Where’s my government?

I posted this back in early April, however I just had to post this again for those who don’t visit ILQ’s forums.

There’s a lot of good in Qatar, and there’s so much potential but where’s my government? I know there are many that are working hard to make a difference, but it’s not enough!

In Islam, we’re taught that we should treat everyone fairly. We’re taught that we should be tolerant and patient. We’re taught that we should always help those in need.

Now’s summer time, and the summer time work hours have kicked in. So if you see any labourers forced to work then contact the Qatar National Human Rights Authority on 444 4012 or 431 6542. Nobody should be working from 11:30-3pm.

I’m proud that Qatar’s own Al Jazeera reports this.

On a side note, it’s funny how many ignorant people there are out there. There are even those who ‘assume’ that by the title of ILQ that it’s all about the good side. No it’s not. It’s about loving your country so much that you want to make it a better place. It’s about wanting others to love it to, and to do that, we have to make a difference.

Classic case of judging a book by it’s cover; or in this case a site by it’s title.

  • http://www.qatariadventures.blogspot.com Sybil

    Thanks for reposting this, Kei. This is the saddest part of living here. Seeing these workers’ sad faces on buses as their being herded back to their loosely termed “homes” in the evenings breaks my heart. Many of my friends get upset with their staring, I make it a point to smile & wave. So far from home in such conditions. If it’s what they want, so be it, but I have the feeling that many are “stuck” here. The forlorn faces of so many nannies here is heartbreaking, as well. How can someone take such a young girl from their own family and not treat them as their family when bringing them into their homes. There is a song with the lyrics, “Come on people now
    smile on your brother everybody get together and try to love one another right now”. Pass it on.

  • http://qatar.livejournal.com Marjorie

    Thanks for posting this; I’d missed it before. I’ve seen Al Jazeera’s coverage of similar situations in the UAE, but it’s really heartwarming to see them tackle the issue in Doha. (That said, what beach did they pick up their surfer dude reporter from? Even as a Californian I laughed to hear his accent reporting a serious topic. Expected to hear him console the workers with a “Bummer, dude.”)

  • Kei

    That’s Keanu reporting. Qatar bought him.

  • A.W.

    Thank you so much for reporting on this. As an expat about to move to Doha, this is one of my biggest concerns — joining a society where these kinds of rights aren’t guaranteed.

    Question: Do you think the government — specifically the Emir — take this issue seriously? I believe that over time, if these kinds of slavelike practices continue, many potential investors and tourists will be turned off from Qatar. A more positive way of saying this is don’t you think Qatar could be an amazing force in the region by being a model for fair labor practice? In the same way they’re promoting education through Education City and free press with Al Jazeera, wouldn’t it be in Qatar’s best interest to make a push to exemplify fairness and legality in its immigration and labor practices? It seems to me win-win. The “west” has many flaws, but one of its biggest criticisms of other countries, especially in the middle east, is that people don’t have enough rights, such as in labor. I wonder if Qatar sees the potential to shine here.

    Thoughts from a Qatari?

  • Kei

    Hi there A.W. In regards to the Emir, it’s without a doubt that I can say that this man is doing a lot for this country. They’re role-models to look up to; I say this with all honesty.

    The problem is there are too many issues to deal with and he’s just one man. That being said, the government is in place to do things in the best interest of the people. Citizens, tourists, or expats.

    If we compare Qatar to other countries, the situation isn’t as bad (but it still is). We see tons of companies getting fined or shut down yearly, but that’s not enough as a deterant is it? Because he hear about 800 companies and over facing penalities or warnings.

    It’s all in the name of greed and capitalism.

    Qatar is leading the way in many ways, and I strongly believe that it’ll come out of this heartless and archaic phase soon enough.

    I meet up with some Qatari friends that really want the best for this country from their hearts and are working hard to make a difference. What IS disheartning though is when other nationalities generalize us and don’t acknowledge that there are good people and bad people (whereever you go).

    Thank God the NHRC have been kicking into gear recently.

    So to sum up, we do see change with companies being fined, legislations being changed in terms of sponsorship, penalties being increased, NHRC enforcing basic rights etc… Qatar’s still a developing nation.

    Is it enough? It’s never enough.

  • A.W.

    Kei,

    Thanks for such a thoughtful reply. It’s not right to generalize — you’re right — about Qatar or the Middle East in general — or for that matter the U.S. or China or New Zealand. Every country has its demons and angels, and its share of skeletons.

    Greed is so sinister — look at what happened on Wall Street! But sometimes I feel that we are all a little guilty. I mean, how am I different from the a greedy business owner paying his workers next to nothing when I live in Asia or the M.E. and pay my help next to nothing — because it’s the going rate — knowing that that person would make four times the amount in my country doing the same job? Sometimes I wonder if I am any different. Tough questions.

    I read this amazing article in the Huffington Post about Dubai (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/johann-hari/the-dark-side-of-dubai_b_183851.html) and it was utterly shocking. It really, really shook me up. I was horrified to imagine so many people — normal people like you and me — going along with horrible practices because they simply could. The description of the expats enjoying their “slaves” was especially chilling. What I also found troubling/fascinating was the insights into the Emirati mindset — the anger with which they responded to western journalists (or anyone from the outside, I guess) questioning whether human rights and basic rights were being violated in a society so driven by greed. The few Emiratis who all described the same thing: their mothers or grandmothers had nothing, and suddenly they have everything and they think it’s fantastic. I suppose when it’s in that kind of context, it’s hard to make a case for equality.

    Like you, though, I do believe that in the end equality and fairness and basic human rights benefit all of us. We’ve seen over and over again how greed comes back to get you in American business: Enron, the banking sector, the car industry.

    Do you believe the average Qatari is interested in doing something to help the plight of others in Qatar, even if they are foreigners? You yourself do, as this post shows, but I wonder if the Emirati article is specific to U.A.E or more broadly applied. It would be great (if legal and OK) to start some kind of organization, a grassroots thing, that helped promote fair labor practices or expose (maybe via internet) unfair ones. Perhaps people can boycott businesses who are known to take advantage of workers, etc.

    One thing that seems crucial to me is to never allow companies to take workers’ passports or to not require exit visas. Do you think it’s possible?

    Thanks! I’m really excited about relocating to Doha…

Freedom of Expression

    Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which the Qatari Government is a signatory of states: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any medias and regardless of any frontiers.

    The Emiri Decision Number 86 of the year 2007 on the establishment of the Doha Free Information Centre marked yet another step towards establishing a State of rights and freedom of speech. The decision stipulated that the Centre be a non-profit organization, headquartered in Doha City, and have the authority to establish other affiliated centres inside and outside Qatar. It is worth mentioning that His Highness the Emir issued a decision in 1998 annulling the ministry of information, giving birth to a new era of freedom of speech where censorship was removed from local media.