By The Renegade
(All photos The Renegade)
"Economy class" herded aboard like human cattle, long legs are crushed beneath abysmally spaced seat panels, a million uncles begin to snore like chainsaws, a baby is screaming every five minutes. To every baby on a Qatar Airways flight, congratulations, you have arrived in a capitalist society full of suffering and oddities produced by an evasive oligarchy that you will scarcely see, hear, or meet.
After a Qatar Airways flight inundated with state airline propaganda, one lands at Hamad International Airport not upon the Gulf but upon a sea of maroon oryx tail fins and Qatar Airways insignia, walls draped in state-endorsed ads accompanied by the largest presence of “Private Security” one may ever find in a terminal.
One may step out and find pre-world cup Doha to be a class dystopia scene resembling Bladerunner. A Gulf State slave economy with more South Asian workers than Arabs, powered by a duality of Washington Consensus and Belt & Road. Prices jacked to accommodate oligarchy and keep workers impoverished, Doha skyscrapers peering over the horizon like a citadel, Qatari tax dollars going to a shady assortment of warlords and militias across Asia and Africa. The birthplace of Al Jazeera and its web of Qatari state media, the largest success story of Gulf State information warfare.
The average Westerner knows Qatar only by its advertisements, in football teams, malls, and airports, most of them via Qatar Airways. I even laughed at my own prior ignorance of the Gulf State, recalling the first time I heard of Qatar was in the They Might Be Giants lyrics: “Qatar, Russia, Suriname. Turkey, Uruguay, Vietnam, West Xylophone, Yemen, Zimbabwe” in their song “Alphabet of Nations.”
Today, few things make the Qatari state prouder than its World Cup hosting and mega-events spectacle, behind them the blood of thousands of fallen slaves. Qatar Airways, the soul of the state externalized, is the largest and most central pillar of the oligarchy. These two concepts, drowned in a state capitalist pool of maroon aesthetic, are among the very few nationalizing devices the Qatari state harnesses. Qatar as a nation-state is thus holding on by the thread of its monarchist oligarchy alone, which it requires backing from the Turkish state to reinforce. The monarchy has obliterated all community power, labor rights nonexistent. A handful of migrant slave workers organized a protest in August, and were then swiftly deported. Though protests over deadly labor conditions and bread crumb wages are relatively frequent, the state suppresses all labor organizing through brutality and fear.
Qatar is certainly not far off from US treatment of migrant workers, in fact, the Washington Consensus requires this brutality-enforced hierarchy to be duplicated across the world. As a Californian I found Doha to be an exported Arab hegemony version of Santa Monica: bright colors, tall buildings, flashy consumerism, a police state on the water, and an entire realm of cheap migrant lives building it all only to be discarded just below the surface.
A nation that did not exist before 1878, a pretty maroon flag obligating its subjects to reminisce about the Kharijites and long lost dynasties nowhere to be found. Behind it, a brutal history and present rife with the consequences of Portuguese, Ottoman, and British colonization. Slave economy instilled into a state constructed by empires, a common experience in the Global South. Slavery morphing into its capitalist form, and more recently, slavery enabling regional imperialism.
Today the Qatari state holds close relations with its former colonizers in the Turkish state, a relationship enabling widespread slave economy-driven destruction across the world. Reflected in the state’s domestic policy, a carceral system so egregious that it violates the lowest threshold of international law in the UN Convention Against Torture. Public shaming in floggings, stonings, and capital punishment, all to keep the slaves in line for a monarchist oligarchy with absolute control of the state. The rigid police state presented itself to me briefly when Qatari 12 came up to me in the airport as I was charging my phone in a public outlet—nowhere near anyone or anything—demanding I stand up and move to an “allowed” location.
I departed my layover in Doha with a renewed solidarity for those at the very lowest depths of neoliberalism, the global slave migrant whose name we will never know. A renewed understanding that unfettered slavery continues to asphyxiate underclasses across the world under the guise of capitalism and statism, and that abolitionism must elevate the global slave as well as the domestic one.
When you watch FIFA 2022, remember the slaves in Qatar who are behind the screen working tirelessly—and dying—for your entertainment. Fight for those whom you cannot see or hear, as they are the ones who need your solidarity most.