By Bruce Finley, The Denver Post
Ethiopian-Americans are launching a rally Monday in Denver as Ethiopians protest worldwide, urging governments to protect workers in Saudi Arabia.
A Saudi clampdown on migrants in the country without legal permission — aimed at reducing 12 percent unemployment among Saudi natives — has led to violent clashes and deaths there.
“We cannot just sit and watch as our people get tortured and killed,” said Yoseph Tafari, a deacon at St. Mary’s Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Aurora and president of Qualimage Printing Corp.
Tafari and other leaders of metro Denver’s community of about 30,000 Ethiopian-Americans say rallies in Denver, London, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere are designed to pressure Saudi, Ethiopian and U.S. governments. “The situation is truly critical, and we want people to know,” Tafari said.
The planned rally in Denver is expected to draw immigrants and supporters to the corner of Colfax Avenue and Broadway between 8:30 and 11:30 a.m. Monday.
A similar rally to “end the violence” in Saudi Arabia was held near the state Capitol last week.
Tafari said community members are hearing through diaspora sources that violence is worsening.
A Human Rights Watch bulletin this year detailed Saudi Arabia’s clampdown on migrants in the country illegally. An ultimatum was issued ordering all workers in the country illegally to submit their case for staying and obtain proper documentation — or leave. Saudi King Abdullah in July extended the deadline to Nov. 4.
An estimated 9 million migrants work in Saudi Arabia doing manual labor and domestic work. They come from low-income parts of Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan and Yemen. An estimated 70,000 Ethiopians migrated to Saudi Arabia over the past eight years.
Human Rights Watch contends workers are exploited and sometimes face slavery-like conditions.
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