For a Kinder, Gentler Society
The Glass Palace
Illusions of Freedom and Democracy in Qatar
  • Nasser Beydoun with Jennifer Baum
Reviews Table of Contents Introduction «Back
The Glass Palace. Illusions of Freedom and Democracy in Qatar
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Slave labor in Qatar? When Americans read that Qatar is our ally, an oil-rich and modern jewel in the midst of Arabia, few of us have any idea what Qatar is or how it is run. 'Contract labor' in Qatar is surprisingly close to slave labor, and there is not a hint of democracy or justice in sight.

American businessman Nasser Beydoun found out for himself how the Qataris are moving so quickly ahead when he embarked on an exciting new career path, leaving his hometown of Dearborn, Michigan, to move to Qatar to manage the opening of several chain restaurants as part of the sudden economic boom there.

It didn’t take long for the deal to turn sour, but Beydoun didn’t realize the extent of his problem until he tried to leave the country—and was stopped at the border.


About the Author

Nasser M. Beydoun was the Executive Director of the American–Arab Chamber of Commerce in Dearborn, Michigan. Shortly after the 9/11 tragedy, they were looking for ways to work with the Arab world and Arab governments to build a better understanding between the Arab world and the United States. Qatar was one of the few Arab governments that took an active interest in the Arab-American community and provided support for such initiatives. Nasser found himself befriended by many Arab businessmen and, given his expertise in developing food franchises, he was eventually persuaded to move temporarily to Qatar to help develop a restaurant holding company. The rest is history.

Jennifer Baum owns and directs a marketing and writing service company and has fifteen years experience writing and editing original pieces from news and marketing materials to fiction, and coaching and advising writers on their own projects.

About the Book

Smarting at being outshone by neighboring Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the Sheikh of Qatar is ambitiously propelling his realm from its perch in the sun-blasted desert north of Saudi Arabia to the center of the world's stage. Qatar hit the...

Smarting at being outshone by neighboring Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the Sheikh of Qatar is ambitiously propelling his realm from its perch in the sun-blasted desert north of Saudi Arabia to the center of the world's stage. Qatar hit the "fast-forward" button by bringing in foreign labor, from dishwashers to successful executives. And they cut corners on everything we know as workers rights.

When Mr. Beydoun accepted an offer to work in Qatar in 2007, the population of this tiny, insular sheikhdom had jumped from 400,000 to 1.6 million in just seven years (around 250,000 actual Qatari citizens and over 1,350,000 guest workers, or indentured servants), while its per capita GDP had skyrocketed to among the highest in the world. Investments were flowing into the region, and the possibilities for business expansion seemed endless.

However, under Qatari labor law, in order for a foreign worker to leave the country, an exit permit is needed from the Qatari sponsor. This book chronicles Beydoun’s experience working in Qatar and delves into Qatar’s feudal work-sponsorship system, showing that an economic great leap forward is not necessarily accompanied by modernization, despite superficial emblems; that prosperity and democracy need not go hand in hand; and that being a US ally may be totally unrelated to any notion of human rights or personal liberties.

There are other Western expats still trapped in Qatar.  Recently an international scandal broke out over a French soccer player, Zahir Belounis, who was denied an exit visa in a pay dispute and was stranded for two years until the intervention of FIFA. Yet despite the hazards and unfairness of this kafala system, American workers, students and others blithely interact with Qatar as if it were a "normal"  (i.e., Westernized) nation where one may navigate with confidence. It is nothing of the sort.


Table of Contents
Introduction Chapter 1: An Economic Hostage in Qatar   1995: A New Qatar Begins to Take Shape Stunning Economic and Population Growth Understanding the Qat

Introduction

Chapter 1: An Economic Hostage in Qatar

 

  • 1995: A New Qatar Begins to Take Shape Stunning Economic and Population Growth
  • Understanding the Qatari Population
  • A Plan to Move Away from a Carbon-based Economy
  • Setting the Stage for 2022Â’s World Cup 

 

Chapter 2: A Wannabe Superpower: QatarÂ’s Political and Military Involvement throughout the Middle East

Lebanon 

 

  • Israel 
  • Sudan 
  • Yemen 
  • Tunisia 
  • Egypt 
  • Libya 
  • Syria

 

Influential but Ineffective?

Chapter 3: How a Totalitarian Regime has taken the Mantel on Bringing Democracy to the Region

The Guise of Democracy in Qatar A Decidedly Un-free Society 

  • Women 
  • Workplace and Working Conditions 
  • Noncitizen Rights 
  • Religious Freedoms 
  • Internet Freedoms and Freedom of Speech 

  • Annual Democracy Forums Hosted by a Totalitarian Regime 
  • Using Al Jazeera as the Mouthpiece of the Government 

  • Doha Debates Shaping the Perception of Youth—in Qatar and Elsewhere 
  • Promoting Democracy? Or Disillusioned Dreams of Controlling the World? 

