Human rights in Qatar

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The state of human rights in Qatar remains a concern for several non-governmental organizations, although there have been several noted improvements since Sheikh Hamad seized power in the mid-1990s. Under his leadership, the Emirate entered a period of rapid liberalization and modernization, while maintaining its Islamic identity. Among other things, the country is known for being the first country among Arab States of the Persian Gulf to allow women the right to vote.[1][2]

According to Human Rights Watch in June 2012 hundreds of thousands of mostly South Asian migrant workers in construction in Qatar risk serious exploitation and abuse, sometimes amounting to forced labor.[3]


Forced labour[edit]

According to the US State Department, expatriate workers from nations throughout Asia and parts of Africa are routinely subjected to forced labor and, in some instances, prostitution.[4] Most of these people voluntarily migrate to Qatar as low-skilled laborers or domestic servants, but are subsequently subjected to conditions indicative of involuntary servitude. Some of the more common labor rights violations include beatings, withholding of payment, charging workers for benefits which are nominally the responsibility of the amir, severe restrictions on freedom of movement (such as the confiscation passports, travel documents, or exit permits), arbitrary detention, threats of legal action, and sexual assault.[4] Many migrant workers arriving for work in Qatar have paid exorbitant fees to recruiters in their home countries – a practice that makes workers highly vulnerable to forced labor once in Qatar.[4]

Like other Persian Gulf nations, Qatar has sponsorship laws, which have been widely criticized as "modern-day slavery."[5] Under the provisions of Qatar's sponsorship law, sponsors have the unilateral power to cancel workers' residency permits, deny workers' ability to change employers, report a worker as "absconded" to police authorities, and deny permission to leave the country.[4] As a result, sponsors may restrict workers' movements and workers may be afraid to report abuses or claim their rights, which contribute to their forced labor situation.[4]

Domestic servants are particularly vulnerable to trafficking since they are isolated inside homes and are not covered under the provisions of the labor law.[4] Qatar is also a destination for women who migrate for legitimate purposes and subsequently become involved in prostitution, but the extent to which these women are subjected to forced prostitution is unknown.[4] Some of these victims may be runaway domestic workers who have fallen prey to forced prostitution by individuals who exploit their illegal status.[4]

The Government states that it is doing a good job with regards to human rights[6] and treatment of labourers. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was established in 2002 to safeguard and consolidate human rights for everyone subject to the jurisdiction under the state.[7] In a bid to combat Human trafficking, Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al-Missned established the Qatar Foundation on Combating Human Trafficking (QFCHT). To promote more awareness in this area, the Ritz-Carlton Doha, created the World's largest Cake for the QFCHT Sculpture.[8]

Qatari contracting agency Barwa is building a residential area for labourers known as Barwa Al Baraha (also called Workers City). The project was launched after a recent scandal in Dubai's Labour camps, and aims to provide a reasonable standard of living as defined by the new Human Rights Legislation.[9] The overall cost of the project is estimated at around $1.1 billion and will be an integrated city in the Industrial area of Doha. Along with 4.25 square metres of living space per person, the residential project will provide recreational areas and services for labourers. Phase one of the project is set to be completed at the end of 2008 while all phases will be complete by mid 2010.[10]

FIFA World Cup preparations and reported abuses[edit]

The construction boom in advance of Qatar hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup has reportedly led to an increase in human rights abuses. In 2013 Amnesty International published reports showing that unpaid migrant workers were left to go hungry. According to the report, workers are being "treated like cattle"[11] According to a report by the Guardian (and based on documents obtained at the Nepalese embassy in Qatar) dozens of Nepalese migrant labourers had died in Qatar in just a few weeks around in September 2013, and thousands more were enduring appalling labour abuses.[12] According to their analysis, current construction practices will have resulted in over 4,000 deaths by the time of the 2022 event.[12] As of December 2013, FIFA has investigated but taken no action to force Qatar to improve worker conditions.[11]

Immigrant labor and human trafficking[edit]

