January 02 , 2010

The Glass Palace

Illusions of Freedom and Democracy in Qatar


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), 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.

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“Adrift” features a poor woman who dearly wishes she would not keep disappearing.

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.Yet 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.

Bashar Assad and Kofi Annan joked about Qatar's behavior on July 10, 2012.

"They" are behind many things that happen in our region. They believe they will be able to lead the whole Arab world today and in the future," Assad said.
[Kofi Annan] concluded by remarking, "But it seems to me that they lack the population [fewer than 250,000 citizens] needed for such an ambition."This made everyone laugh.
 (From an edited translation from the Arabic Edition, released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), at
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