Bidali, a former migrant worker, was arrested in May 2021 and held in solitary confinement for anonymously blowing the whistle on the brutal conditions of migrant laborers in the lead-up to Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Working 12-hour days as a security guard in Doha, Bidali began blogging, under the pseudonym “Noah,” about the treatment of migrant workers. That included confiscated passports and being forced to live (and die) under appalling conditions. There have been nearly 7,000 deaths of South Asian migrants in the 12 years since Qatar was awarded the right to host the World Cup.
“I kept my head down for as long as I could, but eventually, enough was enough, and I decided to speak out on something,” Bidali said.
His desire to do the right thing would result in the Qatari regime unmasking his identity and placing him in solitary confinement for nearly a month on trumped-up charges of “disseminating false news/receiving payments from foreign agents to spread disinformation.”
After a month’s imprisonment, Bidali came out talking: “Solitary confinement was pretty hard. Nothing prepares you for it. Being alone in a tiny space, confined space,” he said. And yet, he’d add, “I actually had better living conditions in prison” than in the squalid, labor camps, he blogged about. “I had better food. … It’s solitary confinement, but at the same time it’s a room to myself.”
Bidali is the co-founder of Migrant Defenders — a Kenya-based civil society organization defending the rights of migrant workers in the Gulf — and the 2023 laureate of the Nuremberg International Human Rights Award “for his undeterred fight against the exploitation of migrant workers.”
Bidali and other changemakers will be sharing their stories on the Oslo Konserthus stage this June for the 15th annual Oslo Freedom Forum.