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Iran Carries Out Second Execution Linked To Wave Of Popular Protests; Lockerbie Bombing Suspect Is Now In U.S. Custody; Kabul Hotel Attack Ends As Three Gunmen Killed, Two Foreigners Injured; Beijing Braces For COVID Surge After China Lifts Pandemic Curbs; Kirby: U.S. Working To Secure Release Of Paul Whelan; Ex-Migrant Workers Recount Awful Conditions In Qatar. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired December 12, 2022 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ELENI GIOKOS, CNN ANCHOR: Three months central demonstrations which have shaken Iran to its core a second protester has been executed. We have a
The alleged bombmaker and the attack on Pam Am Flight 103 is now in U.S. custody after more than three decades. What does it mean for families still
waiting for justice?
And fear arising COVID cases in China has some residents choosing to quarantine at home instead of reporting their positive results how those
choices are affecting cities trying to reopen.
Hello and welcome. I'm Eleni Giokos in Dubai, and standing in for Becky Anderson. This is CONNECT THE WORLD.
Right, a gruesome early morning a public hanging in Iran is the second known protest related execution in the past week. Right, we have a live
report coming up for you in just a moment. Now, the male protester, Majidreza Rahnavard was convicted of waging war against God for allegedly
killing two members of the Basij parliamentary force and injuring four others as well during protests on November 17.
Now, it comes just four days after the first known protest related execution took place. According to Amnesty International, Iran ranks number
two in the world for executions after China. 314 people were executed in Iran in 2021.
And the number of executions this year reportedly has far surpassed that. Amnesty International says it has identified at least 17 other people who
are at risk of execution in connection to the protests.
Let's go now live to Salma Abdelaziz, she's standing by for us in London. Salma, this execution, this latest execution underscores the speed at which
Iran is now carrying out death sentences to protesters. Could you take us through the past week, and we've seen two deaths and the message this is
sending out to protesters.
SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely a shocking and brutal morning that activists say is a reminder of just how far Iran's authorities
are willing to go to suppress dissent to silence this growing anti- government movement.
Now, let's talk about what happened today. We do know, this man Majidreza Rahnavard of art in the early hours of Monday morning was hanged publicly
in the city of Mashhad. I'm emphasizing the public part, Eleni, because potentially residents of that city could have seen his body hanging in that
city this morning. He is the second protester that we know of that has been executed by Iran's authority since the start of these demonstrations in
September. He was convicted of waging war against God. The allegation by the authorities is that he stabbed and killed two members of the Basij, the
security forces and wounded four others.
Now there's a very critical detail here, Eleni, that I want to point out. The authority say, the Iranian authorities say this took place on November
17th. So do the math here. In less than a month, Rahnavard has gone from being a person who is accused of stabbing members of the Basij to being
someone who is executed and killed. And that's exactly what rights groups are pointing to.
They say these are speedy sham trials, that they have very little in terms of due process that those convicted and arrested were not given their
rights. And they say that this is just another tool of repression. Just another way that Iran's authorities are trying to silence dissent, to crush
protesters, to keep them off the streets, to intimidate them from continuing to participate in this anti-government movement.
In fact, Amnesty International says there are 17 other individuals who Iran is pursuing the death penalty in those cases. Amnesty International flags
that these expedited executions might take an even faster pace as Iran scrambles to try to silence dissent. But for protesters, I know you showed
those pictures earlier of Rahnavard, for protesters, he's already is a symbol of heroism, already a symbol of bravery and already a signal of just
how far Iran's authorities are willing to go to crush this movement. Eleni.
GIOKOS: Yes, and Salma, for Rahnavard, it was a public execution and that's what makes it even more chilling. We understand the images, the footage was
distributed in Iran and as you say, it seems to be one of those tools of intimidation that the ultimate price for taking to the streets is this.
ABDELAZIZ: I think I lost you there at the end, Eleni, but I do believe you're asking the question about the ultimate price that these protesters
are paying. Look, make no mistake about this, Eleni. This is a movement that absolutely challenges the authorities in Iran. It is presents a
challenge that really they haven't faced since the inception of the Islamic Republic in 1979.
