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Sunday, June 23, 2024

Cheers, mate!

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With Aisha Jallow

World Cup 2022 in Qatar, north of Saudi Arabia, is the topic of discussion in every staff room, TV sofa and in the queue waiting for the ferry, bus, train, whatever.

Qatar is a small peninsula with Saudi Arabia on the south and Bahrain on the east. Qatar is an emirate and an absolute monarchy, which means that the ruler of the country, the Emir, has the full power. He controls everything and his words are the law.

The Emir has the exclusive power to appoint the prime minister and cabinet ministers who, together, constitute the Council of Ministers, which is the supreme executive authority in the country. Qatari law does not permit the establishment of political bodies or trade unions.

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According to Qatar’s Constitution, Sharia law is the main source of Qatari legislation, although in practice, Qatar’s legal system is a mixture of civil law and Sharia law.

Judicial corporal punishment is a punishment in Qatar. Flogging is used as a punishment for alcohol consumption or sexual relations between unmarried or same-sex couples. The problem with this last part is that victims of rape fear to report this to the police, because they will be prosecuted and sentenced to jail for sex out of wedlock. If the victims become pregnant because of the rape it is even worse. The woman can’t have an abortion and no matter what she does, she will be punished anyway. If the victim of rape is a migrant worker, she has no rights at all. She can’t leave the country because her employer took her passport.

Many times it is the employer who has raped the woman, so what can she do? If she goes to hospital for help, the nurses and doctors are bound by law to report her to the police. The victim will be taken by the police and she will be jailed. Her best fate is to have a miscarriage on an early stage, otherwise she will be jailed for up to seven years. What happens to her child, if she has become pregnant because of the rape? We are not supposed to know, as no one is prepared to answer that question.

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One journalist had tried to interview nurses at a hospital in Qatar, but it took a month before one nurse had the courage to answer some questions. Her terms were that she could stay anonymous, otherwise she could be in deep trouble. Stay in line, do as you are told, stay out of trouble and don’t criticize the Emir and his rules and you will remain safe. Otherwise? Don’t ask because you don’t want to know!

Public flogging, long sentences in jail are common, these barbaric methods to control the people of Qatar belong to the medieval times but when someone has the full power, the mind becomes full of that so there is no room for empathy.

The migrant workers, who have been preparing the arenas, the accomodations and everything else that is needed for the World Cup, have suffered and many times sacrificed their lives for it. It has taken 12 years to prepare for and build all that is needed for these days of football frenzy. Qatar has around 2.3 million residents of which a fifth are Qataris and the rest are so-called guest workers. So few are ruling over so many! Qatar is the smallest country ever to host a World Cup. The decision to allow them to host it has been criticized. The living and working conditions for the migrant workers are horrible. More than 6500 migrant workers, many from India and Nepal, have died but the numbers are not accurate. The authorities don’t admit that the fatalities are depending on the working conditions. They call it ”dead of natural causes” or ”heart attacks.”

Many times the families of the deceased don’t hear it directly from the employers of their family member. They might be contacted by a co-worker or a friend of the deceased. The families, who have now lost their many times only provider, are not compensated in any way and are bound to suffer even more than before. Migrant workers who get injured because of their job will be without any kind of compensation. There are no trade unions, as these are forbidden, so there is no one to fight for the rights of the workers. They are simply there to be used by the Qataris and the only value they have is the work they can do.

Here is a cut from a report from the Human Rights Watch:

“The World Cup started in 2010 and now it is 2022,” said Rejimonn Kuttapan, an Indian migrant rights journalist. “Within 20 days, everything [the matches] will be over. We should not forget that thousands of lives have been sacrificed.”

Ram Pukar Sahani, a former migrant worker who worked in stadiums in Qatar, and whose father, Ganga Sahani, died there, said: “My father died while working on the construction site in his uniform. I have a picture. But the death certificate says natural death and heart failure.”

Ram Pukar Sahani’s family was not provided compensation from his father’s employer or Qatar. His father’s employer did not even bother to call to inform the family about the death or offer condolences.

Migrant worker is many times a fancy word for slave, the only migrant workers who have some kind of value of their own are those who have an education that is useful for the Qatari society. The nurse I referred to is a migrant. She told that she is well treated and respected as long as she makes sure to follow every rule and not question anything. Nurses are highly educated and understand the consequences of sex outside wedlock. They make sure to protect their unmarried young female collegues so they will not go astray. She told about one of her collegues who became pregnant, but luckily that woman managed to become married before the pregnancy showed. Another collegue managed to flee Qatar before her pregnancy showed. The father of that child didn’t take his responsibility, which often happens. The laws apply more on females than males, the same injustice as in so many other societies.

So why did I call this essay ”Cheers, mate”?

Because the thing that has got more attention than the lack of human rights in Qatar is the lack of beer. Football fans from all over the world have traveled to Qatar and they seem to believe that it is a human right to be able to drink beer before and after the games. The discussions have gone high and people are sooo disappointed! Some fans told that they should have been informed at least six months in advance that they are not allowed to drink beer outside the arena.

Budweiser, a large beer brand, is sponsring the football worldcup with several millions. They had put up their tents outside the arenas and were planning to sell a lot of beer to thirsty football fans. Two days before the games began, Budweiser were told to move their beer tents. Beer will be served, but only in secluded areas and at exclusive accomodations. I must say that I don’t feel sorry for the fans. They decided to travel to a Muslim country where the society is following Sharia law. What did they expect? I pity the fans who are so naive, the whole world is not their playground. I pity the migrant workers who have suffered and continue to suffer. Ask them about human rights and their opinions about the beer issue. The focus is warped. Cheers, mate!

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