By Ken Reed

The Qatar World Cup has been tainted from the beginning. There have been widespread allegations of corruption and bribery involving Qatar officials and FIFA executives. The U.S. Justice Department concluded that Qatar was chosen as the host of the World Cup in part due to bribery.

To start with, it’s hard to believe FIFA actually awarded soccer’s World Cup to a country in which homosexuality is illegal. In Qatar, visitors can be arrested for being LGBTQ, and Muslims can be executed for it.

Moreover, in addition to the corruption involved in how Qatar was awarded the World Cup, and the country’s abuse of LGBTQ people, there’s also Qatar’s abuse of the migrant workers who built the soccer stadiums for the World Cup.

Human rights organizations say thousands of migrant workers died to make the games possible.

The construction of the stadiums and infrastructure in Qatar was largely done through a system called “kafala,” an exploitative system of bonded labor which binds workers to their sponsor (in most cases, the employer). Despite reforms to the kafala system (in theory anyway), the reality in Qatar was migrant workers on World Cup projects had their passports confiscated, according to Natasha Iskander, a migration scholar and professor at New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service. Additionally, they weren’t allowed to change or quit jobs without permission, or withhold labor for any reason, including non-payment of wages or dangerous working conditions.

During the past two years, migrant workers at each of the eight World Cup stadiums have suffered multiple abuses, including wage theft, physical assault and inadequate nutrition at the hands of major construction firms, according to reports by Equidem, an international charity and research group. At some labor camps, workers slept seven to a room. Additionally, in some camps air conditioning didn’t work during periods of oppressive heat, water was limited, and bathing required waits in long lines.

“The work was very difficult,” said Anish Adhikari, a 27-year-old migrant worker from Nepal through a translator. “We would not have even a minute to take a rest. Even we would not have sufficient time to go to the bathrooms.”

Qatar and FIFA officials want people to stop talking about social issues and human rights topics and just enjoy the soccer. That’s hard to do when one’s aware of the corruption and human rights abuses associated with this World Cup.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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