You are talking about months of demonstrations that have spread to every single province in Iran, 160 cities, activists say rocked by constant
protests. And the crackdown has been brutal, Eleni. Rights groups say over 480 people have killed, have been killed, have died in these protests.
Thousands have been arrested.
Now it's important to remember that CNN cannot independently verify those numbers. We have not been given media access on the ground. But this is
according to rights groups and activists who are tracking these protests.
And most importantly, they ballooned into something so much grander and so much bigger than the initial call, which was of course around the death of
22-year-old Mahsa Amini, a woman who was accused of not wearing her hijab properly, and then died in the custody of the morality police, but it's
gone way beyond the hijab laws. Those on the streets today are demanding the overthrow of the government. They are demanding the entire Islamic
system of the country be scrapped.
These are absolutely lofty and huge and ambitious inspirations that threaten again the Islamic Republic, that threaten the seat of power in
Teheran. What you've seen throughout this protest movement is an Iranian government willing to do almost anything activists say to try to crush that
dissent, whether that be putting out security forces on the street, arrest, these executions now by sham trial according to activists, but time and
time again, all that does is feed the passion and the anger that's fueling these demonstrations. Eleni.
GIOKOS: The protesters bravely stole taking to the streets. Salma Abdelaziz, thank you so much for updating us.
Now, a man accused of making the bomb that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland nearly 34 years ago is set to appear in the U.S. Federal
Court later today. American authorities announced Sunday that the suspect Abu Agila Mohammad Mas'ud Kheir Al-Marimi was in their custody and he was
initially charged back in 2020, and had been held in Libya for years. 270 people died that day in 1988, 259 on the plane and 11 on the ground, and
the ton of Lockerbie. It remains the deadliest terror attack in British history. Right.
Let's bring in now, international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson, who has covered this story. In fact, Nic from the very start, from what I
understand you were literally in the newsroom as this happened. It's taken decades to get this man into custody. I mean, a couple of questions here --
questions. Why did it take so long? And importantly, how did they make this happen?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It took a long time because the debris field was scattered over 845 square miles of the
borderlands between Scotland and England. So it was a massive area to look for clues for what brought the plane down. But it turned out eventually
that it was a tiny fragment of a chip that was in the bomb and embedded in a piece of clothing that led investigators to a store in Malta where the
clothing was purchased or they believed it was purchased, which led to connections to Libyan intelligence agents, and which ultimately led to the
trial of two men in a Scottish court in the Netherlands.
But this bombmaker himself, Mas'ud is how is also known in the court -- U.S. court documents was never brought in to that trial. The reason it
seems investigators didn't know the detail of his involvement that came in 2012 because he was in Libyan legal custody for a different unconnected
reason. He was questioned by Libyan law enforcement agent in 2017. Again, this gets that long timeline 2017 before the FBI gets to see his testimony.
Another three years before the FBI can meet with that Libyan law enforcement officer to go over what Mas'ud had said to them. But of course,
all of this gets to what was a sophisticated device of what was the -- is now and has been since then, of course, the worst terror event, terror
killing in British history.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
ROBERTSON (voiceover): Almost 34 years since the deadliest terror attack in British history, and the man accused of building the bomb that killed 270
people, mostly Americans, is finally going to face justice in a U.S. court. A huge moment for victim's families.
KARA WEIPZ, LOST BROTHER IN PAN AM FLIGHT 103 BOMBING: This has been one of our -- has been the top priority to find the truth and to hold these people
accountable. And the fact that this is now going to happen in the U.S. is - - it's monumental.
ROBERTSON: Libyan Abu Agila Mohammad Mas'ud Kheir Al-Marimi was arrested for his alleged role and blowing up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie,
Scotland 38 minutes after it took off for the U.S. from London, killing everyone on board and 11 people on the ground.
The U.S. first charged Al-Marimi for his involvement in the attack two years ago while he was already in custody in Libya for unrelated crimes.
MICHAEL SHERWIN, THEN-ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY: It is alleged in the criminal complaint in the indictment that at that time, all co-conspirators work
together to arm the explosive device in the suitcase.
ROBERTSON: The Justice Department expects Al-Marimi to make his first appearance in district court in Washington in the coming days. For years,
the only person convicted in the Lockerbie bombing case was Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi.
Al-Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence official was accused along with another Libyan man who was acquitted for planting the explosive inside a
portable cassette player in a suitcase on the plane. Al-Megrahi was sentenced to life in prison. But eight years after his conviction in 2008,
he was released from a Scottish prison with terminal prostate cancer.
Arriving home in Libya, he received a hero's welcome. In 2011, following the revolution that toppled Libya's dictator Muammar Gaddafi, I visited Al-
Megrahi at his home in Tripoli. He was near death. His family as they always had, protesting his innocence.
ROBERTSON (on camera): Has he been able to see a doctor?
KHALED AL-MEGRAHI, SON OF CONVICTED LOCKERBIE BOMBER: No. There is no doctor and there is nobody to ask and we don't have any phone line to call
ROBERTSON: What's his situation right now?
AL-MEGRAHI: He stopped eating and he's sometimes is come in coma.
ROBERTSON: Coma. He goes unconscious.
ROBERTSON (voiceover): He died the following year, without ever proving his innocence. Al-Marimi's trial will likely revisit parts of Al-Megrahi's
defense, particularly alleged inconsistencies about how the bomb came to be in the plane.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ROBERTSON: What the FBI believes they have in testimony and this Libyan law enforcement officer will be able to testify to as well is that Mas'ud said
that he set the timer on the bomb for 11 hours as he was instructed, which meant it would explode over Scotland. So this seems to be very damning
testimony, but it's the way that the testimony was originally collected that may also be useful to his defense that it may not stand up in a U.S.
GIOKOS: All right, Nic Robertson, thank you very much for that updates.
Now, three attackers accused of opening fire on a hotel full of civilians in Kabul have been killed by security forces. That's according to a Taliban
spokesperson who says an operation to clear the area is now over. Smoke was seen rising from the Longan Hotel. After blasts and gunfire were heard, the
Taliban claims all hotel guests were evacuated safely and that no foreign citizen was killed.
But a local emergency NGO says at least 12 casualties were taken in the nearby hospital. They say three people other than the assailants were dead.
Right let's move to China now, which is bracing for an unprecedented wave of coronavirus cases and this as it relaxes its stringent zero-COVID
From Tuesday, China will end its mobile itinerary card system which has been used -- using cell phone data to track people's movements.
This as fears now growing about an Omicron outbreak across the country with state media carrying warnings from an epidemiologist that the variant is
spreading rapidly. I'd like to bring in our next guest, who is a Senior Scholar at the John Hopkins Center for Health Security, Dr. Amesh Adalja,
has been speaking out about the fears that infections will be spiking as China is changing its policy.
Dr. Adalja, thank you so much for joining us. It is interesting to watch this big pivot coming through from China from a hardline policy to what
we're seeing now. And if you look under the hood, the question now becomes is China ready for a cycle a wave of high COVID infections? Firstly, and
importantly, does it have enough ICU capacity and resources to deal with this wave?
DR. AMESH ADALJA, SR. SCHOLAR, JOHNS HOPKINS CENTER FOR HEALTH SECURITY: No, they're not ready, and I don't think they ever were going to be ready.
Because what's characterized their response to COVID-19 is not something based on science, but something based on politics and policy and keeping
people in power and saving face.
If they wanted to be ready, they could have been ready, they could have used Western vaccines, they could have built ICU capacity, they could have
taught the population how to risk calculate in a world in which COVID-19 is never going to go away. But they did none of that. And now they're going to
face those consequences. And they're still not allowing the Western vaccines to be used.
So to me, this is inexcusable, and just a failure of the Chinese government to actually understand the science of COVID-19. And the benefits of some of
the more potent vaccines which they have refused to allow their citizens to be vaccinated with.
GIOKOS: OK, let's do some of, you know, predictions in terms of the numbers or have you done modeling in terms of what you expect in terms of severity
of illnesses, and then importantly, what kind of numbers you're anticipating.