Qatar is a destination for men and women from South Asia and Southeast Asia who migrate willingly, but are subsequently trafficked into involuntary servitude as domestic workers and laborers, and, to a lesser extent, commercial sexual exploitation. The most common offense was forcing workers to accept worse contract terms than those under which they were recruited. Other offenses include bonded labor, withholding of pay, restrictions on movement, arbitrary detention, and physical, mental, and sexual abuse.[13]

According to the "Trafficking in Persons" report by the U.S. State Department, men and women who are lured into Qatar by promises of high wages are often forced into underpaid labor. The report states that Qatari laws against forced labor are rarely enforced, and that labor laws often result in the detention of victims in deportation centers, pending the completion of legal proceedings. The report places Qatar at tier 3, as one of the countries that neither satisfies the minimum standards, nor demonstrates significant efforts to come into compliance.[14][15]

The government maintains that it is setting the benchmark when it comes to human rights and treatment of laborers.[16]

In common with other Arab countries of the Persian Gulf, sponsorship laws exist in Qatar. These laws have been widely described as akin to modern-day slavery.[17] The sponsorship system (kafeel or kafala) exists throughout the GCC, apart from Bahrain, and means that a worker (not a tourist) may not enter the country without having a kafeel; cannot leave without the kafeel`s permission (an exit permit must first be awarded by the sponsor, or kafeel); and the sponsor has the right to ban the employee from entering Qatar within 2–5 years of his first departure. Various governmental sponsors have recently exercised their right to prevent employees from leaving the country, effectively holding them against their will for no good reason. Some individuals after resigning have not been issued with their exit permits, denying them their basic right to leave the country. Many sponsors do not allow the transfer of one employee to another sponsor. This does not apply to special sponsorship of a Qatar Financial Center-sponsored worker, where it is encouraged and regulated that sponsorship should be uninhibited and assistance should be given to allow for such transfers of sponsorship.

Barwa, a Qatari contracting agency, is constructing a residential area for laborers known as Barwa Al Baraha (also called "Worker's City"). The project was launched after a recent scandal in Dubai's labor camps. The project aims to provide a reasonable standard of living as defined by the new Human Rights Legislation.[18] The Barwa Al Baraha will cost around $1.1 billion and will be a completely integrated city in the industrial area in Doha. Along with 4.25 square meters of living space per person, the residential project will provide parks, recreational areas, malls, and shops for laborers. Phase one of the project was set to be completed by the end of 2008, and the project itself is set to be completed by the middle of 2010.[19][dated info]

Women's rights[edit]

Women in Qatar vote and may run for public office. Qatar enfranchised women at the same time as men in connection with the 1999 elections for a Central Municipal Council.[20][21] These elections—the first ever in Qatar—were deliberately held on 8 March 1999, International Women's Day.[20]

Qatar sent female athletes to the 2012 Summer Olympics that began on 27 July in London.[22]

Individual rights[edit]

Capital punishment[edit]

Qatar retains the death penalty, primarily for espionage,[23] or other threats against national security.[24] Apostasy is also considered a capital offense, but there have been no recorded applications of the death penalty for this charge.

Corporal punishment[edit]

Flogging is used in Qatar as a punishment for alcohol consumption or illicit sexual relations. According to Amnesty International, in 2012 at least six foreign nationals were sentenced to floggings of either 40 or 100 lashes.[25]

Residency and naturalization[edit]

Qatar is one of known countries of huge discrimination between expatriates and citizens, Qatar does not maintain wage standards for its immigrant labor, and does not permit labor-unions. Under the provisions of Qatar's sponsorship law, sponsors have the unilateral power to cancel workers' residency permits, deny workers' ability to change employers, report a worker as "absconded" to police authorities, and deny permission to leave the country. As a result, sponsors may restrict workers' movements and workers may be afraid to report abuses or claim their rights.[26]

Qatar's government is keen to protect the status quo and doesn't want to compromise its cultural values or standard of living by allowing foreigners to become a permanent part of society. The only route to becoming a naturalized citizen is by marriage to a national; even this, however, doesn't guarantee citizenship, particularly for non-Muslims.

