Poor working condition’s in Qatar for migrant workers. Who would have guessed?
Much like David Cameron seems to ignore the human impact of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the UK in favour of the commercial advantages, the exploitation of workers building the World Cup stadium seems less important than the economic benefits to the organisations involved. Yes, they may not have foreseen these exact circumstances, but the human rights abuses of the various gulf states were not exactly hidden. Unsurprisingly this follows a trend which allowed Saddam Hussein to acquire chemical weapons from the West, the West’s continuing reliance on Gulf States for fossil fuels, Putin’s commercial military interests in Syria and even recent claims that UK arms exports to countries such as Sri Lanka contravened our countries human rights obligations.
With the recent coverage over Russia’s new laws banning ‘homosexual propaganda’ and its implications for the upcoming Winter Olympics it seems important to highlight that homosexuality has long been a crime in itself in Qatar, where consenting sexual acts are punishable by 5 years in prison. In Qatar’s case, the outcry from GFSN (Gay Footballer Supporters’ Network) in 2010 gained comparably little attention. Since then foreign interests, including Siemens – who have announced such technologies as smart grids, traffic management systems, building technologies and district cooling systems – have jumped at the chance to invest in the 2022 World Cup. Overall, companies from the United States, Britain, France and Brazil are likely to win contracts for projects amounting to over $50 billion. This includes stadiums, rail and subway networks and hotels.
On the 18th September Sepp Blatter, after he previously responded to the fact that homosexuality is illegal in Qatar by stating “I would say they should refrain from any sexual activities”, reportedly told German weekly Dei Zeit that “European leaders recommended to its voting members to opt for Qatar, because of major economic interests in the country”. After all, why use existing infrastructure in other bidding countries when so much money can be made elsewhere, even if it is slightly tainted by the foreseeable deaths of migrant workers.
Looking back to five years ago, the 2008 Olympics in China seems an interesting comparison. It is well recognised that the country is not a beacon of human rights but one of the conditions of the decision was that China would take concrete measures to improve in this area. Their failure to do so may have shown this decision to be naive, but at least the Olympic organisers recognised the human rights situation beforehand and confronted it.