The Blame for Qatar

The Blame for Qatar

Kelly McGurk

The scandal around the corruption of FIFA has focused on the upcoming World Cup to be hosted in Qatar in 2022. Many have questioned the governing body of soccer’s decision to host a soccer tournament in the summer of an extremely hot country. Other issues with the 2022 World Cup come from the host countries treatment of migrant workers. Not only has the international community largely ignored the death of migrant workers, there has been no accountability on the end of FIFA. The situation in Qatar speaks to a larger issue with the world prioritizing sporting events over societal needs, such as worker’s rights. The world watches and enjoys these sporting events at the expense of those, like the Qatari workers, who had to suffer in order to make the event happen. FIFA and the international community have not adequately addressed the human rights violations in Qatar, but recently major sponsors of the World Cup have voiced concern over the conditions in Qatar. More of this pressure and action must be taken. For each game played, over 60 workers will have died. The lack of media coverage on this issues is an example of the work that needs to be done to draw attention to these human rights violations.

Qatar has a population of 2 million and only 10% are Qatari nationals. This means the country has a problem with and facilitated the trafficking and forced labor of workers. Low-paid workers come from countries in Asia and Africa. These workers have been subject to abuse, exploitation, and low wages. In reaction to the negative international reaction to the human rights violations against the construction workers for the stadiums used in the world cup, the Qatari government passed reforms that would protect these workers rights. These proposed reforms have done little to help workers and have not given protection for human trafficking, forced labor, and migrant domestic workers. The case against Qatar includes testimony from workers, who stated that their employers fail to pay their wages and they are prohibited from unionizing. Most workers are forced to live in cramped conditions and the government has done little to fix this. Workers are forced to reside in places provided by employers and obtain certain documentation if they wish to no longer work for the employer. It has been reported that authorities use indiscriminate travel bans to keep workers in Qatar. The reforms in 2014, kept the previous system because it required that workers stay with the employers for five years. Qatar was supposed to build housing for 200,000 workers but there was no follow through on these plans by the government. The International Trades Union Confederation published a report in 2013 outlining the issues with Qatar and the construction of the stadiums for the World Cup. The ITUC counted the deaths reported by Nepal and India, who account for 60% of the migrant workers in Qatar. They reported almost 1,300 deaths in 2011, 2012, and 2013. DLA Piper, a law firm contracted by the Qatari government, found that the death toll had reached 1,800 a year. These deaths included migrant workers from Nepal, India, and Bangladesh. The issue in Qatar is not just the construction of the stadiums, but the infrastructure required to host such a large sporting event. Hosting a World Cup requires hotels, public transportation, roads, and airports. The infrastructure needs of Qatar are putting a large strain on the workers. The deaths of migrant workers are not completely from the stadiums, but rather from the other needs from hosting such a large sporting event. Qatar is the richest country in the world in terms of GDP per capita. Qatar has the funds to build and host the World Cup and should be doing better by its workers. Women and children have suffered as well. It is common for women to be the victims of rape, imprisonment, and suffer abuse.

Qatar cannot be solely blamed for the issues around the 2022 World Cup. The international community has stood by while workers in Qatar have been stripped of their basic freedom and rights. Even with the issues and corruption in Qatar, the only real talk regarding to the World Cup is moving the games to winter months to avoid the problem of extreme heat. FIFA has undergone scrutiny about how Qatar received the World Cup, but there is no accountability with the governing body of soccer and Qatari government. There is a disconnect between sports as a business and a profit center and sports as a uniting passion. Sports functions as a business and in a capitalist society it must function as such, but you cannot use this to justify turning a blind eye to the crisis in Qatar. The Word Cup is an event that attracts the biggest soccer fans in the world and unites them for the love of the game, but at what expense does this come at. Will you be watching your team play in the 2022 World Cup on the backs of the Qatari migrant workers? These workers died and suffered and the world could care less. Turn on ESPN right now and I am willing to bet that there is little to no coverage about the situation in Qatar. These workers pay the price for the world’s enjoyment and we must be accountable that we are partly to blame if we stand idly by and watch it happen. This issue goes past the workers in Qatar and can extend to the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. The Brazilian economy is suffering under the Olympic spending. Poverty rates in Brazil are sky rocketing, while state of the art stadiums are being constructed for athletes and our enjoyment. FIFA must act by demanding a change in the Qatari system and the end to the abuses of international rights granted to the migrant workers. The International community must come together to demand that Qatar and FIFA acts or they will not participate in the World Cup. International rights of workers must become a central issue and we cannot continue to ignore it for the entertainment of sports.

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