Qatar and the 2022 World Cup

Sure, it’s eight years away, but it will be here before you know it. And for some, the truth of the 2022 World Cup is all too real. In 2010, Qatar won the bid from the FIFA Executive Committee to host the World Cup in 2022. Throughout the history of the World Cup, a Middle Eastern country has never been chosen – until now. However, after reading up on the current events in Qatar, I am far more than skeptical about one of the world’s biggest sporting events being held in this country.

Apart from the corruption are the extreme human rights violations that involve the construction workers “hired” to build the World Cup stadium. Qatar is a fairly small country, and while some may have poked fun about the nation’s ability to design a stadium fit for the World Cup, I find no humor in the exploitation of migrant workers. 1.4 million migrant workers, many from Nepal, are currently being housed in labor camps, and thousands are arriving home to their families at the Kathmandu airport in bright, red coffins.

The construction industry is a multi-billion dollar one that incentivized flocks of young men hoping to participate in Qatar’s stadium construction and thus, provide for their families in their native countries. Upon watching HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel last night, I was appalled at the living conditions that these men are forced to make a “temporary” home in. I say “temporary” with quotation marks because men have tried to quit and leave due to the inhumane conditions, but are not allowed to do so thanks to the kafala system that states a worker cannot leave Qatar without first receiving permission from a sponsor. Essentially, we have uncovered a modern form of slavery – little to no wages, filthy (and that is an understatement) living quarters – these men are forced to use toilet water to clean themselves as there are no showers located in the labor camps (and sectioned off into groups of 150 men that have access to only two bathrooms), and an incredibly dangerous working environment.

The human suffering needs to be put to a stop. Both the media and human rights organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called out for change and reform, but with the death toll rising each day, Qatar has promised reform, but actual change has yet to be seen. In May 2014, the international law firm DLA Piper released a report that called for much needed changes to the kafala system and aims to hold the Qatari government responsible for the migrant workers that are dying every day on Qatar’s soil. But if we dig deeper, we can easily see that the existing laws are not held up, and any reforms are being delayed thanks to various “bureaucratic measures.”

My marketing professor once told me, “You want proof of something? You want to convince people to take action? You need hard data. You need numbers. Give them data, and they won’t be able to turn away from the facts.” I think my professor would be proud of me for providing the following fact, as harrowing as it is: those 1.4 million migrant workers I mentioned earlier currently make up 94% of Qatar’s population. The other 6% are those native to Qatar, and have the highest GDP per capita out of any other country in the world. To say this 6% has more than enough money is yet another massive understatement.

My biggest qualm about this entire situation is how many promises have been made, and yet no one has been held accountable for these men and what they suffered through. FIFA has stated that it will hold Qatar accountable, Qatar’s government has ensured that positive change will occur in the “near future” (whatever the hell that means), and my frustration is that these large bodies are not understanding the urgency behind this matter. These are our fellow human beings – they do not deserve to return to their home countries in a coffin, and their families do not deserve to have to welcome them back in such a state. What’s more is that very little data is being provided as to how these workers are dying – only 28 have committed suicide, but what about the hundreds of others? What befell them? And all to live out this 2030 Vision designed to catapult Qatar into the future of our world, and to associate this nation with something other than natural oil and gas – and absurd amounts of wealth.

The situation in Qatar is terribly tragic, and with the situation unlikely to improve in the future, more and more individuals are calling for the 2022 World Cup to be given to the bidder that came in second – the United States (go figure). The upside to moving the World Cup elsewhere (I’m not even saying it has to the United States, but rather any place in general that provides more stability) is that the construction for the stadium in Qatar will cease, and so will the numerous deaths of migrant workers. My hope is that the changes that have been promised for months now become a reality in Qatar. 94% of its population deserves far better. The sake of humanity deserves far better.

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