Exploited and Sexually Abused Qatari Migrant Workers Forced to Run Marathon

Migrants who work under severe conditions often akin to slavery were forced to participate in a state-sponsored “megamarathon” in Doha, Qatar. The marathon, which occurred late last month at 2pm when temperatures were at a blistering 84 degrees, saw workers bused in and forced to run, some in jeans and flip-flops. They were told they had to finish the race, in a failed effort to break the Guinness world record for the largest marathon. According to Amnesty International, the migrant workers face exploitation including physical and sexual abuse.


Qatar is on schedule to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, despite allegations of FIFA bribery, and it has brought in migrant workers to help with sports stadiums and infrastructure. The International Trade Union Confederation has estimated that 4,000 migrant workers will die during construction.

According to the objectives listed on the race’s own website, the megamarathon represented “a decisive response to the campaign waged by the sector of envious haters on the success of Qatar to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and to their false allegations of persecution of workers and residents in our beloved country.”

The Daily Beast reports:

Most migrant workers can’t leave their employer no matter what happens. They’re deportable at any moment, they’re very exploited, and it’s very difficult for them to access the justice system. When you put it together as a mix, it’s a highly toxic combination,” said McGeehan.

That’s why migrant workers who may have wanted to quit—or never even begin—the marathon may not have had an option to stop running. A spokesman for the Al-Sadd Sports Club. who bused in the runners, told the Daily Telegraph, “If they didn’t want to run, we advised them to go to their buses.” At least one witness told the Telegraph that the workers were ordered to keep running.

Al-Sadd runs the Al-Sadd Football Club, the winningest soccer team in the most competitive league in Qatar, the Qatari Stars League.

“Let’s go back to what we’re dealing with: You don’t have a choice what you’re doing—whether it’s a violation of dignity, or if it’s a danger to your welfare. If their employer wants to make them skydive, he can. That’s part of what the problem is here. This labor system enables this deathly inhumane system,” McGeehan told The Daily Beast.

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