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Soros’ Amnesty International accused of gender discrimination

Molnár János
2023.01.08. 08:10
Soros’ Amnesty International accused of gender discrimination

Amnesty International has been suffering internal battles ever since openDemocracy published reports on harassment and discrimination among five former Hungarian employees. The five female victims from Amnesty International’s Hungarian center described the hypocrisy of the organization: while they call for anti-discriminatory measures for women, they commit these offenses in their everyday lives.

“Senior management at Amnesty International pressured an employee to give up breastfeeding and subjected others to systemic verbal and psychological abuse,” stated a group of former Amnesty International (AI) employees – breaking a gag order – which is connected to George Soros, as reported by the online portal openDemocracy, also connected to Soros. According to their report, five former employees of the Hungarian office of the human rights organization suffered discrimination, abuse, and manipulation. 

It is noteworthy that the abuse occurred right when the organization was preparing a 56-page document called, “No working around it: Gender-based discrimination in Hungarian workplaces”. According to openDemocracy, this is hypocrisy because the study was intended to urge authorities and employers to take action to end gender and maternity-related discrimination in the workplace. 

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The former employees added: 

Another example of hypocrisy was that from 2018, one-year contracts became the norm for AI employees. At the time, AI was actively criticizing the Hungarian law for allowing employers to provide short-term contracts to women, making it easier to fire pregnant women. 

“To the outside world, we are working on women’s equality and Amnesty’s gender work was focused on women and the workplace,” said Burtejin Zorigt, who was AI Hungary’s gender programme officer and campaign coordinator in 2020. She posed the question: “Actually, we don’t renew the contract of a pregnant woman? Then I just can’t be a public face of the gender work at Amnesty.” 

Another former employee still had not received her contract after six weeks at the organization. 

The first clause of the contract stated that she must notify the AI management if she becomes pregnant or undergoes a “reproductive procedure.” 

The contract also gave AI the right to request a medical certificate – though this was eventually cut from the final version of the document. Among the five women, two feel that they suffered from psychological and physical trauma at the organization.  

The women also talked of a toxic work environment at AI: one of the senior managers had an aggressive leadership style that other managers adopted. According to the 37-year-old Zsófia Gere, she experienced gender-based discrimination when she returned to her job as AI’s office manager after her maternity leave in 2019. She said that, 

during a routine performance review, one of her managers asked when she would quit breastfeeding, complaining that it would prevent her from attending overnight business trips.  Moreover, the manager proposed that Zsófia Gere work part-time for a reduced salary. 

She found a new position soon after and as she prepared to leave AI, her manager hinted that they had many friends at Zsófia Gere’s new workplace which was interpreted as a threat. Gere added that she was asked to sign a confidentiality agreement to not say anything about experiencing discrimination at AI and that this was not the reason for her quitting. In order to speed up the process of her departure, she agreed to sign this document which would allow them to fine her 2500 euro if she broke the agreement. According to the victims, the aforementioned manager also said that the office is not a therapy session and the mental well-being of staff is not the management’s responsibility.

Vera Mérő was one of the other victims who was a campaign coordinator at AI until July 2019. She wrote on social media that the organization appointed someone who used to hold a position at the organization – of which they are still a proud activist – as an “independent” expert who conducted their hearing in an investigation. Vera Mérő said: 

“All we wanted was an independent professional team (or at least one truly independent professional) who we could show the systemic abuse and discrimination that we were victims of. The clear goal of Amnesty Hungary’s leadership was to avoid a scandal and in order to cover it up, they had no reservations as it has now become obvious.” 

We contacted AI Hungary as well and asked them what they think of these accusations. In their response they wrote: there was no evidence found in any former reviews to prove the accusations; they also have begun a victim-centered restorative justice approach which is still underway.

Photo: Mirkó István

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