I had an eight-hour stop over in the Muslim country of Qatar. My plane landed at Doha airport and I was excited as a visitor to view this new country. I was also aware that as a lesbian, any sexual activity with a woman would be an illegal act. This didn’t worry me because I am happily married and had no intention of engaging another woman in any form of sexual activity. Like the vast majority of homosexuals, we do not constantly dwell on the fact that we are gays or lesbians. I was concentrating on just being a visitor!
Knowing a Country’s Laws
Before entering Qatar, I knew these facts. It was simply a case of “when in Rome, do as the Romans do!” Homosexual acts between adult females and adult males are both illegal, so there is no recognition of civil unions. If caught in homosexual activities, unlike the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, Qatar laws punish the “offenders” with up to five years in prison. In 1995 an American citizen visiting Qatar was sentenced to six months in prison and 90 lashes for homosexual activity.
The Balancing Act
Qatar is caught between the religious demands of the Quran on the prohibiting of homosexuality and the western world where there are many laws accepting it. In 2008, openly gay George Michael performed in Qatar. FIFA (world cup of soccer) is being played here in 2022.
On the other hand, the Qatar government is aware that it employs foreigners, some of whom are gay. Unless homosexuals are careless, they are left alone. The government does not allow a visible LGBTI community to exist, much less a LGBT-rights movement.
Here are some pictures of my delightful stay in Doha. I took a boat out from shore to photograph the skyline. The amount of wealth is so noticeable. A taxi took me to a mall that was fashioned on Venice, Italy. It had a real canal and images of Venice on the wall. At this mall, I observed a woman completely covered in black (including her face). She was in a store comparing red lacy bras and panties.
Men and women were dressed in various attires. Some women walked beside their husbands – others walked behind. I ate a delicious lamb meal with ginger cooked in a Syrian restaurant. Everyone was courteous and welcoming to me and, when asked, were willing for me to take pictures. In December, the weather was cool so I walked along the water promenade called the Corniche.
In summer the temperature rises into the 50C.
My taxi rides enabled me to speak with various workers. Despite the riches of the Qatari citizen, migrant workers are at the bottom of the totem pole. I rode with Philippine and Kenyan taxi drivers. Both had families back home. Both were sending money home to educate their children. Both lived in dormitories of up to six other men. They worked long 12 hr shifts and added extra hours. Many have entered contracts for up to three years or more. Their passports are confiscated to ensure that they stay. This aspect of Qatar upset me, but these are incidents that I have no control over.
The 2022 World Cup of Soccer
The Guardian Newspaper has reported that Napelese workers have died from heart attacks at the rate of almost one a day. The investigation found evidence to suggest that thousands of Nepalese, who make up the single largest group of labourers in Qatar, face exploitation and abuses that amount to modern-day slavery, as defined by the International Labour Organisation, during a building binge paving the way for 2022.
Qatari Money and Modernism Hides the Misery!
According to documents obtained from the Nepalese embassy in Doha, at least 44 workers died between 4 June and 8 August. More than half died of heart attacks, heart failure or workplace accidents.
The investigation also reveals:
• Evidence of forced labour on a huge World Cup infrastructure project.
• Some Nepalese men have alleged that they have not been paid for months and have had their salaries retained to stop them running away.
• Some workers on other sites say employers routinely confiscate passports and refuse to issue ID cards, in effect reducing them to the status of illegal aliens.
• Some labourers say they have been denied access to free drinking water in the desert heat.
• About 30 Nepalese sought refuge at their embassy in Doha to escape the brutal conditions of their employment.
The allegations suggest a chain of exploitation leading from poor Nepalese villages to Qatari leaders. The overall picture is of one of the richest nations exploiting one of the poorest to get ready for the world’s most popular sporting tournament.
“We’d like to leave, but the company won’t let us,” said one Nepalese migrant employed at Lusail City development, a $45bn (£28bn) city being built from scratch which will include the 90,000-seater stadium that will host the World Cup final. “I’m angry about how this company is treating us, but we’re helpless. I regret coming here, but what to do? We were compelled to come just to make a living, but we’ve had no luck.”
The Guardian’s investigation also found men throughout the wider Qatari construction industry sleeping 12 to a room in places and getting sick through repulsive conditions in filthy hostels. Some say they have been forced to work without pay and left begging for food.
“We were working on an empty stomach for 24 hours; 12 hours’ work and then no food all night,” said Ram Kumar Mahara, 27. “When I complained, my manager assaulted me, kicked me out of the labour camp I lived in and refused to pay me anything. I had to beg for food from other workers.”
Conclusion from paula.
The experience left me ambient. I experienced kindness and was dazzled by the architecture and being immersed in a different culture. On the other hand, there was a reminder of repressive laws towards my homosexual sisters and brothers. I thought of these men and women who are forced into heterosexual marriages or the fear of migrant homosexuals. Qatar may honour the Quran, but overall, Qataris are not concerned about migrant workers. They employ non-Qataris as shields between their conscience and the migrant workers. Non-Qatari contractors employ these workers on behalf of the Qatari government. It is for these contractors to make the most money out of their own migrants. With the hosting of the World Soccer tournament, perhaps a light may be shown on the migrant situation. I hope it will. paula.