Ever since the Emirate of Qatar was awarded the rights to host the 2022 World Cup in December 2010, the western media or at least some of that media have done some yeoman’s investigative work into the living and working conditions in Qatar. These reports were in addition to western journalists following up on the allegations of bribery that landed the small Gulf State the rights the host the tournament over the United States, Japan, Australia and South Korea. As someone of South Asian descent who has spent lots of time in India, I was well aware of Qatar’s human rights record towards people from that part of the world before December 2010, but now almost five years later feel in good conscience I must ask all South Asians and those who support human liberty and freedom should make good faith efforts to avoid supporting the State of Qatar financially. That includes elected officials in Florida.
For those unaware of the situation in Qatar let me direct you to this Guardian series and this Deadspin article that features footage from a German TV investigation. South Asians are dying at least a rate of one a day to build new stadiums for the World Cup. As I can attest having spent much time in the Indian State of Kerala which provides the greatest amount of labourers for the Gulf States, those who go to work in that region have their passports confiscated and are not allowed to move about freely. A virtual system of apartheid is implemented in the Gulf States toward those of South Asian extraction who are darker skinned than the native Arabs.
A list of companies from Qatar can be found here. Not on the list but also worthy of targeting are beIN Sports, an international sports broadcaster whose US Headquarters are in Miami and Al Jazeera America, a news channel whose initial start up capital came from the Qatari Government. National airline Qatar Airways who receives unfair subsidies from the Qatari Government to “compete” with western carriers. Recently three US airlines, American, Delta and United have launched a campaign to educate the public and lawmakers about these unfair advantages. Qatar Airways flies to Miami and Emirates will begin Orlando service in September. Additionally, Air Berlin which flies to Miami and Fort Myers, Alitalia which flies to Miami and Aer Lingus which flies to Orlando have received investment from the Government of Abu Dhabi and Etihad Airways.
It is worth monitoring the activities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as well. The royal family of Abu Dhabi have made massive investments in the west including ownership of Manchester City FC (the club I have long supported predating the Arab takeover) and now New York City FC in Major League Soccer. A Saudi company owns the New York Cosmos of NASL and they are sponsored by Emirates Airlines, who sponsor five major European clubs. As of now, boycotting the UAE may not be in order but I will be monitoring the situation. The majority of Dubai’s population is Indian and when you add Pakistani, Nepali and Bengali’s to the number it rises to about 70% of Dubai’s population. I have been told that living standards in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are not as bad for migrants as in Qatar or Kuwait, but I will continue to track developments in the UAE.
I would like to see officials in the State of Florida strongly consider divestment legislation aimed at Qatar, and perhaps also the United Arab Emirates, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the State of Kuwait. These nations all violate the basic civil and human rights of migrant workers and have lots of business ties to Florida. Leaders from the State of Florida need to be aware that we do business with a nation or perhaps nations that encoruage and promote human slavery.
On a personal level, I would like to see my family and fellow South Asians take stronger action. I believe it is unconscionable that anyone of Indian, Pakistani or Bengali extraction would fly Etihad, Emirates or Qatar Airways. I believe it is unwise for any South Asian to patronize anything connected with the Emirate of Qatar. However, given the attitude of some elites in Indian society towards those less fortunate, I would expect the bliss ignorance to continue from many.
As someone who covers soccer, I have six years to decide what to do about 2021 Confederations Cup in Qatar which precedes that 2022 FIFA World Cup. I don’t think at this point I can in good conscience write about the event except to shed light on the horrible conditions those building the World Cup stadiums and cities are subjected to.
I would also urge our readers to sign an online petition that is close to reaching its goal of over 150,000 signatures.
Also for more background on the situation please watch this short video: