The difficult relationship between Qatar and human rights

The difficult relationship between Qatar and human rights

Amnesty International Report 2017/2018 shines a light on the state of human rights in Qatar

By Vicenzo Cotroneo

Amnesty International Report, 2017/2018 that shines a light on the state of human rights in Qatar, looks like a new call for institutional mobilization. As a result of the breakdown of diplomatic relations with most of the neighboring Middle East countries that imposed restrictions and sanctions on the Emirate, Qatar responded firmly, illegitimately and arbitrarily to allegations related to respect for minimum human rights, violating several times the UN Card.

The report and many press agencies (which point out how much and in what way these infractions remain unpunished) evidence a strong restriction to the right to freedom of expression of citizens, nationals and foreigners. Laws that are not in conformity with international labour standards, especially in the construction industry.

After FIFA (governing body of football) assigned the organization of the World Cup in 2022, activity in the construction sector increased dramatically and the small Emirate was flooded with droves of cheap workers to build sports facilities, stadiums and to restyle the neighborhoods of the cities that will host the event. There are no rules related to workplace safety, construction sites are unsafe, accidents occur frequently and workers live in conditions similar to those of the third world, they do not receive their salaries and if they suffer any injury, they do not have the right to assistance sanitary. There are people who emigrated hoping to make a fortune but now they are more indebted than ever and they cannot leave the country.

There have been many protests around the world against this organization so close to the concept of slavery with a number of deaths related to the general construction plan that currently approaches 1200 dead people. Another reason that causes this situation is that there are considerable delays in the construction that force the organizers to establish inhuman work shifts, closing their eyes to security. According to Amnesty, the data projected up to 2022 could reach 4,000 deaths if the measures to respect workers’ rights are not taken immediately.

Amnesty International Report entitled ‘The ugly side of the beautiful game: the exploitation of migrant workers on a Qatar 2022 World Cup site’, condemns FIFA’s shocking indifference to the treatment of migrants. The number of migrant workers building 2022 World Cup is destined to rise up to 36,000 in the next two years.

“The abuse of migrant workers is a stain on the conscience of world football. For players and fans, a World Cup stadium is a place of dreams. For some of the workers who spoke to us, it can feel like a living nightmare,” said Amnesty International’s director general, Salil Shetty.

Amnesty interviewed 132 contractors working on refurbishing the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha and a further 102 landscapers who work in the Aspire Zone sports complex that surrounds it. The report, clearly explains the exploitation of migrant workers: inhumane living conditions; employers compelling workers to live in squalid conditions; employers confiscating workers’ passports and denying them the exit visa they need to leave Qatar; non-payment of wages; and employers not giving workers proper identity documents, which leaves them exposed to arrest. In extreme, but not exceptional, cases migrants are subjected to forced labour.After Amnesty’s complaints, some of them were lucky, but for others, the situation has worsened,” Shetty explained.

“Indebted, living in squalid camps in the desert, paid a pittance, the lot of migrant workers contrasts sharply to that of the top-flight footballers who will play in the stadium. All workers want are their rights: to be paid on time, leave the country if need be and be treated with dignity and respect,” added Shetty. What has FIFA Committee, the organizer of the event, done? In Qatar human rights for these workers are only an illusion. FIFA must prepare a comprehensive reform plan and carry out periodic and independent inspections of working conditions in Qatar and make the results public.

Talking about the application of human rights, the situation is not the best even outside the context of the 2022 World Cup. There is a strong restriction on freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, in accordance with local laws that do not respect international standards. Women continued to face discrimination in law and practice. Personal status laws continued to discriminate against women in relation to marriage, divorce, inheritance, child custody, nationality and freedom of movement.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern over gender discrimination of children, violence against children in schools and at home, and laws limiting the right to nationality of children born in Qatar. The Committee called for the enactment of measures to end these practices. It also called for ending child marriage and raising the age of criminal responsibility.

In short, a framework that is not exactly encouraging for a country that wants to introduce itself in the West, that seeks alliances and friendships in Europe (not related to old friends of the Muslim Brotherhood) and that tries to impose its influence by buying assets while bypassing the bad news and the negative information about the internal situation in the country with the rustling noise of the emirate dollars.

On the occasion of the State visit to Italy of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, which will take place on November 19 and 20, protests have been organized with the aim of fighting for the respect of human rights and the defense of the UN Card.


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