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Tuesday, 24 November 2020

No respect for the Qatari regime

The Qatari regime has once again been strongly criticised for its treatment of foreign construction workers and its violations of basic human rights

Hany Ghoraba , Friday 24 Apr 2020
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The Qatari regime’s scandals continue to overflow from the reports of human-rights organisations despite the Gulf statelet’s vehement attempts to suppress the truth about the shoddy state of affairs in the country. 

This is being done through an assortment of methods, including through Western politicians and political pundits with ties to the Qatari regime, international media outlets, think tanks and last but not least the Qatari pro-Islamist propaganda machine Aljazeera.

These things have bought the Qataris some influence and much fake news falsely characterising the country as a beacon of freedom and development in an otherwise troubled region. This fallacy disguises the true nature of the Qatari regime, which is tied to terrorism.

But the truth will out, no matter how long it is suppressed. The latest report by the international human-rights organisation Amnesty International reaffirms facts already known to many, namely that Qatar is abusing migrant workers, especially those working on the construction of megaprojects related to the 2022 World Cup that will be hosted in the country. 

In one recent case of such abuse, Amnesty reported on 15 April that it had interviewed 20 Nepalese workers in Qatar who had been apprehended by the Qatari police, alongside hundreds of others in March. Initially, these workers were informed that they were about to be tested for Covid-19 infection and would then be returned to their accommodation. But nothing of the sort took place, and they were taken by force to detention centres where they were kept in appalling conditions before being sent back to Nepal. 

The Qatari government defended its shameful acts by accusing the workers of being involved in illegal activities. Perhaps this explanation would have been plausible despite the vile manner in which the workers were sent to their homes, if Qatar’s track record on the treatment of foreign workers had been clean. But this is not the first violation of human rights committed by this terrorism-supporting regime. 

Over the past few years, many media and human-rights organisation reports have documented the human-rights violations committed against construction workers in Qatar that have resulted in the deaths of over 1,400 Nepali workers. Workers from India, Bangladesh and Nepal, often working in extreme heat and under abysmal safety conditions, have all experienced significant numbers of deaths. 

Despite repeated warnings from international human-rights organisations, foreign governments and workers syndicates, the Qataris have ignored such reports and have continued their work to build football stadiums and local infrastructure in preparation for the 2022 World Cup. As a result of the horrific death rate among foreign construction workers in Qatar because of lacklustre health and safety conditions, the UK-based International Observatory of Human Rights (IOHR) estimated in 2019 that about 4,000 workers would perish before the construction work for the World Cup in Qatar was completed.  

It is a scandal in this day and age that such a death toll can result from construction work under the supervision of international sports bodies such as FIFA. Moreover, stories surrounding a possible scandal in awarding the hosting rights to Qatar still dominate the sports world, and they have resulted in the resignation of disgraced former head of FIFA Joseph Blatter and the arrest of a number of officials. 

The minute statelet of Qatar, which has no track record of expertise or capability to host a spectacle of the size of the World Cup, has raised eyebrows, since how could a country of such a description have beaten the United States and United Kingdom in securing the hosting rights for one of the world’s biggest sporting events? 

But money can do wonders in today’s world, and the bribes that Qatar is thought to have distributed to football’s governing body still taint the sport’s image today. Even so, one might have thought that a country capable of paying such bribes while pledging to spend $100 billion on stadiums and infrastructure could have spent a tiny fraction of that sum protecting the unfortunate workers constructing the facilities for this global sports event. 

Yet, instead scenes not witnessed since the abolition of slavery and the closure of labour camps are now reported from the tiny Gulf statelet of Qatar. The Qatari Royal Family has remained unmoved by such scenes, and members of it are still seen at international events and galas. The outbreak of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic in Qatar, infecting over 5,000 people in the statelet as of 19 April, has uncovered another ugly face of a regime that treats migrant workers almost as sub-humans not worthy of proper medical care and protection. 

Qatar thus has not rested content with supporting and hosting terrorist groups and their leaders on its soil, from the Muslim Brotherhood to Al-Qaeda and even Islamic State (IS) group affiliates, all of which have received money laundered through its banks. As a result, it is high time that the world reconsidered Qatar’s worthiness in being awarded the right to host the 2022 World Cup, since it does not abide by international law on human rights and workers’ rights. Sport activities are among the most noble that human beings can practise, and they should be based on justice, equality, fairness and empathy towards others, none of which are on the Qatari regime’s agenda. 

The Qataris may have greased the palms of stooges across the world, including politicians, journalists, sports figures and celebrities, aiming to put some sheen on what is a rotten regime. But the Qatari regime’s actions towards others can no longer be ignored. It cannot buy the respect appropriate to a civilised nation unless it earns it through its deeds. 

Instead, some members of the Qatari Royal Family seem to be mimicking the actions of crime bosses, attempting to mask their crimes by acting as benevolent donors to charities, educational facilities, places of worship and social causes. However, these contributions can never erase the bloodshed caused by the actions of this regime or the appalling treatment of workers employed on construction projects in the country.

*The writer is a political analyst and author of Egypt’s Arab Spring and the Winding Road to Democracy.

*A version of this article appears in print in the  23 April, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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