With the FIFA World Cup 2022 kicking off in Qatar on November 20, the Gulf state will be in the global spotlight. Since FIFA awarded the 2010 tournament to Qatar, the plight of migrant workers in the country has become widely known. Migrants and domestic workers continue to face a range of abuses, including wage theft, forced labor and exploitation.
But the treatment of migrant workers is just one of many violations that make up the state’s troubling human rights record. Qatari authorities suppress freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of association; unfair trials remain a concern; Women continue to be discriminated against in law and practice; and laws continue to discriminate against LGBT people.
Here are six things you need to know.
freedom of speech and freedom of the press
Qatari authorities use abusive laws to repress those critical of the state, including both citizens and migrant workers. Amnesty International has documented cases of Qatari citizens being arbitrarily arrested after criticizing the government and convicted after unfair trials based on coerced confessions. Meanwhile, Malcolm Bidali, a Kenyan security officer, blogger and migrant rights activist, was forcibly disappeared and held in solitary confinement for a month for raising awareness of the plight of migrant workers.
Qatar has little independent or critical media. The country’s authorities curb press freedom by imposing restrictions on broadcasters, including prohibiting filming in certain locations such as government buildings, hospitals, universities, migrant workers’ shelters and private homes.
Freedom of Association and Assembly
Migrant workers are still not allowed to form or join trade unions. Instead, they are allowed to form joint committees, an employer-led employee representation initiative. So far, however, the initiative is not compulsory and only covers 2% of workers, falling far short of the fundamental right to form and join trade unions.
Citizens and migrant workers alike face consequences for peaceful assembly. For example, in August 2022 by state authorities after protesting on the streets of Doha after their company repeatedly failed to pay their wages.
Fair trials are far from guaranteed in Qatar. Over the past decade, Amnesty International has documented instances of unfair trials in which defendants’ allegations of torture and ill-treatment have never been investigated and sentences have been based on coerced “confessions”. Defendants were often interrogated while held incommunicado without access to a lawyer or an interpreter.
Jordanian national Abdullah Ibhais, for example, is serving a three-year sentence after an unfair trial in Qatar based on a “confession” he said was obtained under duress.
Law and practice continue to discriminate against women in Qatar. Under the guardianship system, women need permission from their male guardian, usually their husband, father, brother, grandfather or uncle, to get married, study abroad on government scholarships, work in many government posts, travel abroad (if they are under are 25 years old). ) and access to reproductive health care.
Family law disadvantages women, who face greater difficulties in divorce and greater economic disadvantage than men. Women continue to be inadequately protected from domestic and sexual violence.
Qatari laws discriminate against LGBT people. Article 296(3) of the Criminal Code criminalizes a range of consensual same-sex sexual acts, including possible prison terms for anyone who “in any way induces, induces or induces a man to commit an act of bestiality or debauchery”. . Similarly, Article 296(4) criminalizes anyone who “in any way induces or induces a man or woman to commit immoral or illegal acts”.
In October 2022, human rights organizations documented cases in which security forces arrested LGBT people in public places solely on the basis of their gender expression and searched their phones. They also said it was mandatory for imprisoned transgender women to attend conversion therapy sessions as a condition of their release.
Despite the government’s ongoing efforts to reform Qatar’s labor system, abuses remain widespread across the country. While conditions have improved for some workers, thousands still face issues such as delayed or unpaid wages, denial of days off, unsafe working conditions, barriers to job transfers and limited access to justice, while the deaths of thousands of workers have not yet was investigated. Although a fund has begun paying out substantial amounts to workers whose wages have been stolen, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers have still not been compensated for the labor abuses they have been subjected to over the past decade.
Forced labor and other forms of abuse continue unabated, particularly in the private security sector and for domestic workers, most of whom are women. Paying extortionate referral fees to secure jobs remains widespread, with sums ranging from $1,000 to $3,000. It takes many workers months or even years to pay off debts, ultimately trapping them in cycles of exploitation.
With the FIFA World Cup in Qatar fast approaching, teams are preparing to compete for a place in history. The clock is ticking, it’s time for FIFA and Qatar to compensate the migrant workers who have been exploited and abused to make this competition possible.
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