The Middle East has become a focus of international criticism for a wide range of high-profile human rights abuses, including the mistreatment of low-wage migrant construction workers, primarily from South East Asia, who are working on some of the largest building projects in the world, including stadiums for the 2022 FIFI World Cup in Doha, Qatar. The head of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has compared the treatment of workers to ‘slavery’ who live in ‘slum-like’ housing. Foreign workers in Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and other nations, have virtually no protections and repressive governments show few signs of enacting effective reform to protect workers.

AWARE has grave concerns about human rights abuses in this region and seeks to implement measures that will ensure safe and humane working conditions.

Key Abuses: Qatar

  • The State of Qatar has an estimated 1.4m migrant workers who must get their employer’s permission to change jobs or to leave the country. This tactic prevents workers from leaving abusive employers.
  • It’s been reported that more than 4,000 workers who are building stadiums in Qatar for the 2022 FIFA World Cup will die because of deplorable working conditions.
  • Article 58 of Qatar’s Provisions of Law states that it is a wife’s responsibility to look after the household and to obey her husband. Also, marital rape is not a crime.
  • Gays and lesbians living in Qatar run the risk of harassment, discrimination and even criminal sanctions if their sexual orientation or gender identity becomes publicly known.
  • Regulations governing women, including for state-owned Qatar Airways, are so strict that women are subject to curfews, weight restrictions, and grooming policies that are out-of-touch with much of the progressive world.

Specific Examples of Abuse:

Key Abuses: United Arab Emirates

  • Human Rights Watch reports that migrant construction workers, who build some of the UAE’s most high-profile projects, including the Burj Khalifa, are beaten, exploited, and trapped in forced labor situations.
  • Employers in the UAE continue to withhold wages and benefits from workers, worker passports are confiscated, and migrant workers are housed in substandard accommodations.
  • Many workers in the UAE say their employers have failed to pay the full wages due to them and workers are forced to work excessively long hours without breaks or days off.
  • In the UAE, whose judicial system is derived from the civil law system and Sharia law, flogging is legal with sentences ranging from 80 to 200 lashes.
  • Human Rights Watch reports that in the UAE domestic violence is permitted under law: Article 53 of the UAE’s penal code allows the imposition of “chastisement by a husband to his wife and the chastisement of minor children” so long as the assault does not exceed the limits prescribed by Sharia, or Islamic law.
  • Consensual homosexual conduct may be punished by death.

Specific Examples of Abuse:

Key Abuses: Iran

  • Iran continues to be one of the biggest jailers in the world of bloggers, journalists, and social media activists.
  • In 2014, Iran had the highest number of executions in the world, after China. Crimes punishable by death include rape, drug possession, armed robbery and adultery.
  • Women of all ages must obtain her male guardian’s approval for marriage.
  • According to Amnesty International, “independent unions in Iran are banned, workers have few legal rights or protections, and union activists are regularly beaten, arrested, jailed and tortured.”

Specific Examples of Abuse:

Key Abuses: Saudi Arabia

  • The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has no formal penal code, which allows judges and prosecutors to criminalize a wide range of offenses under broad charges, such as “trying to distort the reputation of the kingdom.”
  • Women are physically punished if they do not wear compulsory clothing, are almost entirely excluded from political life, cannot drive, and cannot travel without a male relative.
  • The government is intolerant of dissent and represses its critics.
  • Homosexuality is illegal and punishments for those engaging in same-sex relationships include being stoned to death and public beheadings.

Specific Examples of Abuse: