The Persian Gulf States, Slavery and a boycott

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:

18 comments

  1. Captain Ahab · · Reply

    This is a very racist idea. Respectable racism but the Arabs “are bad” and the dirty Indians who reproduce like rabbits. That’s why so many shitty Indians are around as laborers.

    There are more rich Indians than rich Arabs. But your racism does not allow you to see that.

    1. You are a disgrace

  2. Latha Krishnaiyer · · Reply

    Right on the money! The airports in South India are filled with long lines of workers who do not even have footwear or luggage, other than a shopping bag of items, who are leaving to work in Qatar and other UAE countries. Someone needs to address this violation of human rights.

  3. Racism isn't cool · · Reply

    the author is full of anti-Semitic and anti-arab. He should start his own Ku Klux Klan branch although as a dark skinned Indian he cannot. But you can have an anti-white group!

    1. You are a disgrace

  4. Love thy neighbor · · Reply

    it is amazing the so-called progressive site launch a racist anti-Arab campaign. Where is emerge USA? They need to expose these fuckers!

  5. Coexist · · Reply

    this is what would happen if the shitty Indians took over everything

  6. Saudi Arabia is worse than Qatar. Both are bad Saudi is worse.

    1. That is probably true.

  7. Jonathan · · Reply

    What about Israel and what they are doing in Gaza? Nothing about that here. That is slavery. I understand as an Indian you might see this as bigger but that is equally reprehensible.

  8. What about Bahrain and Oman? They both have similar reputations as Qatar and UAE.

    1. Oman doesn’t confiscate passports…Bahrain has issues towards religious minorities. Hindus and Christians who go there to work are treated differently than Muslims…it isn’t as overtly racist as Qatar but more theocratic…bad as well and maybe eventually they should be exposed and called out also.

  9. Ku Klux Kartik · · Reply

    Racism against the most racist people isn’t racism. The Arabs are racists. As a jew i couldn’t even fly Qatar Airways! I would not even be admitted to Doha to have my passport confiscated.
    Indians are just getting what they deserve for doing business with the dirty Arabs.
    We survived Hitler and the Holocaust. Some dirty guys wearing shalls and towels have no chance to exterminate us!

    1. Actually if you have a US Passport you could go to Qatar even if you are Jewish. You cannot travel with an Israeli Passport there.

      As far as the Indian Government they do need to do more as does the Pakistani, Nepali and Bangladesh governments to advocate for their citizens in there countries.

  10. Wendy Sejour · · Reply

    Wow, most of these comments are so racist and offensive I cannot even begin to express how disgusting they are.

  11. Blue Dog Dem · · Reply

    Obama is a socialist but I voted for him because I appreciate his anti-Israeli stand.

  12. Blue Dog Dem · · Reply

    Obama’s great sin is putting American interests above Israeli ones. That’s a no no with many Florida Dems tied to AIPAC.

  13. Kartik, it is a shame that so many comments on your post are of such a racist nature and seem to miss the point of your article so I wanted to try and give a rational response. I am in no way condoning the systems in place here and what many workers have suffered through but I think that the problem here is more nuanced and complex than pure racism and apartheid. I am only just learning myself of the kafala system and what it was intended for (back when bedouin tribes took in strangers and thus all responsibilities for them). Sadly this is not the case today. I am also of Indian origin and dark skinned but have a British passport but I don’t carry it with me all the time. I have not suffered a single instance of racism in my time here from any locals (albeit only 6 months in). It is a question of nationality and not race, some nationalities are higher up on the hierachy here than others and this is what informs the attitudes here more than the colour of your skin.

    Your argument is that boycotting is the solution. I can understand your position but you mention that in the UAE the situation is better for labourers. There are efforts to improve things here also (Although I know there is still a long long way to go). Remember that we are treating Qatar through a 21st century lens where the Western world has had over a century of immigration and has had its fair share of horror stories in that time. It really is important to put this into context that culturally and economically, Qatar has been transformed in the last 20 years in so many ways. This is not an excuse for what has happened but just an attempt to try and understand it. If the UAE is changing, then so will Qatar but it takes a long time for attitudes to change anywhere in the world and is a generational shift. The hope is that a new generation of Qataris who have been educated by Western teachers, exposed to more liberal ideas and becoming more global citizens will enable changes to be made at the top. With the spotlight of the world cup, things will inevitably have to change but won’t be quick enough for everyone.

    Boycotting means that you are denying the country the chance to genuinely try and improve things and accepting that the state of things now are what they will always be. Some migrants who come here genuinely do have a better life and opportunities to send money home to their families. They are the lucky ones and its a question of challenging the actual companies themselves and not labelling the entire country as automatically behaving like this.

    Of course I am saying this as Qatar is my new adopted home and maybe I have a guilt complex. I hope that I can make a small difference by donating money, clothing and food where I can and also being generous and kind to lower paid lower status workers while I am here. There are a lot of people with good intentions here to help, including in the government but it is a long process. Whether Florida invests or not will not make much difference. The economy is growing by 5.7% and will do so for the next 15 years and natural gas reserves mean there is a huge surplus. Qatar doesn’t need more money but it does need dialogue and patience from a world who demand instant changes.

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