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Guest MINDSETTER™Tammaro: Qatar Airways Has No Place in Boston

Sunday, November 06, 2016


Advertisements for Qatar Airways seem to be everywhere in Boston. The ads promise a luxurious air travel experience far superior to the uncomfortable, cattle-car like conditions fliers experience on modern American airlines.

Hidden behind these appealing advertisements is a harsh reality. Throughout its tenure as a top airline in the Middle East, Qatar Airways has relied on human rights abuse to be profitable.  Qatar’s government has thrived off of their blatant denial of the rights of their workers, especially women. The exploitation of women’s rights goes to the lengths that if a woman is to get pregnant while employed by Qatar Airways, they are likely to be fired and can even have their wages confiscated. This transcends American political arguments over paid maternity leave.  Such acts would be considered unacceptable by American corporations, so there is no reason as to why we should not sever ties with corporations, and especially governments, abroad that uphold these principles.

Qatar relies on human rights abuses in every aspect of its economy. The small nation was awarded the World Cup by bribing soccer officials and is now quickly building the necessary infrastructure to host the tournament. They meet ambitious deadlines by working migrant laborers literally to death in temperatures well over 100 degrees. The British newspaper The Guardian reported that at least one migrant worker dies in Qatar every two days and that 4000 are projected to die before construction is finished. In comparison, only ten people died building Brazil’s 2014 World Cup facilities.

Due to the nature of their labor, construction workers face the worst work conditions. However, other workers, even highly skilled technical employees, are regularly oppressed. According to the global nonprofit Human Rights Watch, a migrant worker in Qatar cannot leave the country without their employer’s permission. That being said, employers can essentially imprison workers as part of a labor dispute. This has caused many employers to withhold wages and arbitrarily increase the length of time someone works.

Working conditions for migrant laborers resembles the worst abuses of America’s Gilded Age robber barons. Immigrant workers are charged a “recruitment fee” by their employee, paying for the right to be exploited. This fee can be as much as a year’s salary, so workers who come to Qatar with dreams of sending money back home find that their paycheck is just numbers on a piece of paper, destined to pay back the boss who is happy to work them until they die. Qatar’s law forbids unions, worker protests, or any other form of labor activism.

Claims by Qatar’s government state that they have implemented a series of reforms and improvements, however, they seem to be absent.  Workers still face daily impasses regarding debt and their ability to leave the country at will.  Qatar’s monarchy has complete control of their legal system and it gives no recourse to a migrant worker whose boss refuses to pay them.  

Qatar Airways also serves as an exemplar for denying religious freedom. They have proven that the open practice of any religion that is not Islam is strictly prohibited. However, it does not stop there.  Even the mention of differing religions is disallowed by the government and the Airways.  Both of these offenses are considered grounds for termination and even arrest.  Practices such as these have no place in the city of Boston.

As the birthplace of the American Revolution, Boston prides itself in its commitment to democratic values.  Qatar Airways poses a direct opposition to these values. The city once inhabited by John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and Benjamin Franklin should not succumb to supporting a monarchical government whose practices would have been considered exploitive in 1776, never mind in 2016.


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