Showing posts from December, 2013

Gulf states line up as targets of trade unions and human rights groups

By James M. Dorsey Gulf states are lining up as targets for criticism by international trade unions and human rights groups for their treatment of foreign workers. Qatar, long in the firing line following its winning three years ago of the right to host a World Cup, was joined this week by Abu Dhabi as a result of projects to build world-class museums, luxury hotels and a campus for New York University. Dubai is likely next in line after its winning bid earlier this month to host the 2020 World Expo that is expected to generate $7 billion in construction projects. A comparison of the fallout of media coverage and campaigning by trade unions and human rights groups of Qatar and Abu Dhabi highlights the power of the World Cup and soccer and puts the onus of responsibility for ensuring that hosts meet international standards of human rights as well as their own lofty ideals on international sports associations like world soccer body FIFA. As a matter of principle, ther

Human rights groups blast Qatar with a silver lining

By James M. Dorsey Human rights group again this week blasted future World Cup host Qatar for its treatment of migrant workers. Yet, amid the criticism was an implicit recognition that the Gulf state rather than stonewalling its critics has in recent years engaged with the likes of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. It now has to demonstrate that it is serious about enforcing change. Amnesty Secretary General Salil Shetty said Qatar could "signal that the government really means what it says about protecting workers' rights" by intervening with Lee Trading and Contracting (LTC), a company that the human rights group said had failed to pay its 80 mostly Asian workers for the past year. As a result, the group said the workers were running low on food and living in legal limbo because LTC as their sponsor had failed to acquire residence permits for them without which they cannot seek alternative employment. "I spent six months in Qatar but

World Cup emerges as agent of change in Qatar

By James M. Dorsey Qatar is taking a beating in the court of public opinion with almost daily headlines raising questions about the way the Gulf state does business. Yet, its hosting of the 2022 World Cup is emerging six months into the reign of Qatar’s new emir as an agent of change. Harsh working and living conditions for foreign workers who constitute the majority of the country’s estimated 2 million inhabitants have cemented Qatar’s image as a country that practices a modern form of slavery. Qatar’s failure to communicate its efforts to address the criticism in structural ways that go far beyond window dressing has done little to counter that negative image. That image is compounded by the tale of a French-Algerian soccer player who suffered serious damage to his career because he was denied an exit visa for 17 months as a result of a financial dispute with his sponsor, Al Jaish FC. For a mere €120,00 ($164,000)  settlement with Zahir Belounis, Qatar could have

Gulf Security: A Risky New US-Saudi Blueprint

RSIS presents the following commentary Gulf Security: A Risky New US-Saudi Blueprint by James M. Dorsey. It is also available online at this link . (To print it, click on this link .). Kindly forward any comments or feedback to the Editor RSIS Commentaries, at                                                 No. 225/2013 dated 10 December 2013                                                       Gulf Security:               A Risky New US-Saudi Blueprint                                   By James M. Dorsey Synopsis Eager to reassure Saudi Arabia that the United States remains a reliable partner despite its apparent rapprochement with Iran, Washington has backed a new Gulf defence arrangement which would strengthen Saudi Arabia’s regional hegemony that  has sparked criticism from other Gulf states. Commentary IN A BID to reassure Gulf states worried about a US-Iranian rapproch

Investment in soccer: A double-edged sword for Gulf states

By James M. Dorsey Saudi Arabia has become the latest Gulf country to discover that investment in European soccer to achieve national and corporate branding risks reputational damage when potentially discriminatory government and company policies are exposed. With Qatar taking a public relations beating for the working and living conditions of foreign labor involved in construction of infrastructure related to its hosting of the 2022 World Cup, second tier German soccer club FSV Frankfurt terminated a sponsorship agreement with state-owned Saudi Arabian Airlines Saudia. Club spokeswoman Ann-Katrin Hautk said the agreement had been terminated because the airline refuses to transport passengers who carry Israeli passports. US critics have called for the barring of Saudia from US airports. It was not immediately clear how much the sponsorship deal that involved placing a Saudi airlines model aircraft in Frankfurt’s Volksbank Stadium was worth. FSV cancelled the agreement