Qatar World Cup: Extreme Human Rights Violations

Qatar World Cup: Extreme Human Rights Violations

Peyton Rohr, Staff Writer

Millions of people around the globe tune into the World Cup every four years and treat the soccer games they see on the screen as life or death. In actuality, nobody thinks about the actual life and death situations that went into building the 8 World Cup stadiums in Qatar for the 2022 World Cup. Beginning in 2015, thousands of workers migrated to Qatar to help build the stadiums in hopes of making some more money for their families, with many taking out loans just to get there. However, all of these numbers are speculation based on the limited information we have been able to gather. The Qatar government is withholding and covering up almost all of the information on what’s actually happening behind closed doors, which stops us from knowing just how bad the casualties are. From our limited information, we know that around 90% of the workforce at the World Cup in Qatar is not Qatari and has come from other countries to capitalize on the job opportunities. 

Workers reportedly went into debt to pay illegal recruitment fees, justified by the prospect of making money. These illegal recruitment fees covered transportation, food, lodging, etc, but workers were already in debt by the time they arrived in the country yet they were still exploited through changing labor contracts and low wages. However, these hopes of money were mitigated when worker’s passports were stolen, enslaving them to their work and unable to leave Qatar due to the “kafala” labor system practiced in the country. This labor system binds foreign workers to their sponsor or employer. Under the kafala system, foreign workers have little to no rights. They are unable to leave their jobs without permission, can’t create a union, can’t stop working (even if conditions were inhumane), and worst of all, they were unable to leave the country without an exit visa approved by their employer. In a world that has supposedly abolished slavery, this seems frighteningly close to slave labor. 

Not only were workers bound to their labor, this labor was in inhumane conditions. With no passports, rights, or money, workers really had no  power to say no or stop working when the labor got to be too much. Subjected to temperatures above 40° celcius (104°F), hundreds of people have died of what the Qatar government is calling “natural causes”, despite having no pre-existing conditions before arriving to help build the stadiums. The country knew heat was a concern since the actual games in the World Cup were moved to November and December, rather than being held in the summer like previous World Cups over concerns for player safety. However, nobody ever considered the lives of the workers who were laboring in the heat that the actual soccer players were deemed “too important” to endure. 

On top of that, Qatar is being extremely vague over the actual number of deaths and exactly how the workers have passed away. In a recent interview with Hassan al-Thawadi, the secretary general of Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, he placed the deaths at around 400-500, when in reality, that number is closer to around 6,500. 6,500 is also just an estimate, since we truly don’t know exactly how many deaths have occurred due to Qatar withholding the data. The fact that Qatar is being so secretive about this data is extremely problematic since this is a human rights disaster on a massive scale, but attention is not being called to it since Qatar is making it seem far less serious than it actually is. 

If people don’t know about the issue, they can’t talk about it and try to create change, so Qatar is doing everything in their power to keep this disaster under wraps. The country is also not refunding any of the recruitment fees and is even being untruthful to the families of the workers, as many families are in the dark over the actual cause of death of their relatives. 

We, as a society, can not keep shoving this crisis under the rug and we need to call attention to it and make change. We have to spotlight the deaths that Qatar is trying to cover up. So, the next time you are watching the World Cup, pay homage to the thousands of workers who were forced to undergo hard labor and have even died to build the stadiums while watching your favorite players and teams compete for a championship.