 Chapter 4: A Sponsorship System Akin to Slavery

  • Beyond the GCC: an in-depth look at the kafala system in Qatar 
  • Filing Complaints and Demonstrating, Despite a Culture of Silence 
  • A Country where the Vast Majority of its Population Has No Rights 

Chapter 5: The Cost of Doing Business in Qatar

Chapter 6: The Opportunity of a Lifetime

Chapter 7: Arabian Nightmares

Chapter 8: Banned from Leaving

  • Criminal Charges
  • Human Rights Department

Chapter 9: Life in Qatar and the Never-ending Attempts to Remove the Travel Ban

  • U.S. Embassy
  • Removing the Travel Ban
  • Bounced Checks

Chapter 10: Going Public

  • Setting the Record Straight
  • Facebook, Twitter & the Media
  • The Audit Committee

Chapter 11: The Real Doha, Behind the Fancy Façade

  • Life on The Pearl
  • Day to Day Life
  • The Final Days
  • Arriving in Beirut
  • Detroit

Chapter 12: Moving On

Appendix I: It Could Happen to You: Western Companies Operating in Qatar (And Why They Are)

  • American Education in the Gulf Desert
  • Research & Development to Bolster QatarÂ’s Knowledge-based Economy
  • ExxonMobil: An American Behemoth in Qatar
  • A Growing Financial Services Sector
  • Rumors of Corruption and the Danger to Foreign Workers

Appendix II: Other Westerners Trapped in Qatar

  • David Proctor 
  • Philippe Bogaert
  • Other Victims

Appendix III: Advice to Americans Looking to Work Abroad

Bibliography


More Information
LAST year, Theresa M. Dantes signed a contract with an employment agency in the Philippines to come here to work as a housemaid for $400 a month, plus room and board. But when she arrived, her employer said he would pay her only $250. She acquiesced; her family back in Quezon City depended on her earnings. 

Other surprises quickly followed. Ms. Dantes, 29, said she was fed one meal a day, leftovers from the family’s lunch: “If no leftovers, I didn’t eat.” She worked seven days a week....

LAST year, Theresa M. Dantes signed a contract with an employment agency in the Philippines to come here to work as a housemaid for $400 a month, plus room and board. But when she arrived, her employer said he would pay her only $250. She acquiesced; her family back in Quezon City depended on her earnings. 

Other surprises quickly followed. Ms. Dantes, 29, said she was fed one meal a day, leftovers from the family’s lunch: “If no leftovers, I didn’t eat.” She worked seven days a week. When she finished work in her employer’s house, she was forced to clean his mother-in-law’s house, and then his sister’s.

After eight months, Ms. Dantes tried to leave. Her boss laughed. “You can’t quit,” he told her.

Under kafala, the system that governs the working lives of every foreigner employed in Qatar, Ms. Dantes could not resign without her employer’s permission.... A worker cannot change jobs, leave the country, get a driver’s license, rent a home or open a checking account without the permission of his or her employer-sponsor, or kafeel. And a kafeel also can withdraw sponsorship at almost any time and send the employee home.

Perhaps a million foreign workers are expected to arrive in the next few years to help build nine new stadiums and $20 billion in roads needed by 2022, when Qatar will host the World Cup. Many of these workers will labor under near-feudal conditions that Human Rights Watch has likened to "forced labor."

It’s not just housemaids and other low-skilled workers who are the victims.

An Arab-American businessman, Nasser Beydoun, said he spent 685 days as an “economic hostage” in Doha before he was released in October 2011. After he quit as chief executive of a local restaurant chain, his former employer denied him a permit to leave Qatar. “Foreign workers in Qatar are modern-day slaves to their local employers,” Mr. Beydoun, who now lives in Detroit, told me. “The local Qatari owns you.” 

Excerpte from The New York Times, "Indentured Servitude in the Persian Gulf," By RICHARD MORIN, Published: April 12, 2013



Pages 180
Year: 2012
BISAC: POL004000 POLITICAL SCIENCE / Civil Rights
BISAC: POL007000 POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Ideologies / Democracy
BISAC: POL042030 POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Ideologies / Fascism & Totalitarianism
Soft Cover
ISBN: 978-0-87586-954-4
Price: USD 22.95
Hard Cover
ISBN: 978-0-87586-955-1
Price: USD 32.95
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