthem was not composed in consideration of the value and importance of African American lives.

when one combines Kaepernick’s reasoning with the original intent of the national anthem, his decision to sit down is increasingly justified.

Parallel to this, the torrential backlash imposed on anyone speaking ill of the American flag becomes additionally unpalatable.

If the threats and unjust repercussions being directed at Kaepernick revolve around his disrespect for the flag’s representation of liberty, Americans should also take into consideration other principles the flag represents:

  1. The extortion of the black body by way of the many monuments and architectural American landmarks built by slaves.
  2. The military complex responsible for the destabilization of nations and innocent people around the world.
  3. The misconception that America allows us to dissent, when there is a history of state-sponsored silencing of those that choose to speak out against their government.

It is undoubtable there are more than enough reasons to displace the sanctity of the American flag. Colin Kaepernick’s actions have initiated a much needed conversation. It has allowed us to assess and critically analyze this obsession with American pride and how the commitment to nationalism keeps us from contributing meaningful, significant criticism. Hyper-patriotism does not serve marginalized Americans, but rather the parties which brutalize them. It is a mechanism to silence valid arguments against state-sponsored violence and abuse. The moment someone speaks against the criminal behaviour of America is the moment they are suddenly unfit to live there. Instead of heeding and understanding the concerns of Americans who have, first-handedly, experienced the violation of their human rights at the hands of the state, they are muted altogether with the intention of safeguarding the reputation of the country. In a sense, hyper-patriotism fails even patriots as it prevents improvement in their own lives and the spaces they occupy. This pattern of immediate backlash followed by silencing criticism against anything innately American contributes to the suppression and violence against the already marginalized domestic population.

What Colin Kaepernick accomplishes in the span of approximately 2 minutes prior to every football game is larger than any criticism that could be applied to him. His resolve in maintaining his activism in the face of American patriotism and the violence it invites is representative of the ongoing struggle between historically persecuted people, and those that profit from their persecution.

4800 REASONS TO BOYCOTT THE FIFA WORLD CUP IN QATAR

WRITTEN BY ZANAB J.S.

Football is the world's most popular sport. It's likely you wouldn't have to travel far from your own home to see the truth in this statement; whether it's at the nearest field, parking lot or even an empty alleyway, football manifests itself wherever we go. My father relishes any opportunity to tell us about his days as a football player in Pakistan, while my younger brother plays on two separate leagues here in Toronto and coaches Muslim youth in a third. There are a handful of activities and interests that unite us intercontinentally on such a massive scale, and certainly, football is one. 

For this reason it is not surprising the World Cup is the most televised sporting event in history. The 2022 World Cup will be held in Qatar, and of the billion viewers worldwide awaiting the first kickoff, I will not be one. 

 

Khalifa International Stadium; home of the 2022 FIFA World Cup//Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy

By the end of the opening ceremonies in 2022, thousands of migrant workers will have died in the process of preparing for the WC. 

The majority of migrant workers in Qatar travel from Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Somalia, Ethiopia and the Philippines to take on various labour roles through advising agencies in their home countries that connect them with contractors and employers. Men are primarily recruited for construction jobs, while women take on care-taker and maid roles, often living with the families they service. The 2022 WC has exponentially increased the demand for construction workers in the country.

Migrant workers in Qatar abide by the kafala system ("sponsorship system"), in which entry into the country is reliant on a sponsor; in most cases, employers act as sponsors for the labourers they hire. This system is widespread across Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE, Kuwait and Oman. 

Under the kafala system, the sponsor is in control of acquiring the legal status in the country as well as the visas for their employees. Thus, as a migrant worker, entering and leaving from Qatar is under the domain of your employer, as solely the sponsor is responsible for entry and exit visas. The kafala system has, predictably, resulted in the exploitation of thousands of migrant workers over the past decade. Denounced by several humanitarian organizations as exploitative, too many stories of employers withholding passports and payment have circulated. 

 

Labourers are assigned to small rooms with as many as 8 people//Amnesty International

Often told of modest-to-decent accommodation and wages, many migrant workers are shocked to learn of their actual living quarters. With tens of men sharing latrines, bedrooms and kitchens, migrant workers are faced with unimaginably poor living conditions upon arrival. I tried hard to imagine what it would feel like to learn that my living quarters would be shared with 200 other people for the duration of my one or two year stay--I couldn't. 

Withholding payment is another oft-occurring abuse against migrant workers. Employers or agencies will use the compensation of workers' airfare in exchange for months of free, unpaid labour. The fee for one paid ticket from Pakistan to Qatar can cost a migrant worker up to 6 months of unpaid construction work. Again, I tried to imagine the moment I would learn that my labour for thousands of hours was to remain unpaid, and once more, I just couldn't. 

Perhaps the most unapologetic brutalization of migrant workers can be seen in the working conditions themselves. Migrant workers have been forced to work for up to 12 hours a day in blistering Qatari heat, wearing minimal protective gear and in obscenely dangerous locations and construction sites. Migrant workers have circulated videos taken with hidden cameras of their superiors denying them water in 50 C weather and ordering them to work longer in exchange for such a basic necessity. As many migrant workers labour under grotesquely hazardous conditions, those who are injured, and at times permanently disabled, are viewed as burdens and sent home by their employers without compensation for their loss. 

And then, there are those who die. In 2014, 16 year old Ganesh Bishkawarma bid a teary goodbye to his mother, grandmother and siblings at Nepal's largest airport in Kathmandu. For Ganesh's family, sending their teenage son to Qatar was an unthinkable decision, but one they could not see an alternative to. Ganesh, like all other migrant workers traveling to rich Arab states, had only noble intentions. He had hoped that this journey would be the one to lead his family away from poverty. 

