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Zaha Hadid distances self from Qatar labour issue

"I have done my bit," renowned architect says, adding Qatari officials must "now do something themselves"

Zaha Hadid has designed the Al Wakrah Stadium.
Zaha Hadid has designed the Al Wakrah Stadium.

Architect Zaha Hadid has reportedly distanced herself from the Qatari government's 2022 FIFA World Cup preparations, saying the country should work on improving the rights of the migrant workers it employs. 

Hadid has designed Al Wakrah Stadium, the centrepiece of Qatar's 2022 FIFA World Cup preparations. 

Qatar has been in the spotlight for its failure to improve the working conditions and rights of the various expat labourers involved in the tournament's development work. 

In an interview with The Times, cited by Arabian Business, Hadid said she has "done her bit" towards the situation. 

“I’ve always been defending the stadia in Qatar and I think they [the Qataris] should now do something [themselves],” Hadid said.

“This comes up all the time. I’ve done my bit.

“I’m not a defender of the Qatari situation, but it’s important to get the facts right and then we can discuss it.

"I’m very happy that the press make the government aware of problems on certain sites. But it doesn’t apply to this site," she continued. 

Last week, Human Rights Watch slammed Qatar's updates to its labour law, which includes the oft-criticised kafala (sponsorship) system. 

"Qatari labour reforms enacted in 2015 failed to provide meaningful protection to low-paid migrant workers and left them acutely vulnerable to trafficking and forced labour", Human Rights Watch said in its World Report 2016.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW, said Qatar's reforms "undermined its progressive ambitions".

"The Qatari government should understand that protecting the rights of migrant construction workers is a necessary part of hosting a 21st century football tournament," Whitson said.

In October, Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, issued Law No. 21 of 2015, regulating the entry and exit of repatriates and their residency.

HRWs report continued: "The new sponsorship law refers to 'recruiters' instead of 'sponsors' but leaves the fundamentally exploitative characteristics of the kafala system in place.

"Workers must still obtain a 'no-objection certificate' from their employer if they want to transfer legally to another employer.

"The new law provides a grievance committee for cases in which sponsors refuse to grant exit visas, but the arbitrary restriction on a worker’s right to leave the country remains in place," it added. 

In December, the secretary general of Qatar’s World Cup committee said the country's labour reforms “may not be coming quick enough for some people”.

“There will inevitably be a lot of noise surrounding the way those changes are implemented, but Qatar is committed to progressing,” Hassan Al Thawadi said. 

He had also said there were no fatalities on any of the World Cup construction sites.

"The welfare of our workers is of paramount importance and we simply do not compromise our high standards.

"I just wish the same could be said of some of the media outlets who report these false claims." 

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