Already notorious for its exploitation of laborers – many of whom are literally working themselves to death for the 2022 FIFA World Cup – Qatar recently coerced its migrant workers to run in a state-sponsored “megamarathon” to break a Guinness World Record.
The marathon organizers claimed on the event’s official website that the race represented “a decisive response to the campaign waged by the sector of envious haters on the success of Qatar to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and to their false allegations of persecution of workers and residents in our beloved country.”
The reality, however, was far from that fluffy statement.
The workers were not even provided any protective sports gear, according to one unnamed participant, who described the race to Doha News as “one of the most disorganized and chaotic events” he had ever attended.
“The worst part of all was that there was a large mass of laborers wearing jeans, flip flops and no proper running equipment,” he added. “Some laborers tried to leave but were turned back and were yelled at that they need to stay and cross the line.”
After receiving complaints, one of the main organizers, Mega Gonzales Cervantes, posted a public apology on Facebook (now inaccessible):
“On behalf of Volunteering Team, we are very sorry that we have failed your expectations. We understand your disappointment and appreciate the inconvenience this must have caused you. Please be informed that the principal Organizer will get back to you and answer all your questions shortly.”
The so-called megamarathon also failed to break the record for most runners as it fell short by at least 17,000 people.
Although exploitation of immigrant workers is widespread in the Gulf states, Qatar increasingly known for committing mass abuses against its workforce.
Qatar is upgrading its infrastructure in preparation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup – which includes building large soccer stadiums and luxurious accommodations for visitors.
However, authorities have failed to provide adequate protection to its foreign workers against serious rights abuses, including forced labor and trafficking.
Immigrants make up almost 94% of Qatar's workforce, and nearly 90% of its total population – which is a lot.
In 2014, more than one migrant worker died every day building the 2022 World Cup facilities in Qatar, the Guardian reports. Despite worldwide outrage and criticism, construction is still underway and is expected to continue until the event takes place in 2022. However, by then around 4,000 migrant workers will have died, according to the International Trade Union Confederation.