Ganesh's family could not have foreseen that only two months later their son would return to them in a coffin. After nearly 6 weeks of excruciating labour, Ganesh suffered and died of cardiac arrest on his assigned worksite. Of all the unimaginable atrocities I learned about the lives of migrant workers, this was the most unbearable.

How does a 16 year old boy experience cardiac arrest? A better question: what kind of abuse must a healthy 16 year old boy undergo to die of cardiac arrest? What must be done to him? How many hours must he work under the excruciating heat? How many vital, necessary things must be kept from him? What kind of physical and emotional turmoil must he experience? Which kind of trauma must be inflicted? In how many ways must a 16 year old child be brutalized for his body to surrender so violently? What crimes must be committed in order to accomplish something like this?

 

 Tilak Bahadur Bishwakarma holds a photo of his son, Ganesh, 16, who died in Qatar from a cardiac arrest, six weeks after leaving Nepal. Photograph: Peter Pattisson/guardian.co.uk. (SOURCE)

In an article for the Guardian, Ganesh's grandmother, Motikala Bishkawarma, expresses her grief over the sudden loss of her grandson: 

"We didn't think he would die like this. We didn't think we would be crying like this."

The article goes on to explain Ganesh was too young to legally work in Qatar, but through a travel agent he was able to secure a fake passport. The agent brokered a fee of 150 000 rupees with a 36% interest rate that Ganesh was meant to pay back using his salary. The family is now left with the remainder of the hefty sum.  

Ganesh's story is all too common for families of Nepalese migrant workers. Many see the demand of the WC as their only opportunity to provide a steady income for their families, and with this intent they are willing to hand over whatever money they have to brokers who can connect them to contractors in Qatar. Lured in by paid agents with promises of private living accommodations and steady income, the appalling work conditions, living conditions and lack of pay isn't realized until it's too late. 

Those that resist their abuse are punished severely. 

The kafala system creates an environment where contractors can easily take the passports of those that work for them. Migrant workers have been kept hostage at their work sites, with their employers withholding their passports, without which they cannot travel, and their ID cards, without which they face the risk of being arrested by Qatari police for not carrying proper documentation.

Amnesty International's investigative report on migrant exploitation in Qatar found that the majority of the workforce they interviewed had their passports taken from them upon arrival: 

"I remember my first day in Qatar. Almost the very first thing [an agent] did was take my passport. I have not seen it since." --Shamim, a gardner at one of the WC complexes from Bangladesh

Prisoners to their employers, migrant workers are subject to slave labour as they are denied permission to the leave the country, working for months and years with or without pay, seemingly trapped in Qatar without any way to escape. For some migrant workers, running away from the worksite is their only hope of getting back home; in Qatar, if you're arrested without your ID card, there is a chance you will be deported by Qatari police. For Bahadur Lama, a 25 year old Nepalese national, this is now his only hope: 

"When my two-year contract finished, I asked my employer to let me go home. He kept promising to issue me with an exit permit and send me home, but he never did [...] Last year my employer sold me to another man, but when he realized I was an undocumented worker, he fired me. My only option now is to turn myself in to the police, and hope that they'll deport me." 

When several migrant workers protested their lack of pay for 10 months' worth of work, their employer refused to supply their exit visas, keeping them trapped in the country and within the worksite. 

12 hour work days with little to no pay is an unbearable truth for migrant workers. When contrasted with the gargantuan profit made by FIFA and its subsidiaries, the reality of Qatar's slave labour is nothing short of medieval: 

 

CREDIT: Amnesty International; Qatar World Cup of Shame(Click to enlarge). 

As employers continue to lie about wages, fail to provide even minimally safe living and working conditions, and render their employees slaves as they steal passports, documentation and salaries, the death toll for migrant workers in Qatar continues to soar. 

According to the labour ministries of Bangladesh, India and Nepal, nearly 600 migrant workers from all three countries have been killed per year due to working conditions since 2010. What is even more unbearable is the fact that workers from Bangladesh, India and Nepal account for only 60% of the migrant workforce in Qatar, meaning that the true death toll is still unaccounted for and certainly much higher than 600 workers per year. 

The level of emotional devastation faced by migrant workers is insurmountable.  At the very least, it is beyond the human scope of understanding or perseverance. Impoverished men and women, boys and girls, seeking a way out of destitution are being lied to and trapped in a country that does not consider them human; the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar is cruelty personified, it is the modern face of an ancient tradition and it must be addressed. The labourers of Qatar deserve wages that reflect their unbelievable hard work and accommodations that take their health and safety into utmost consideration. Human beings cannot be treated like machinery; there is no excuse for what is happening in Qatar and no excuse for FIFA's blessing of this pattern of abuse. There is no one in the world that deserves this treatment, and certainly not migrant workers seeking to create a better life. 

Millions of migrant workers are being exploited for their poverty, enslaved for their labour and ultimately killed by enterprises seeking to amplify their own financial gain. Through an outlet as unifying as a game of football, Qatar and FIFA have constructed stadiums and skyscrapers from the bones of labourers they have lured and destroyed. 

Between now and the kickoff for the opening match in 2022, there will be upwards of 4800 lives lost, and just as many reasons to boycott the commencement of the Qatar World Cup. 

SIGN AI's PETITION AGAINST FIFA'S EXPLOITATION OF MIGRANT WORKERS

For inquiries regarding this article, tweet Zanab J.S. @zanabism