In exceptional circumstances only, Qatar's ruler might grant citizenship to a foreigner who has provided outstanding service to the state over a number of years. A generous employer might reward a loyal worker who has made a major contribution to the company over many years by providing him with a work and residence permit renewable each year, till the employee reach age of 60. After one's retirement, however, the employer would have to be a figure of considerable influence to maintain this gift and satisfy the labor authorities. In this case, one wouldn't be a citizen, but merely be allowed to remain in the country indefinitely based on yearly renewable permits, in most of cases the retired person who reach 60 years old has to leave the country and end his contract but he can return under special visa granting.

Also Qatari authorities oblige the employers for not issuing a contract for more than 20 consecutive years, there is no chance for workers and employees to get the visa renewed if the contract has passed 20 years with same employer. this because Qatari government does not want to adhere itself to pay pensions or retirement end of service for people who lived for 20 years, and at the same time avoiding the dilemma that this person may ask for nationality or citizenship.

Children of foreigners born in Qatar don't have rights of local citizenship and automatically assume the nationality of the parents. Only if the father is a national of Qatar, the child will usually be granted local nationality and may later become a national of Qatar and obtain a local passport. if the father is foreigner and mother is Qatari citizen the child is not allowed for any citizenship rights.

In many cases, the child isn't affected, but any children that he has might not enjoy the same rights of nationality, citizenship, abode, etc. as his parents and grandparents.[27]

Gender equality[edit]

Qatari women have made significant legal and social advancements since the 1990s. Sheikha Mozah has been a vocal advocate for women's issues, supporting women's conferences, higher education opportunities and the creation of a cabinet level position in the government dedicated to women's concerns.

As a result of these advancements, Qatari women have many career opportunities, including leadership positions, in education, banking, charitable projects, health and human services, tourism, law, civil service and even diplomacy. According to the embassy of Qatar[28] women play various roles in the field of Education, Health, Legal, Journalism, Aviation, Banking, Politics, Finance, and Tourism.

36%–42% of Qatari women are in the workforce and experts say women are moving forward with more rights.[29][30]

In 1999, Qatar came to allow women to legally vote and gain senior positions in government, either by being appointed or elected.[1][2]

LGBT rights in Qatar[edit]

Sodomy between consenting male adults in Qatar is illegal, and subject to a sentence of up to five years in prison.[31] Sodomy between consenting female adults is legal in Qatar.[32] Sexual orientation and gender identity are not covered in any civil rights laws and there is no recognition of same-sex marriages, civil unions or domestic partnerships.

Freedom of expression[edit]

Freedom of expression is the political right to communicate one's opinions and ideas. A life sentence was handed to critics of government during the 2012 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Qatar to a Qatari poet Mohammed al-Ajami, also known as Mohammed Ibn al-Dheeb. Observers were not allowed to enter the court, and al-Ajami himself was not present at the sentencing.[33] All the information available points to Mohammed al-Ajami being a prisoner of conscience who has been placed behind bars solely for his words.[34]

Freedom of religion[edit]

Qatar's first Catholic church is not permitted to have Christian symbols on its exterior.

Qatar is a Muslim-majority nation, with 76% of its population adhering to Islam.[35] The government uses Sunni law as the basis of its criminal and civil regulations. However, some measure of religious toleration is granted. Foreign workers, and tourists, are free to affiliate with other faiths, i.e. Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Bahá'ís, as long as they are discreet and do not offend public order or morality.

For example, in March 2008 the Roman Catholic church "Our Lady of the Rosary" was consecrated in Doha. However, in keeping with the need to be discreet, no missionaries are allowed and the church will not have any bells, crosses or other overtly Christian signs on its exterior.

Office of human rights in the MOFA of Qatar[edit]

Article 21 of the law 39/2005[36] regarding ministry of foreign affairs stipulate the formation of "Office for human rights". One of its main missions is to prepare answers on the claims or reports of foreign countries and organizations on the situation of human rights inside the state.

