Saturday, 8 November 2014

1400 Dead Going On 4000: The Blood Soaked FIFA 2022 Qatar World Cup Built with Slave Labor

I'm brought up with football – that is what North Americans call "soccer" – and I continue to enjoy watching games occasionally. In particular – as most fans of the sport – I immensely enjoy the World Cup play offs, taking place every forth year and assembling the very best players in a context packed with emotion and challenge. In sports, this event has almost the status and grandiosity of the Olympics – and, alas, is headed by an almost as obviously corrupt organisation, FIFA (read this and this) whose executive committee members and higher officers I'm sure all enjoy all sorts of pleasures as they choose which country is to arrange the next round. For the 2022 WC, FIFA, in all its wisdom and care for their executive committee members' bank accounts, choose one of the worlds most supremely wealthy countries – sure to be able to part with a few handsome installments – Qatar.

What FIFA has been caring rather less about, however, is how Qatar has gone about preparing for the games. True to its reputation of going for architectorial grandiosity, the Qatar organisers have ventured on constructing five spectacular new stadiums, dreams of material affluence to be seen here. Or, rather, these stadiums are being constructed by a huge herd of imported laborers, who have been repeatedly reported to persist and work under slave-like conditions (here, here, here, here), no matter how much Qatar officials have attempted to play innocent. This video documentary sums up some of the horrifying sides of this appalling affair:

Did I say "persist"? I'm so sorry! In April this year, under the heading of "Stop the carnage!", it was revealed by the Building and Wood Worker's International that at least 1380 immigrant construction workers have died since the preparations started in 2010, and "at the current rate, more than 4,000 migrant workers will die by the time Qatar puts on the 2022 World Cup", reports New Republic. Indeed, 4000! For a little bit of sports entertainment ...

FIFA, on its side of the fence has felt some of the pressure and made "demands" on Qatar to improve things, however, also making clear through its head Sepp Blatter – at the end of the video above – that the decision to award the game to Qatar is "irreversible". The latest effort on this matter is an impressive bowl of nothing, where FIFA on its webpages declares "We look forward to seeing the implementation of these concrete actions over the next months", with reference to announced coming labor law reforms in Qatar. Very handsome and sporty, as when the shit started to hit the fan in earnest in late November 2013, the demand was that "fair working conditions with a lasting effect must be introduced quickly". I'm sure the Qatar organisers as well as the FIFA executives all feel extrememly content with themselves as they glance at their latest balance sheets.

Anybody in for a little boycott? It's all very easy – just turn off or redirect your telly/computer/pad/phone in a few weeks in 2022, and the calculated add revenues will disappear into thin air. Even some pretty great players talk openly about it, so why not us regular audience people? Here's one Facebook page trying to assemble support for this cause and here's another.

1 comment:

  1. The BBC reports this is a hoax. Death rates of Indian workers in Qatar look to be lower than those of similar age individuals in India or (by a factor of 4), and even lower than Britain.

    The ITUC, though, is counting the deaths of workers in any line of work and from any cause, including road accidents and heart attacks.
    Some would argue that it was a bad idea to hand the World Cup to a country where so many migrant workers are dying - even if some are dying on construction projects unconnected with the World Cup, and others are dying in unrelated sectors of the economy.
    But the Indian Government says in a press release: "Considering the large size of our community, the number of deaths is quite normal."
    The point officials are making is that there are about half a million Indian workers in Qatar, and about 250 deaths per year - and this, in their view, is not a cause for concern. In fact, Indian government data suggests that back home in India you would expect a far higher proportion to die each year - not 250, but 1,000 in any group of 500,000 25-30-year-old men. Even in the UK, an average of 300 for every half a million men in this age group die each year.
    Tim Noonan from the ITUC believes the comparison is misleading. The migrant workers in Qatar are not only young, they are fit. "Qatar requires them to be given a medical examination to screen them for pre-existing conditions, so this is comparing apples and pears," he says.
    Of course, India is a very poor country and Qatar is a very rich country - the richest in the world in terms of GDP per capita - so it's perfectly reasonable to say that Qatar should do better by its migrant workers. But then it is.
    So is the figure of 1,200 Qatar World Cup deaths just meaningless? No, says Tim Noonan. He denies the ITUC came up with the figure just to get headlines. In fact he thinks the real figure may well be higher.