ADALJA: I'm not a modeler, but I have seen models that shows that there's going to be an increase, a significant increase in in Omicron cases, as
people socially interact. And that's not surprising. That number of cases was never going to be in question. The key thing for them is to be able to
keep them away from high risk individuals. And unfortunately, their highest risk people are not boosted and the ones that are boosted with an inferior
vaccine, and they have limited ICU capacity compared to many Western countries.
So it's not so much the cases that I'm going to be watching. It's going to be how many people are getting hospitalized? What is the ICU capacity look
like? How well are they using drugs like Paxlovid to keep people out of the hospital, but it's something that's unavoidable. This is a ubiquitous virus
that everybody is going to get multiple times in their life.
And I think people needed to know that and use the tools to stop it from causing severe disease. And unfortunately, in China, they never did that.
They actually abdicated on that responsibility. And now they -- they're in a situation a dire situation of their own choosing.
GIOKOS: It is interesting, because China was, you know, the first country to do something unprecedented, like locked down an entire city. But it
seems that China is behind in terms of experiencing COVID facing it, head on. And now the question becomes, what is their response going to be as
cases rise? Do you believe that they might go back on a zero-COVID policy, or at least embark on lock downs as cases increase, and importantly, as
we've seen in the rest of the world, a big strain on the healthcare system?
ADALJA: I do suspect that they will have to use some more mitigation measures because they may not have the proper levels of ICU capacity.
However, it's important to remember that there's zero-COVID is not anything that was completely designed to block COVID. What it was doing was a major
overreach of tracking the population, welding people into their houses, separating children from parents, forcing people to quarantine at camps and
not at home. That's not normal types of ways to deal with COVID-19.
What they need is a targeted approach to COVID-19 that actually deals with what spreads the virus respecting the individual rights of those -- of the
citizens. And I think maybe they have a chance here to get this right if they actually pivot and understand how to do this in a precision guided
manner to prevent their ICUs from getting overrun, but allow their people to actually live for once in three years.
GIOKOS: I've also been finding it quite interesting to see the behavior since we've seen a relaxation of rules that people are choosing to self-
quarantine choosing to stay home as opposed to reporting cases. How much of this is going to depend on behavior?
ADALJA: A lot of this is going to depend on behavior because we know that it's social interaction that drives cases and we know that if people are
sick, they should be staying home or if they have to be around people that they should be wearing masks and crowded indoor places behavior also
involves getting tested it, behavior involves being able to get vaccinated even if you're using a subpar vaccine it is better than nothing, especially
in those high risk populations that have not been boosted that's going to seek drugs like Paxlovid.
So behavior is going to play a role. And I think the Chinese have to recognize that they're going to have to risk calculate in a world in which
COVID-19 is always going to be there. It's going to be there now in 2022. It's going to be there and 2024. It's going to be there and 2030. This is a
virus that's ineradicable. We need to find a way to live with it.
And I think the Chinese government has stunted the ability of the population to be able to do that by clinging to the zero-COVID idea as if
this was some kind of hurricane that was going to pass and not an endemic respiratory infectious disease.
GIOKOS: And everyone was asking whether it was a sustainable way of dealing with COVID. Dr. Amesh Adalja, thank you very much for joining us.
Right, and still ahead on CNN, millions of Ukrainians face life in the cold and dark as Russia continues to strike at their energy systems more on the
desperate situation in Odesa in a live report. And they built the stadiums, the whole world is watching, but they cannot bear to watch the matches
themselves, a conversation with migrant workers who said they were abused in Qatar.
GIOKOS: Ukraine is temporarily adjusting its battleground strategy against Russia. The country's defense minister says rain is hampering movement on
the frontlines. He says once the wet ground freezes, troops will resume active counter offensive actions.
Meanwhile, millions of Ukrainians remain without power and subzero temperatures. Following further Russian strikes on energy infrastructure
over the weekend. The port city of Odesa is particularly hard hit. Senior international correspondent Will Ripley joins me now live from Kyiv.
