The 2022 World Cup in Qatar has caused heated debate concerning whether the tournament should be played in the winter or summer. However, the distant prospect of the world's greatest footballers playing foot-to-toe in the desert heat is nothing compared to the harsh reality that Nepali workers brave on a daily basis. Official documents reveal that last year 185 Nepali men died working on construction sites for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The Nepali workers which leave their families in search of money to send home are not presented with a 'Qatari dream', but an inescapable nightmare.
During the summer I spent some time in rural western Nepal, living with a family whose men had travelled to Qatar. The family lived in a village largely centered on subsistence farming and the local school. I spoke to Maya, a mother of a three year old child. Her husband had just gone to work in Qatar. Maya told me that her husband's contract was for three years, and that the wage for the first two years was to be spent on paying back debts owed as a result of going to Qatar. No money would be made until the third year. Maya's brother had also left to work in Qatar, leaving his wife and newly born daughter in the hope of bringing back some prosperity. Living in a rural area and having little money meant Maya was unable to contact her husband. I never found out whether or not Maya's husband was working in humane and just conditions. Yet for the women who have lost their husbands, they have also lost their source of income, as the traditional gender roles in Nepal persist. The tremors of abuse are being felt in Nepal as well as Qatar.
The stories from The Guardian reveal globalisation's ugly face. It is reported migrants from Nepal are being subjected to overcrowded living spaces, dangerous conditions and in some cases, are not being paid. It has also been revealed that workers wishing to leave Qatar are not being granted the ability to do so. The 2022 World Cup is being built on the back of exploitation.
One of Nepal's holiest sites, Bagmati River in Kathmandu, is where Hindu families cremate their loved ones. One afternoon I sat on the top of the hill overlooking the rituals and ceremonies. Within sight is Nepal's only international airport. I noticed the arrival of Qatar Airways. The jet flew above the melancholic gathering of the Nepali people remembering the deceased. It was a dark image and a reminder that injustice remains prevalent in the industrialised world.
The 2012 IMF GDP per capita figures rank Qatar number one in the world. It is a country with significant geopolitical importance, as the government remains far from neutral in the ongoing Arab conflicts. Qatar's global economic and political rise is in sheer contrast to the stories of Nepali workers. To stage the World Cup is a status symbol. As Qatar pursues its new found status through riches and world sporting events, Nepali workers search for the simple status of being treated as a human being.