Modern-Day Slavery?: ‘World Cup Has Been Built on the Violation of Human Rights’
A stunning report by German broadcaster WDR recently pushed FIFA to admit for the first time that the governing soccer organization did, in fact, violate human rights standards for guest workers in Qatar, who are refurbishing the Khalifa Stadium to be used in the anticipated 2022 World Cup in Doha.
The guest workers, who are from a range of foreign third-world countries including Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and North Korea, are forced to live in sub-human conditions with little to no pay.
According to Amnesty International, there are currently 1.7 million migrant workers in Qatar, and they comprise 90 percent of the workforce.
Doha won the bid to host the coveted World Cup games by allegedly bribing FIFA officials to the tune of $880 million.
WDR journalist Benjamin Best went undercover in Qatar in June, and broadcast video proof of the vast human rights violations he found there — and he did it on the same day that FIFA president Giani Infantino was reelected unopposed, while Infantino reportedly claimed that FIFA had become “synonymous with credibility, confidence, integrity, equality, human rights, social engagement, modernity, professionalism, and equality.”
Although FIFA had stressed that the allegations of violations of guest workers’ rights did not apply to construction sites related to the World Cup stadium, the governing football organization admitted to a breach in workers’ standards for the first time in a press release after the German news report surfaced, saying, “We are aware of reports that the company TAWASOL — a sub-contractor in the construction of the Al Bayt Stadium — has violated the standards for workers.”
“FIFA has a zero-tolerance policy on human rights violations associated with its activities. In line with international standards and our Human Rights Policy, FIFA is fully committed to human rights as evidenced through the implementation of our strategic human rights program in the past years and acknowledged by different international organizations,” the organization wrote.
FIFA has reportedly also promised to investigate the allegations made by WDR further.
“There are more than 4,000 people who died as a result of being forced to work for a long time in temperatures of 51 to 56 degrees Celcius, which is almost impossible for human beings to work in. This is a violation of human rights. It’s a violation of employees rights,” said Amjad Taha, who authored the book The Deception of the Arab Spring. He is one of several Arab journalists who were targeted and hacked as part of an extensive operation allegedly carried out by Qatar, and he has consistently spoken out against the Gulf nation’s human rights violations.
Taha said some of those workers are from North Korea. “The Qataris bring workers from North Korea; with the cooperation of the North Korean regime, they work there for free, and their salary is being given to the North Korean regime, not to the workers. They pay the North Korean regime their salary. So, the worker doesn’t even receive a salary; he just works, get a little bit of food and that’s about it.”
Nepali workers are also victims of these human rights violations, and are denied basic rights in Qatar. Taha added that there are cases of Nepali workers who have died while working in Qatar. Their bodies are shipped back to their home country without papers or an explanation for their death. “The family doesn’t know the reason he died,” Taha said, referring to a recent case of a male Nepali worker in Qatar who died while working and living in sub-human conditions to construct the World Cup arena.
According to the Nepali government, 1,426 Nepali workers had passed away between 2009 and 2019 and there were reportedly 111 deaths in 2019 alone.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, The Peninsula, an English-language daily publication which is owned by and operated out of Qatar, published a piece titled, “US collaboration with Qatar on fighting human trafficking is strongest.”
The piece focused on US Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons John Cotton Richmond’s visit to the country’s Msheireb Museum, his discussion of the 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report, and his meetings “with Qatari officials and organizations to discuss efforts to combat human trafficking in Qatar, and Qatar’s efforts to end it.”
“The crime of human trafficking is global in scope, affecting every country on earth, including the United States and Qatar. Also known as modern slavery, it includes sex trafficking, forced labor, debt bondage, and domestic servitude,” the Peninsula wrote.
Although there have not been many headlines surrounding this human rights issue as of late, Qatar did take an indirect shot at its Gulf rival Saudi Arabia last week when it reportedly expressed “deep concern about the serious human rights violations and crimes committed against the Yemeni people by all parties involved in the conflict, as well as the failure of the warring parties to abide by international humanitarian law, causing tens of thousands of deaths and injuries, including thousands of children and women” during a speech delivered by the Permanent Representative of Qatar to the UN during an interactive dialogue at the UN’s Human Rights Council.
The hypocrisy was astounding.
Adelle Nazarian is a journalist and filmmaker whose work in national security, religious freedom, and human rights has gained her international acclaim.