Well, we spoke about this last week, Russia is intent on deliberately targeting critical infrastructure. Odesa particularly hard hit over the
weekend. I think the line that everyone really needs to focus on power outages are very serious while the country is trying to now fix the damaged
WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is so true, Eleni. When you talk to people in Odesa, they feel relatively secure in
terms of the war itself. Now that Kherson has been liberated, they don't have any fear of combat coming to their city, but because of their close
proximity being right along the Black Sea, and the Russian fleet is out there and a lot of these launches and attacks are coming from Russian
ships, they do tend to get hit particularly hard in these infrastructure strikes. It was last week that their power station took a direct hit.
People without power for three days.
And then over the weekend, it happened again.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
RIPLEY (voiceover): A race to restore electricity to parts of southern Ukraine this weekend, more than one and a half million people in the Odesa
region alone, plunged into darkness at the peak of the outages. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy blames the blackouts on Russian self-
detonating drones made in Iran.
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): After the night strike the strike by Iranian drones, Odesa and other cities and
villages of the region are in the dark.
RIPLEY: Ukraine's military says it shot down 10 out of 15 explosive drones Russia fired Friday night. The region's energy authority warns stabilizing
the power grid could take weeks even months.
RIPLEY (on camera): Before the blackouts, the Black Sea and vibrant nightlife made this southern port city a tourist hotspot with the war came
a flood of internally displaced Ukrainians increasing the population of one of Ukraine's largest cities. Now the city of refuge is facing regular
RIPLEY (voiceover): Odesa's power station also took a direct hit last week when Russia fired dozens of missiles at targets nationwide, an ongoing
assault on Ukraine's energy infrastructure that left many Odesans in the dark for days.
RIPLEY (on camera): So what was that like? No power for three days?
KOSTIANTYN VOROLYN, ODESA RESIDENT: No electricity. We have no chance to cook because we have electric cooker. We have no heat because our house has
no generator for this.
RIPLEY (voiceover): His parents of three young children look for creative ways to keep the kids occupied.
OLENA VORONYNA, ODESA RESIDENT: We try make some activities for them. For example music, school.
RIPLEY: Just hours after Friday's drone strikes plunged much of the region into darkness, the Odesa Philharmonic Orchestra gave a candlelight
performance even a war won't stop the music.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
RIPLEY: That is what I found so inspiring walking around Odesa, even though you know that most people have been living without power, on and off, even
if they get it back. It might be on for a few hours a day. And yet life feels remarkably normal. It's as -- if this city and these people who are
showing so much resilience are just unwilling to let this get in the way of moving forward and trying to live as much as they can in their free
country, a country that, you know, their servicemen and women are dying for, dying to defend every single day.
And the everyday people are sacrificing in terms of living in ways that they probably didn't think they would have to in such a developing country,
prosperous country like Ukraine where you have, you know, a terrific quality of life and they're trying to do everything they can to keep that
going, despite these regular and sometimes really, really arduous outages.
GIOKOS: Yes, power cuts are absolutely crippling. And especially now that we're in the depths of winter. Will Ripley, thank you very much for
bringing that story to us.
And still to come, tough negotiations continue for the release of former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan from Russia, what Moscow is demanding from the
American government and some workers who built the gleaming World Cup venue say they won't watch any of the matches. Why they are boycotting the
events, that's coming up. Stay with CNN.
GIOKOS: Welcome back, I'm Eleni Giokos in Dubai and you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Now that U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner is free, attention
is turning to other Americans detained overseas. U.S. National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby says his country is still negotiating for
the release of Paul Whelan, who the Russians convicted of espionage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KIRBY, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESPERSON: They hold Mr. Whelan differently because of these espionage charges. And so, we're
working through that now. We are now more informed. Clearly having gone through this process over the last few months. We're more informed. We have
a better sense of the context here where the Russians expectations are, and we're just going to keep working at it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIOKOS: Well, U.S. officials say Russia has insisted it wants U.S. help securing the release of a Russian spy imprisoned in Germany as part of a
swap to release Whelan. We've got Frederik Pleitgen more work from Berlin for us. Fred, who we are talking about is the big question here and just
how might a three-country prisoner swap work, and what kind of negotiating this would entail.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, I think it's very unlikely, Eleni, that something like this could
work. And certainly, the early indications are that it's pretty much off the table for now. The U.S. is saying that they don't believe that this was
ever a serious inquiry that the Russians made or anything that the U.S. could actually follow through on.
