11/16/2022, 11.35
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World Cup: Filipino nun waves red card at Qatar for violated rights

6,500 migrant workers have died on stadium and infrastructure construction sites. But violence also affects domestic workers, exploited or abused by their bosses. The German Church is promoting a campaign, relaunched by the Benedictine nun and activist Sister Mary John Mananzan. 

Doha (AsiaNews) - A red card to Qatar for the non-respect of human rights and the exploitation of migrant workers. Be they the workers engaged in the construction sites of the stadiums built for the World Cup, a "historic and controversial" event that will start on 20 November, or domestic helpers.

This campaign of strong symbolic value has been launched by the German Church and is supported by a Filipino nun (pictured), famous in the past for her battles in favour of rights as well as being a respected educator and theologian.

The campaign is justified by the numbers, which testify to a veritable carnage: according to the Guardian in the last 10 years, since the assignment of the planet's top football competition, about 6,500 immigrants from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have died in Qatar.

Many worked in temperatures of 50 degrees and in extremely poor living conditions. And it is no coincidence that the competition takes place between November and December, a rarity compared to the traditional schedule of June and July when the weather in the region is prohibitive. For the footballers, of course, but not for those who have spent years under the scorching sun building the facilities. 

With less than a month to go before the start, the German Church, through the NGO Missio, launched the campaign involving Filipina Sister Mary John Mananzan, a Benedictine who has been involved in many battles at home and abroad in the past. The nun waves the red card at Doha, a symbol of a policy of exploitation to achieve goals, which is also shared by several petro-monarchies and emirates of the Gulf. 

If, on the one hand, one in six Qataris can count on millionaire incomes, on the other hand, at least nine out of ten residents come from abroad and the vast majority are migrants from South Asia, South-East Asia and Africa. The cost of living is high, but the minimum wage is only 280 euro per month, insufficient to cover all expenses. Over the years, Doha has introduced some protections, but these are not enough to meet the legitimate demands for full dignity of the worker. 

However, situations of exploitation bordering on slavery do not only concern World Cup workers, but also many foreign domestic workers (173,000 according to some estimates) employed by the families of (more or less) wealthy Qatari citizens. And it is on them that the campaign intends to shine the spotlight, collecting stories and testimonies of people forced to work up to 15 or 20 hours a day, often for seven days a week, for only 230 euro.

Missio also denounces the abuse and rape that "nine out of 10 women" suffer in the emirate and without being able to benefit from legal protection, because the courts end up punishing the victims for sexual relations consummated outside of marriage, leaving the torturers unpunished. And when they denounce this abuse, if convicted, they risk whipping and imprisonment.

One of these 173,000 is Filipina Jeannie Dizon, hired to take care of a small child and then forced to cook, wash and clean for a family of eight people 15 hours a day, for a daily fee of about one euro. She started at 4 a.m. after resting for a few hours in a windowless room, the victim of harassment by her landlord, which prompted her to flee and return home but only after signing an abuse secrecy agreement.

This situation pushes women to accept the violence in silence, while still having to send money to their families in their countries of origin. Missio cites Nepal as an example, where a substantial amount of foreign currency comes from servants who have emigrated to Doha. Missio's 'Protect Women in Qatar' petition should continue after the World Cup. "This law," denounces Sister Mary John, the face of the campaign, "is cruel to the victims! Enough with this, it must be repealed,' she says firmly, while waving a red card.

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