Historical situation[edit]

The following chart shows Qatar's ratings since 1972 in the Freedom in the World reports, published annually by Freedom House. A rating of 1 is "free"; 7, "not free".[37]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "In Bahrain, Women Run, Women Vote, Women Lose" New York Times
  2. ^ a b Elbagir, Nima (2007-02-08). "The Tole of Saudi Women". Channel 4. Retrieved 2008-03-25.  Link to the full Channel 4 video report.
  3. ^ Qatar: Migrant Construction Workers Face Abuse Human Rights Watch June 12, 2012
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "Country Narratives". Human Trafficking Report 2011. Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, United States Department of State. June 2011. Retrieved 2012-01-21. 
  5. ^ "Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 — Qatar (Tier 3)". Refworld. 4 June 2008. Retrieved 6 December 2008. 
  6. ^ "Qatar: National Human Rights Committee report". Qatar National Human Rights Committee. 2006-05-03. Retrieved 2008-03-25. . According to the source at, the web link " the unofficial translation by The Peninsula team of the 57-page Arabic text of the report released by the National Human Rights Committee yesterday."
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Qatar: National Human Rights Committee Support Expats". The Peninsula via 2008-06-18. Retrieved 2008-08-04. 
  10. ^ Bowman, D (2008-03-02). "Qatar to build $1.1bn labourer city". (Dubai: ITP Digital Publishing). Retrieved 2008-03-25. 
  11. ^ a b "Qatar 2022 World Cup workers 'treated like cattle', Amnesty report finds". 17 November 2013. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  12. ^ a b "Revealed: Qatar's World Cup 'slaves', Exclusive: Abuse and exploitation of migrant workers preparing emirate for 2022". 25 September 2013. Retrieved 7 January 2013. 
  13. ^ "Middle East :: Qatar". CIA World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. 8 February 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2012. 
  14. ^ "Country Narratives – Countries Q through Z". Trafficking in Persons Report. Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, United States Department of State. 12 June 2007. Retrieved 25 March 2008. 
  15. ^ Labott, Elise; Verjee, Zane (12 June 2007). "India escapes U.S. list of worst human traffickers". Washington: Cable News Network. Retrieved 25 March 2008. 
  16. ^ "Qatar: National Human Rights Committee report". Qatar National Human Rights Committee. 3 May 2006. Retrieved 25 March 2008. . According to, the web link "is the unofficial translation by The Peninsula team of the 57-page Arabic text of the report released by the National Human Rights Committee yesterday."
  17. ^ United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (4 June 2008). "Refworld | Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 – Qatar". UNHCR. Retrieved 28 March 2010. 
  18. ^ "Qatar: National Human Rights Committee Support Expats". The Peninsula via 18 June 2008. Retrieved 4 August 2008. 
  19. ^ Bowman, D (2 March 2008). "Qatar to build $1.1bn laborer city". (Dubai: ITP Digital Publishing). Retrieved 25 March 2008. 
  20. ^ a b Lambert, Jennifer (2011). Political Reform in Qatar: Participation, Legitimacy and Security 19 (1). Middle East Policy Council. 
  21. ^ Miles, Hugh (2005). Al-Jazeera. 
  22. ^ "Saudi Arabia to let women compete in Olympics for first time". CNN. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 25 June 2012. 
  23. ^ Qatar: Death Penalty, Firas Nassuh Salim Al-Majali | Amnesty International
  24. ^ :: Crusading journalist wins case against Al-Jazeera
  25. ^ "Amnesty International Annual Report 2012 - Qatar". Amnesty International. Retrieved 19 March 2014. 
  26. ^ Qatar on 23 December 2012
  27. ^ Qatar: Is it possible to become a national of Qatar? 23 December 2012
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^ Ready, Freda. The Cornell Daily Sun article [1] Retrieved on December 4, 2002
  32. ^
  33. ^ Qatar: Outrageous life sentence for 'Jasmine poet' Amnesty International 29 November 2012
  34. ^ Qatar: Outrageous life sentence for 'Jasmine poet' 29 November 2012
  35. ^ 2004 Census – CIA World Factbook – Qatar.
  36. ^ Role of the Office of the human rights in the MOFA of Qatar according to the Qatari law.
  37. ^ Freedom House (2012). "Country ratings and status, FIW 1973-2012" (XLS). Retrieved 2012-08-22. 

External links[edit]