With reports of labor abuse on the rise and the public too busy outraged by the Sochi Olympics to give a World Cup a decade away a proper look, the New York Times has begun to take on the plight of migrant workers in Qatar, where hundreds have died preparing the 2022 World Cup and FIFA has said next to nothing.
Noting that “90 percent of Qatar’s population is made up of migrant workers,” the Times piece calls for international pressure on Qatar and on FIFA to remedy a situation that some predict will result in as many as 4,000 dead workers before the Cup’s first coin toss. The workers– mostly from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal– face alarming levels of abuse, from being denied their wages until they starve to death to having their passports confiscated when they threaten to return to their home counties. They live in squalor and work unconscionable hours to guarantee that the facilities needed for the soccer tournament will be ready by 2022. They are, according to the authors of the Times piece, “virtual slaves,” saved from the title only by typically ignored contracts that promise a wage most never see.
This is not the first time the human rights abuses against migrant workers from Southeast Asia in Qatar and the other Arab monarchies have received media attention, but it may be the most high-profile of such public condemnations. Amnesty International has singled out Qatar before for projects unrelated to the World Cup– skyscrapers built by workers owed hundreds of thousands in wages and living in squalor. They have been calling for reform in Qatar for far longer than the time during which it became an international sports event host, however. As far back as 2007, Amnesty’s country report warned that migrant workers were under threat of abuse.
Qatar’s dangerous disregard for human rights permeates much of its foreign policy. As detailed in this Breitbart News report by Frank Gaffney, Qatar has spent years funding al Qaeda insurgencies, the Taliban, and Hamas and otherwise affiliating itself with Islamic extremism. The affiliations with such Islamic fundamentalist groups naturally coincide with aggressive repression of women, LGBT individuals, and religious minorities (though many of the migrant workers abused are Muslim and seem to receive no special treatment).
FIFA had plenty of time to know about the potential that their organization could exacerbate a major human rights problem and aid a tiny rogue nation, but opted to listen to the bids of Qatari dignitaries instead, who suggested that the event could be a “watershed moment” in intercultural exchange and help open the world to the Arabian peninsula. It has chosen to fall prey to a sophisticated propaganda machine that uses vast amounts of its oil money to pay so-called journalists to be convinced of Qatar’s majesty and go out into the world to promulgate it– a system North Korea must dream it could have.
The New York Times hopping onboard with the many who recognize that the world has time to do something to stop the madness in Qatar where it failed with Russia’s Sochi Winter Olympics is heartening to those who fight for the promotion of human rights internationally. There are still eight years left for the world to forget who is bleeding and dying so the rest of us can have the luxury of world-class soccer, and without international pressure today, that tournament will splash said blood all over the hands of the world poised and excited to watch it.