Last week I wrote in the Observer about Qatar’s treatment of the hundreds of thousands of migrant labourers, who will build the stadiums and hotels for the 2022 World Cup. They were dying at a rate of one day. They had to cope with inhuman conditions and labour laws that treated them as serfs by giving employers the power to break contracts and stop them leaving the country if they complained. The absolute Qatari monarchy ran a kind of apartheid system, I said. It denied rights it granted the natives to poor workers from Nepal and India. If the image of the old South Africa did not appeal, I offered Sparta as an alternative – ‘but instead of a warrior elite living off the labour of helots, we have plutocrats and sybarites sustained by faceless armies of disposable migrants’.
After publication, a couple of people contacted me to say that the Open Democracy website had published a ‘reasoned’ critique of my article.