But we're talking about a man named Vadim Krasikov. He's known here in Germany as the Tiergarten killer. He assassinated a man not far from where
I am right now in central Berlin in 2019. This was a person, a Georgian national, who had fought against the Russian military in Chechnya, in the
And the court -- after Mr. Krasikov was apprehended, ruled that this killing was put in place by the Russian government, that it was instigated
by the Russian government, ordered by the Russian government and aided by Russian security and intelligence services. Now, of course, all this caused
a big rout between Germany and Russia.
The Germans expelled two Russian diplomats, the Russians for their parts said that they had nothing to do with it, and called all this politically
motivated. But we do know, Eleni, from earlier this year that there was indeed an inquiry on the part of the United States towards the Germans
about Vadim Krasikov.
The Germans say that they never really took that seriously, or didn't take that as a serious idea from the United States. And it certainly was never
discussed on the top levels of the German government. So right now, the U.S. also seems to have come to the conclusion that it's highly unlikely
that a three-way swap, if you will, like that would work out. Certainly, it's very difficult to see what would be in it for the Germans in all of
So right now, the U.S. obviously, says that it's still doing everything it can to try and get Paul Whelan released. Very unlikely, though, that Vadim
Krasikov would in any way, shape or form be part of that, Eleni.
GIOKOS: Yes, Fred. And just very quickly, I think the messaging since Brittney Griner was released, is that it seems that Russia held all the
cards or at least some of the cards that they specifically said it was one or none. This is quite an interesting development, because at the get go,
there was a point where there had been discussion of having two for two.
PLEITGEN: Yes, two for two or two for one, apparently, there were a lot of discussions. But one of the things that we've also noticed, especially from
the Russian side is that the Russians said from the very beginning, that they want things like this to always happen behind closed doors. They were
very angry at the United States when the U.S. even said that they had put on the table a substantial offer for the release of both Brittney Griner
and Paul Whelan.
The Russians said that's something that can never be discussed in public, otherwise, negotiations like that simply can't take place. I do believe
judging from the messaging that we're hearing out of Russia over the past couple of years -- days, that the Russians certainly believed that they did
get a good deal out of this.
For them, Viktor Bout is obviously, someone who's very important. And if we look at some of the things that Viktor Bout has said since being released,
he certainly is saying all the things that Vladimir Putin would wants to hear. He endorsed Russia's invasion of Ukraine, say something that should
have happened a lot earlier than it actually did. That's something that Vladimir Putin had said only a week ago.
And then he also said that he would have volunteered himself to fight in what Russia calls its special military operation, if he would have special
skills and if he would have been available, but obviously, he was inside a U.S. jail. So, the Russians definitely already, if you look at what's going
on in Russia right now, in Russian media, for instance, they are already parading Viktor Bout and obviously, making him out to be someone very
important that they got out of U.S. custody.
So definitely the Russians do believe that they are at the longer end of the stick in all of this and certainly think they've gotten a good deal so
far. As far as Paul Whelan is concerned, though. It does appear as though it is going to be very difficult to secure his release.
John Kirby, the spokesman for the National Security Council did say that the Russians are treating Paul Whelan's case a lot different than they are
treating Brittney Griner simply because those espionage charges, Eleni.
GIOKOS: All right, Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much.
And still ahead, shattered dreams. Portugal will not take home the World Cup which leaves the team's star as a loose end. Where will Ronaldo go
GIOKOS: Well, this week, football fans will turn their attention to the semifinals at the World Cup played in brand new stadiums built just for the
sit (ph) major event. But some of the people who built those venues are refusing to watch because it's a reminder of a horrible condition that they
had to injure.
We've got Larry Madowo with the story. Larry, it is so important to speak to some of these migrant workers that paint a very tough scenario when they
were working and helping build the infrastructure.
LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Eleni. And I've been speaking to so many of them who returned from Qatar, some who are still in Qatar were too
scared to speak and their story is a uniform. They say that the picture you see and what the Qatari government will want you to think about the
conditional migrant workers are very different from the reality.
In fact, some of them describe it as modern-day slavery. They have endured discrimination with physical and verbal abuse, and sometimes they saw
colleagues collapse and die because of the heat. And whenever FIFA inspectors came to the stadiums, they had to behave because they feared for
their jobs. These are their stories.
MADOWO (voice-over): Boniface Barasa is back in Kenya but says he's still suffering from trauma. After three years as a construction worker in Qatar,
before the World Cup.
BONIFACE BARASA, FORMER MIGRANT WORKER: I saw the supervisor call another Kenyan "a lazy Black monkey." Then when the Kenyan countered back, he asked
him, "Why are you calling me a black monkey?" Then he slapped -- the supervisor slapped the Kenyan."
MADOWO (voice-over): The 38-year-old is a lifelong football fan, but says he hasn't watched any matches. The pain is still too fresh.
BARASA: Another one died from that harsh weather condition. And my colleague died. Another one was bitten and was -- and he went missing.
MADOWO (on-camera): You saw somebody die in front of you?
BARASA: Yes. Somebody collapsed and died. And I think that was because of the harsh weather conditions.
MADOWO (on-camera): Because of the heat?
BARASA: Because of the heat, the limited drinking water breaks.
MADOWO (voice-over): Last month, the Qatar World Cup chief acknowledged that 400 to 500 migrant workers have died on projects connected to the
tournament. As the World Cup got underway, some black migrant workers have taken on highly visible roles in a country where they're often invisible.
Part of the workforce, but not the society.
Kenyan traffic officer Dennis Kamal (ph) handing out red and yellow cards, entertains fans and have attracted global media attention. And 23-year-old
Kenyan Abubakr Abbas has become a viral megastar, as Metro guy. Organizers even brought him out to address fans before the England-USA game.
But advocates for migrant workers dismiss these as isolated cases and empty PR that had a dark exploitative work environment.
MALCOLM BIDALI, FORMER MIGRANT WORKER: As we speak, we still have people not getting paid. People are still living in cramped conditions. We have
people still facing physical, verbal, sexual assault, discrimination. Long working hours, working conditions, horrible working conditions.
MADOWO (voice-over): Malcolm Bidali was a security guard in Qatar, but says he was detained for advocating for migrant workers' rights.
BIDALI: Because I am very worried and scared and concerned when the World Cup ends because like all the media, you know, spotlight and everything
else will, you know, shift and move away to the next big thing.
MADOWO (voice-over): Qatar says it dismantled the previous restrictive migrant labor system, which has been criticized across the Gulf for
exploiting foreign workers from Africa and South Asia and taking away their passports. But critics say that reality has not changed.
Geoffrey Owino was a safety inspector at Lusail Stadium, who believes he too was deported from Qatar for speaking up for migrant workers.
(on-camera): The African migrant workers complain of exploitation despite all these changes Qatar says it's put in place.
GEOFFREY OWINO, FORMER MIGRANT WORKER: On paper, the laws are very good, but implementation and goodwill from the government of Qatar is the
problem. That's why workers will continue complaining until a framework, a robust justice system is put in place whereby violators of these laws
against migrant workers are punished.
MADOWO (voice-over): Geoffrey says he receives complaints and distress calls from migrant workers all over the Gulf, desperate to return home.
MADOWO: A Qatari official has previously told CNN that it does not detain or deport migrants for speaking out. And in this case, the big picture is
Qatar has, in fact, reformed its labor law since 2020. But it's not been implemented or enforced the same way that it would like the world to think,
But I'm still hearing from Qatar -- from migrant workers in the country who say, yes, the conditions described are true. But why do I have to go back
in Africa, in Kenya, in Uganda? This is still better and I will endure this and have something to send home.
GIOKOS: Yes. Larry Madowo, thank you so much for that report.
We're going to a short break and when we come back, "WORLD SPORTS" up next and Alex Thomas is standing by.