February 20, 2015 Stephen Russell

News roundup: Qatar under attack! Sort of.

It’s never reassuring when anyone, having been caught doing something bad, apologises, promises to fix things, but then starts telling everyone else that you’re being really unfair on them. 

This week’s coverage of Qatar has been dominated by the claims of bias by Hassan al-Thawadi, secretary general of the World Cup 2022 Committee. Al-Thawadi , who is clearly setting out to appear terribly reasonable, avoids accusing the world of prejudice only by weaseling his words in a way that sounds like a bad 70s stand up joke: “I’m not saying the world’s prejudiced against Qatar, but they did just…” Instead he decides that ‘bias’ is a much nicer word and then starts complaining about all the criticism.

Note to Hassan: in the same way that just because you’re paranoid it doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you, sometimes the whole world being against you just means you’re being pretty damned wrong about something. As we’ve said before, if you want some friends, take immediate steps to give workers decent rights. You’ll be amazed how quickly some people start saying nice things about you.

In the meanwhile we are left with the inevitable stream of headlines saying “Qatar to put bad thing right!” instead of the longed-for “Qatar has fixed bad thing!” Hassan asks us for patience, but while 40 workers are dying every month he is still unable to point to a single concrete reform that has actually been implemented. He’d better hope the workers whose lives he is toying with do a better job of building his stadiums that he does of protecting them, or in the week before the World Cup the stadia will still just be patches of earth.

We’ve long predicted that Qatar needs many thousand more workers to get the country ready for 2022. This week we discovered that 94,000 of those are likely to be Philippino, as Qatar’s weird visa racial profiling has put officially aside that many visas for them. Of course, many of those will go into domestic service rather than construction, so far potentially an even worse fate: domestic workers aren’t covered at all by the scant labour protections that Qatar has in place.

Again, Qatar is making promises to do something about this – especially important with thousands of Qatar’s domestic workers considered to be in a state of slavery. Qatar claims to be “finishing a draft law”. This may turn out to be a useful test of whether the government intends to ever enact any of its promised laws. Watch this space, but don’t hold your breath at the same time, just in case.

Finally, there’s an excellent piece from Bustle, pointing out that the almost definite shift of the tournament to winter fixes just one of the many problems in Qatar.


Photo: Qatar thinks it’s under attack! (c) Abraham Puthoor