Qatar is building a series of amazing venues for both the 2022 Soccer World Cup and their country in general (i.e. not specifically for the World Cup). As hosts of the cup they naturally want their country to look its best when it’s on display to the world. And on the surface, everything is beautiful.

Dig a little deeper though, and there’s a lot of ugliness. People are suffering and dying because of what Qatar is doing, and what FIFA is letting them get away with. FIFA made promises following earlier exposure of the appalling labour practices in the country. However, there appears to have been few, if any, changes for immigrant workers and nothing Qatar can do to lose their status as a venue.

Many of the labourers working on the project, for example, are slave labourers from North Korea. Thus, the world’s soccer fans are inadvertently funding the North Korean nuclear programme. This is yet another by-product of the corrupt FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) awarding the World Cup to Qatar in 2022.

Al Wakrah Stadium, Qatar

Al Wakrah Stadium (yes, that is what it looks like), FIFA 2022 Sports Arena in Qatar, by AECOM with Zaha Hadid Architects (Source: Click pic to go to source)

The Soccer World Cup 2022: Qatar’s Selection

Many will already be aware of the scandal around the Soccer World Cup being in Qatar in the first place. Just to get the tournament, BBC’s Panorama programme estimates that Qatar spent £117 million in bribes. (NZ$ 210 million; US$154 million.) Bribery in the awarding of the Soccer World Cup is not new. It’s been an open secret for as long as I can remember. However, no one was willing to do anything about. Change came when England and the USA lost world cup bids to campaigns that were clearly less legitimate than their own.

(As it turns out, England at least were also not above bribery in their attempt to secure the World Cup. It’s just that Qatar was better at it.)

The USA went down the legal road in calling out FIFA so they’re finally getting their comeuppance. A series of investigations began which led to the discovery of a wide range of fraudulent and other illegal activity by FIFA people. Just before leaving her role of US Attorney General in January, Loretta Lynch said to the Independent, “The first trial is scheduled for October, and the investigation continues …”. There will be more news to come on that story in the future.

Thus, those issues are being dealt with. The corruption at FIFA led to a new president, Gianni Infantino, but it seems it’s otherwise pretty much business as usual. Russia and Qatar are still the hosts of the next two soccer world cups to the dismay of many, including me. There’s an even more serious issue though: what’s happening in Qatar regarding the building of the new stadia for the Cup.

Slave Labour in Qatar

Three years ago The Guardian did this immensely sad story (includes video) about the treatment of Nepalese labourers in Qatar. At that time the majority of foreign workers were from Nepal. Many were receiving no pay, their work and living conditions were atrocious, and there was a large number of worker accidents and deaths. Back then they were expecting Qatar would be requiring a further 1.5 million foreign labourers to complete construction projects, and that was before the announcement of Qatar winning the right to host the 2022 World Cup. That was a whole lot more people available for abuse by construction companies.

This lead to a promise from FIFA that they would ensure good workers’ rights in Qatar on World Cup projects. They clearly didn’t follow through.

Gianni Infantino

Gianni Infantino (Source: Wikipedia Commons.)

North Korean Labourers

A year later The Guardian was checking in on the situation in Qatar again. Unfortunately, though not unexpectedly, there was no progress.

Their focus this time was labourers from North Korea. It seems their situation was even worse than that of the Nepalese, at least some of whom were being paid, albeit badly. On their return home, there was a requirement for North Korean labourers to give some or all of their earnings to their government. The Guardian reports a worker as saying: “We are here to earn foreign currency for our nation.”

They go on to report:

The North Korean regime, led by Kim Jong-un, is currently subject to international sanctions as it continues to defy calls to end its nuclear programme and address severe human rights abuses. A recent UN report accused the regime of crimes against humanity. The foreign currency earned by its overseas workforce is a crucial tool for propping up the isolated country’s fragile economy.

Fixing the Problem of North Korea

Stopping the use of guest workers from North Korea won’t fix either the issue of worker abuse and exploitation in Qatar or the North Korea nuclear programme. However, at least it might bring some attention to both issues. We all know that China is really the biggest problem, and I will address that in a separate post. However, exports aren’t North Korea’s only source of the foreign currency they need to finance their nuclear programme. Guest workers – really slave labourers – are another one. Qatar isn’t the only country they go to either, but an event like the Soccer World Cup is an occasion that can highlight the problem.

Women’s Rights in Qatar

Qatar is a Muslim-majority country. Therefore, by definition, women do not have equal rights to men. As in many Middle Eastern countries, women are expected to cover up. There is a requirement for women who attend the World Cup from other countries to do the same.

Some will say that this is simply a matter of respecting the customs of another country. However, I think that’s a cop out. That’s something that’s often said when it comes to women’s rights. No one thinks it’s okay that gay people, apostates, atheists, or blasphemers face corporal or capital punishment. But, somehow women having a lifelong dress code no matter the circumstances is okay.

Jesus and Mo on Women's Rights

“Besides, it’s not really discrimination if it’s against chicks.”

These are some of the posters that you will see around Qatar asking women to cover up:

This is Article 57 of Qatar’s Constitution, which is what applies here:

Article 57, Qatar Constitution

(Click pic to go to full Qatar Constitution. Link is to a PDF.)

Wikipedia describes the article thus:

All people that reside in the state must abide by public order and morality.

There’s that word again – “morality”. Conservative religion, in this case Islam, judges a woman’s morality by her clothing. It’s wrong.

If I were a soccer fan, I would not attend the World Cup in Qatar. To me, that’s akin to supporting the corrupt selection process, the abuse of workers in Qatar, the North Korean nuclear programme, and the abuse of women. To me, that’s immoral. Wearing shorts and a tank top in hot weather isn’t.



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