The Grim Secret Behind Qatar's Lavish New Stadiums: Human Rights Abuse

The Grim Secret Behind Qatar's Lavish New Stadiums: Human Rights Abuse

Don't hate Zaha Hadid's new World Cup stadium because it looks like a vagina. Hate it because it will likely be built with "modern-day slavery," according to a new Amnesty International report.

The internet was aflame this weekend over new renderings of Al Wakrah Stadium, a 45,000-seat venue destined for the desert outside of Doha. Designed by Zaha Hadid and AECOM, the ribber roof structure struck many as, uh, vaguely anatomical. And while the renderings are super weird and fun and kind of awesome (see below), there's also much more sombre side to this story.

Qatar plans to spend $US140 billion preparing for the World Cup -- remarkably, Al Wakrah is only one of roughly nine World Cup stadiums the government is planning to build over the next nine years to prep for the event. And they can afford it, as the wealthiest per-capita nation on earth. But the fact that they're perpetuating extremely abusive worker conditions to do so has slipped somewhat under the radar.

Last month, a Guardian report on worker conditions startled many, exposing human rights violations being carried out to build these wonders of modern engineering. Now, Amnesty International has released its own report on the issue, The Dark Side of Migration: Spotlight on Qatar's Construction Sector Ahead of the World Cup (PDF), based on interviews with more than 200 workers and dozens of employers.

The Grim Secret Behind Qatar's Lavish New Stadiums: Human Rights Abuse

Image: Sean Gallup/AP

According to the report, Qatar's population is increasing by 20 people an hour as the country recruits new workers from from countries like Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. In fact, 94 per cent of construction in Qatar is done by migrant workers, who are promised a steady wage and a safe place to live.

But upon arrival, they find a reality not quite on par with what they were advertised. Their IDs are confiscated, which prevents them from leaving. Their salaries are lower than promised. They aren't allowed -- by law -- to change jobs without direct permission from their employers. They will often not be paid for six to nine months, are denied the right to leave, and are forced to work 12 hours a day in 105-degree heat. Electricity, healthcare, and even food are often denied. Death on the job is not uncommon.

The Grim Secret Behind Qatar's Lavish New Stadiums: Human Rights Abuse

Image: Sean Gallup/AP

One interviewee -- an employer -- describes the workers as "cattle," while outside groups describe the situation as "modern-day slavery." Some human rights groups are calling for FIFA to revoke the right to host the World Cup altogether. "With Qatar and its construction sector in the international spotlight for the next decade as the 2022 World Cup approaches, the state's failure to protect workers' rights threatens to severely affect the country's international reputation," AI concludes. "Only fundamental change -- including bold reforms backed with political will from the very top of the government -- will address the issues documented in this report."

So while that vagina roof might be a joke for us, it also represents the dark side of a boom that's driving multi-billion dollar construction projects across the region.

Check out a few of the other stadiums being built around Qatar:

The Grim Secret Behind Qatar's Lavish New Stadiums: Human Rights Abuse
The Grim Secret Behind Qatar's Lavish New Stadiums: Human Rights Abuse
The Grim Secret Behind Qatar's Lavish New Stadiums: Human Rights Abuse
The Grim Secret Behind Qatar's Lavish New Stadiums: Human Rights Abuse
The Grim Secret Behind Qatar's Lavish New Stadiums: Human Rights Abuse
The Grim Secret Behind Qatar's Lavish New Stadiums: Human Rights Abuse
The Grim Secret Behind Qatar's Lavish New Stadiums: Human Rights Abuse



    How else are they supposed to make the stadium? Pay decent wages and ensure workplace safety? Pfft! Whatever, hippy. They're just poor immigrants. It's not like they're actually living, caring, feeling people who are trying to support themselves and their families. They're not rich, so they don't have any rights.

    On a less serious, and certainly a lot less sarcastic note, I find it amusing that it'll end up looking like a vagina, not because I'm childish, but because a lot of buildings have already been very phallic. Take any tower or light house or skyscraper and you'll see what I mean. They're large, tall, and stand to attention, almost like someone was trying to compensate for something. I for one think we need more lady-parts in our architecture because until now, the skyline of many major cities have been a real sausage fest. But that's not to take away from what these poor workers are going through. I agree that FIFA should do something about it, but I won't be holding my breath...

    It should come as no surprise then to learn that Dubai was built the same way - labour camps with 15 men to a demountable, driven to site in buses with bars but no windows, forced to work through Ramadan without food or water during daylight hours, passports and pays withheld. Everything in the Middle East is a facade, except the desert.

    On a serious note, while countries require visas for people to enter, Qatar is one of the very few countries (or maybe the only) that requires an Exit Visa. Each visa request requires a sponsor and an exit visa requires the employer/sponsorer to sign a declaration that everything is OK and the person can leave the country.

    This may look amazing now, but is not exactly a place to be as compared to the other GCC states. If you google, you will find reports of Western journalists (people that have rights, in comparison to the 3rd world workers) that worked for Al-were stranded over Christmas and in jeopardy. They were sacked so their visa was cancelled by the employer, but since they had no exit visa, they could not leave and hence they were in the country illegally.

    The climate is high-humidity all of the time, there are very few restaurants and options to eat out, housing is outrageously expensive and small (maybe Japan has larger houses), locals rude and non-courteous (all in comparison to the other GCC states) Why would anyone really want to be there? Specially when they treat any expat as dirt irrespective of their nationality.

    why go there in the first place to work in such shitty conditions?

      In general, because the workers are sold a wonderful story in their home country about pay and conditions and the truth is only fully revealed once they arrive. Yes, it could be said that they could/should have been aware of the situation before they signed up, but the groups they're recruiting from are desperate and it's easy for them to believe the "Oh we're not like that other lot" claims because when you'd desperate you'll *want* to believe somebody who tells you they can improve your life.

    So what are they going to do with all these stadiums once the games are finished? It kind of annoys me how wasteful these types of games are Olympics, world cups etc. It's great if they have the foresight and planning to give the facilities purpose after the games but looking at Beijing and Athens you have to wonder if it was worth it. They should start reusing existing venues and sharing the wealth a bit over multiple hosts. Make it a WORLD cup.

      The only good thing about Qatar's bid is that they will dismantle the stadiums and give them away to other areas in the middle east/asia.

      Trust me - the only good thing.

    But it's soccer man. SOCCER. If it means a new place to start a riot over my favourite athletes (Adiaga, Adiaga II, Badiaga, Aruglia and Pizzoza), then it could be built by slave monkey children for all I care!

      Hugely intelligent comment from a supporter of a hugely intelligent sport (NRL/AFL/Union) no doubt.

    just another reason to hate the fact the World Cup will be staged there :(

    Its not just that, how can their countries coin be worth anything against a country that has outlawed slavery. India is another one. Their currency should be worth nothing...

    for people having a hard time understanding the reasoning behind "well why work there"

    Google Vice Youtube

    Thank me later

    This sight is all too common in the middle east. Having worked there, crews are usually about 50 Indians/Pakistani/Nepalese etc to one 'white' expat.. Australian/american/English/french usually...

    It sad and confronting and unfortunately that's how it is. The guys are fed and housed in camps and they're normally there just for their pay packet and is normally sent back to the family in their respective country. These guys literally have 'how much space' they are allocated as living space back at the camp, normally something like 12m sq'd... I've even seen a case where the shift workers 'hot bed swap', night shift gets back to camp, taps day shift on the shoulder so he can get up and go to the bus whilst he hops in and goes to sleep.

    Last edited 19/11/13 7:13 pm

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