July 10, 2015 Stephen Russell


Abdes Ouaddou, the Moroccan footballer who found himself a victim of kafala when his Qatari club stopped paying him and refused to let him leave the country when he protested, has been a tireless campaigner against the system ever since. For all his own problems, it is the fate of those workers still in Qatar that concerns him, from construction workers preparing the country to host the 2022 World Cup, to the exploited aircrew of Qatar Airways.

Abdes has set up a SumofUs petition to ask Barcelona to end its deal with the state owned Qatar Airways unless they improve their treatment of workers.

As Abdes himself says:

Eventually I was able to leave Qatar, but the migrant women who work for Qatar Airways don’t have that same luck.

The women who work for Qatar Airways face an extremely grim reality: cabin crew are being exploited, imprisoned without charge, forcibly confined on company premises and automatically sacked if they become pregnant. These abuses are an everyday event not only in Qatar Airlines but in the Qatari national employment system.

Right now, Qatar Airways sponsors one of the most famous football clubs, the Barcelona Football Club. Barcelona’s millions of fans see the team as “more than a club”, revered not only for the quality of its players — like Neymar, Andrés Iniesta and of course, Lionel Messi — but for its allegiance to ethics, fairness and social justice. That’s why we’re asking the world’s most respected football club to cut ties with the airline until workers conditions improve.

Qatar’s national employment system, kafala, is cruel and brutal. Employers are allowed to prevent workers from leaving the country, even if they mistreat workers. The Qatar Airways CEO even said so himself, he “doesn’t give a damn” about workers rights.

My message to the sporting world, Barcelona and FIFA: we cannot legitimize a company that exploits thousands of vulnerable workers. It is against the values of the sport. We need to drop Qatar Airways as a sponsor.

Please support Abdes’ petition.