“The heavy rains in Qatar within the autumn of 2020 have been a dying sentence for Mohammad Shahid Miah. The water discovered its option to the ground the place he lived and reached the electrical energy. When Miah stepped on the moist ground, he was electrified and died.”
Mohammad Shahid Miah’s destiny is unfortunately not distinctive. He was one of many 1000’s of people that made the journey from South Asia to Qatar seeking work and a greater future for his household, solely to return dwelling in a coffin. He died in 2020 on the age of 29. His story is informed by way of the medium of digitalised soccer playing cards, created by Blankspot, an impartial investigative journalism platform based mostly in Sweden.
Playing cards of Qatar are Panini stickers with a distinction. There aren’t any portraits of well-known footballers from Argentina, England or Senegal on their fronts, or blurbs about hat-tricks, data and trophies on the again. As an alternative, they present the faces of migrant employees from Bangladesh, India and Nepal; their tales are of betrayal, denial and unanswered questions, divulged by family members that have been left behind to select up the items.
There was a lot conjecture about what number of migrant employees have died throughout the 12 years since Qatar was controversially awarded the World Cup. An often-cited Guardian article from 2021 reported the quantity to be “greater than 6,500” within the decade after Qatar turned the primary center japanese nation to host a World Cup; the Qatari authorities has contested these figures, stating that between 2014-2020, there have been 40 deaths amongst labourers who labored on World Cup stadium development websites and that of these, three have been work-related.
Blankspot’s co-founder Martin Schibbye says that the intention of the Playing cards of Qatar undertaking is to “inform the tales concerning the individuals behind the statistics”.
“Each single considered one of these individuals had goals and needed to take their households out of poverty and selected to go to Qatar to work and by no means returned,” Schibbye tells i over Zoom. “Brit Stakston [Blankspot’s other co-founder] got here up with this concept as a result of her son had been a collector of soccer playing cards in his childhood. Now we’ve about 60 or 70 playing cards that we’ve made each digitally and as bodily playing cards.”
It has not been an easy undertaking to drag collectively. Figuring out the deceased and monitoring down their households posed important challenges that have been exacerbated by the darkest days of the pandemic. Schibbye admits it was “tremendous troublesome” to make a lot headway with embassies in Qatar unwilling to co-operate and supply info on the variety of our bodies being flown again to Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Issues bought simpler when programmes have been put in place for households to use for compensation, making a paper path for Schibbye, his colleagues and native journalists to observe. They reached out to these whose particulars have been documented, however discovered that a few of these contacted have been “very reluctant” to talk out about working situations in Qatar; partially as a result of ache brought on by the deaths of their family members, typically in mysterious and murky circumstances, and partly in case it harmed their hopes of recompense.
“The households have hassle getting compensation from Qatar and likewise from insurance coverage corporations,” Schibbye asserts. “And the explanation for that’s that on most dying certificates it says ‘pure dying’. I imply there’s nothing pure about people who find themselves thought-about wholesome earlier than they go dying of their sleep. No person actually investigates ‘why did this coronary heart assault happen?’ or ‘why did this particular person die?’.
“As an alternative they’re fairly fast to place them again on a airplane again to Nepal. If Qatar had needed to seek out out why this particular person had died they might have performed so. They’ve probably the most superior healthcare on the planet however they select to not as a result of that can indicate a number of different questions. Most of the households have been upset that no person had tried to determine what had really occurred.”
One of many relations who spoke to Blankspot was Nir Maya, whose husband Bine Bahadur Bishworkama had labored within the development trade in Qatar for twenty years. He died by suicide on the age of 52 and was discovered by his coworkers. His household obtained cash from Nepal’s Overseas Employment Board, his employers and insurance coverage firm, however are nonetheless awaiting a considerable bonus that he was owed.
“I requested her ‘do you wish to boycott the World Cup?’” Schibbye remembers.
“And she or he stated: ‘No I simply need the followers once they examine into the resort and stroll throughout the marble ground that was constructed by my husband to recollect him and honour him for a job properly performed’.
“He was a talented employee, allowed to deal with an costly marble and the ground is ideal. Any skilled taking a look at that ground can get pleasure from that craftmanship, the excellency in the way in which it’s been made. She simply needed us to really feel happy with her husband and simply know what he did for this World Cup to happen. Her phrases have been with me throughout this undertaking.”
The plight of migrant employees is attracting extra consideration because the match edges nearer. The Playing cards of Qatar undertaking was featured in a Gamers Tribune article by Tim Sparv, the previous Finland captain who has incessantly spoken out about human rights points in recent times, whereas bodily copies of the playing cards are being showcased in The Nationwide Soccer Museum in Manchester.
Schibbye hopes to talk to Fifa and Qatari officers in particular person throughout the World Cup, though with simply over every week till the opening recreation, that prospect appears more and more distant. Neither Fifa nor Qatar’s committee of deliverance and legacy responded after he despatched them copies of the playing cards, whereas he’s nonetheless awaiting a visa to have the ability to journey to Qatar for the match.
“I don’t know what the legacy might be for Qatar 2022 in 15 or 20 years once we look again. That might be determined now within the coming weeks. Will it’s this nice sporting achievement or will what we bear in mind be the individuals who constructed the nation however didn’t reside to see the World Cup happen?”