Showing posts from December, 2014

Qatar gambles that labour reforms will satisfy critics

By James M. Dorsey 2022 World Cup host Qatar has announced a series of reforms to improve working and living conditions of its majority migrant labour population that address material concerns but fall short of recommendations made in a government-sponsored study and demands of trade union and human rights activists. The litmus test for Qatar’s effort to address the most heinous aspects of its controversial kafala or sponsorship system will be a judgement this spring by world soccer body FIFA on whether the measures are sufficient to uphold the Gulf state’s right to host one of the world’s foremost sporting mega events. The Gulf Times, a major English-language Qatari paper with close ties to the ruling family in what is a controlled media environment, touted the reforms as evidence of the Gulf state’s ”keenness to better labour standards.” The announcement of the reforms was Qatar’s making good on a pledge to change its labour laws by the end of this year. The

Gulf-Iranian proxy war spills onto the soccer pitch

By James M. Dorsey A Saudi-led proxy war against Iran playing out in Syria and Iraq has expanded onto the soccer pitch with a last minute decision by the Palestinian national team to cancel a friendly against Iran. The cancellation officially on technical grounds came barely two weeks before Iran meets two of its Gulf nemeses, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, in politically loaded matches during the Asian Cup in Australia. It also highlights internal divisions among the Palestinians as Hamas, the Islamist group in control of Gaza, seeks to patch up its differences with Iran. Iranian suspicion that the Palestinian cancellation four days before the friendly was scheduled to take place is rooted in close ties between the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank headed by President Mahmoud Abbas and conservative Gulf states as well as Mr. Abbas’s deteriorating relations with Hamas. Iranian officials and soccer analysts doubt the cancellation had anything to do with socc

Qatar’s World Cup year of scandal (JMD quoted in Al Arabiya)

Qatar’s World Cup year of scandal Almost four years after FIFA’s decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, the country has had more difficulty keeping the bid than winning it, with scandal and speculation continuing in 2014. (Al Arabiya) Text size  A   A   A By Rajia Aboulkheir | Al Arabiya News Thursday, 25 December 2014 Almost four years after FIFA’s decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, the country has had more difficulty keeping the bid than winning it, with scandal and speculation continuing in 2014. The UK’s  Sunday Times  revealed in June a “bombshell” cache of millions of leaked emails and documents, some showing Mohammad bin Hammam, Qatar’s former top football official, allegedly using his wealth and contacts to help the country’s chances of hosting the tournament. Qatar  vehemently denied  any wrongdoing, saying its bid “upheld the highest standard of ethics and integrity,” and adding that Bin Hammam “played no official or unofficial

Potential UK club acquisition could help Qatar polish its image

By James M. Dorsey Qatar has booked two recent successes in what has become an uphill struggle to improve its tarnished image: a papering over of its rift with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates sparked by Qatari support for the Muslim Brotherhood and reports that it may be interested in acquiring London Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur FC. The successes come against the backdrop of a host of news reports that have done little to polish Qatar’s controversial image. The possible Tottenham acquisition could generate a counter dote but risks reviving debate whether Gulf states are in part using the purchase of high profile soccer clubs as a reputational management tool or in the words of human rights critics reputation laundering. To be sure, Qatar’s reported interest in Tottenham is driven by more than its immediate reputational issues. Like its Gulf rival, the United Arab Emirates which owns Manchester City FC, Qatar has long been believed to want an Eng

From Syria and Iraq to Iran: Kurdish Minorities Push For Autonomy

RSIS Commentary is a platform to provide timely and, where appropriate, policy-relevant commentary and analysis of topical issues and contemporary developments. The views of the authors are their own and do not represent the official position of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, NTU. These commentaries may be reproduced electronically or in print with prior permission from RSIS and due recognition to the author(s) and RSIS. Please email: for feedback to the Editor RSIS Commentary, Yang Razali Kassim.  No. 248/2014 dated 18 December 2014 From Syria and Iraq to Iran: Kurdish Minorities Push For Autonomy By James M. Dorsey Synopsis While Syrian and Iraqi Kurds battle against the Islamic State organisation, Sunni Muslim Iranian Kurds are campaigning for greater rights within the mainly Shiite Islamic republic. President Rouhani’s approach appears to be producing results. Commentary MORE THAN than three years

Gulf human rights declaration increases heat on Qatar to act on migrant workers’ rights

By James M. Dorsey The adoption of a human rights declaration by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that was designed to shield wealthy Gulf monarchies including 2022 World Cup host Qatar from criticism by human rights and trade union activists is likely to increase pressure on the sports-focused Gulf state to significantly alter its controversial migrant labour system. The declaration by the GCC which groups Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman was adopted earlier this month at a summit of Gulf leaders in the Qatari capital Doha. The declaration signalled the GCC’s refusal to recognize its citizen’s political rights including the right to freedom of thought and expression. It did however acknowledge that “people are equal in dignity and humanity, in rights and freedoms, and equal before the law” with “no distinction between them for reasons of origin, gender, religion, language, colour, or any other form of distinction.” That ackn

Government and fans battle in court and on the pitch in Egypt and Turkey

Ahlawy: Football is for Fans (Source: Ahram Online /   Shereen Abd El-Azeem By James M. Dorsey Egyptian and Turkish soccer pitches are set to re-emerge as battlegrounds between militant, street battle-hardened fans and authoritarian leaders in a life and death struggle that involves legal proceedings to brand the supporters as terrorists and efforts to undermine their widespread popular base. Egyptian fans, barely a week after storming a Cairo stadium in advance of an African championship final, have vowed to break open Egyptian premier league games that have been closed to the public for much of the past four years. Fans played a key role in mass anti-government protests that in 2011 toppled President Hosni Mubarak. Similarly a nationwide boycott of a government electronic ticketing system in Turkey viewed by fans who were prominent in last year’s Gezi Park protests against the country’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as a way of identifying them and barring them fr

Blood Sport: The Ultras White Knights vs. Mortada Mansour (JMD quoted in LA Review of Books)

Blood Sport: The Ultras White Knights vs. Mortada Mansour  by  Patrick Keddie December 10th, 2014 RESET - + LATE AT NIGHT, waiting as instructed by the Opera House on the island of Zamalek, my phone rings. “You know the lions by the bridge? Meet us there.” I go to the statues standing sentry at the bridge over the Nile, then another call comes in. “You are by the lions? Good. Come onto the bridge, we’ll pick you up.” I wander onto Qasr al-Nil. It is thronged with young couples enjoying the cool Cairo night. A final phone call: “Okay. We see you, wait there.” A car pulls up with three young men in it. I get in and we speed away from the center of the city. They don’t hang around because they fear the police are after them. They move houses and change their phone numbers every couple of days, and they don’t dare visit their families. “It’s a sacrifice,” says one, “but not like the sacrifice those in jail are making.” The young men are leading members of the Ultras White