Don't hate Zaha Hadid's new World Cup stadium because it looks like a vagina. Hate it because it's being built with "modern-day slavery," according to a new Amnesty International report.
The internet was aflame this weekend over new renderings of Al Wakrah Stadium, a 45,000-seat venue destined for the desert outside of Doha. Designed by Zaha Hadid and AECOM, the ribber roof structure struck many as, uh, vaguely anatomical. And while the renderings are super weird and fun and kind of awesome (see below), there's also much more somber side to this story.
Qatar plans to spend £86 billion preparing for the World Cup—remarkably, Al Wakrah is only one of roughly nine World Cup stadiums the government is planning to build over the next nine years to prep for the event. And they can afford it, as the wealthiest per-capita nation on earth. But the fact that they're perpetuating extremely abusive worker conditions to do so has slipped somewhat under the radar.
Last month, a Guardian report on worker conditions startled many, exposing human rights violations being carried out to build these wonders of modern engineering. Now, Amnesty International has released its own report on the issue, The Dark Side of Migration: Spotlight on Qatar's Construction Sector Ahead of the World Cup (PDF), based on interviews with more than 200 workers and dozens of employers.
According to the report, Qatar's population is increasing by 20 people an hour as the country recruits new workers from from countries like Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. In fact, 94 per cent of construction in Qatar is done by migrant workers, who are promised a steady wage and a safe place to live.
But upon arrival, they find a reality not quite on par with what they were advertised. Their IDs are confiscated, which prevents them from leaving. Their salaries are lower than promised. They aren't allowed—by law—to change jobs without direct permission from their employers. They will often not be paid for six to nine months, are denied the right to leave, and are forced to work 12 hours a day in 40-degree heat. Electricity, healthcare, and even food are often denied. Death on the job is not uncommon.
One interviewee—an employer—describes the workers as "cattle," while outside groups describe the situation as "modern-day slavery." Some human rights groups are calling for FIFA to revoke the right to host the World Cup altogether. "With Qatar and its construction sector in the international spotlight for the next decade as the 2022 World Cup approaches, the state's failure to protect workers' rights threatens to severely affect the country's international reputation," AI concludes. "Only fundamental change—including bold reforms backed with political will from the very top of the government—will address the issues documented in this report."
So while that vagina roof might be a joke for us, it also represents the dark side of a boom that's driving multi-billion pound construction projects across the region.
Check out a few of the other stadiums being built around Qatar: