In the wake of recent scandals involving the horrific and frequently fatal working conditions in Qatar in anticipation of the 2022 World cup, Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) has plans to take on and train Qatari police officers. It is to be a four-year police science degree undertaken at the Greater Manchester Police Force and the National College of Policing.
A brutal regime
Amnesty International has deemed Qatar’s ‘sponsorship’ method (kalafa) concerning foreign employment as something that is highly restrictive and lacking in terms of migrant workers’ rights. We can see the evidence of such a method in reports of the construction of the infrastructure for the World Cup.
The Indian Embassy in Doha has confirmed that 233 Indian workers in Qatar died in 2010, 239 in 2011, 237 in 2012, 241 in 2013 and a further 24 in January 2014, totalling to a staggering 974 deaths over the last four years. The World Cup deaths alone (Qatar was awarded the World Cup in December 2010) come to a recorded 717 deaths. Additionally, 185 Nepalese workers have also died in Qatar, bringing the total to 382 deaths in just over two years.
MMU then is planning to train police officers for a regime that overtly exploits and lethally endangers migrant workers who have no representation to organise a response, and work for a regime which clearly treats them as second-rate citizens, if not second-rate human beings.
Moreover, in an act of spectacular hypocrisy MMU has agreed these plans having just recently promoted LGBT equality in a LGBT history month earlier this year. In Qatar LGBT equality is lacking, acts of homosexuality can be sentenced with up to five years imprisonment. Unlike other equally repressive nations however, Qatar is exceptional in that it does not make allowances for Westerners or foreign nationals to be immune from punitive action based on sexuality. In 1995, for example, an American citizen visiting Qatar was sentenced to six months in prison and 90 lashes for homosexuality.
Qatar is involved in funnelling arms to various conflicts all over the Arab world, including the rebel opposition in Syria against Assad. However Qatar is somewhat exceptional in that its rulers have no qualms about selling even the most extreme weapons such as heat-seeking shoulder-fired missiles, technological arms that no one (not even America and the Obama administration) is comfortable circulating around the increasingly violent conflicts in the Middle-East.
Qatar’s Al Thani-ruled regime, like the Saudis, is a centralised government ruled by a royal family and extracts its influence and economic dominance as a ruling class through the practice of ‘patronage’ inherent in Sheikhly authority. Persian Gulf rulers ‘act figuratively as the fathers of their countries.’ The way this is realised economically (rather than purely ideologically) is through establishing extensive welfare provision to meet some of the needs of the working class coupled with the Sheikh’s use of the patronage networks and clientalism to ensure that capitalism works directly in the interests of the Al Thanis.
With the discovery of oil (and rent income bolstering the coffers) Al Thani rule is effectively cemented and has stifled the previously initiated social liberalisation of Qatar. Qatar’s ‘extensive patronage network has directly undermined the potential emergence of an autonomous, politically independent Qatari civil society,’ as in ‘non-democratic polities, civil society organizations tend to emerge under conditions of state incapacity or inability to deliver some key social services.’ In short, Qatar has been able to resist revolution, even bourgeois democratic revolution, as it has been able to throw some crumbs to the workers from the fabulously wealthy table of the ruling class.
In face of these facts of how Qatar is governed, and where its rulers’ interests lie, it is scandalous that MMU has agreed so openly to help train the police of such a clearly repressive, reactionary and profiteering-based regime.
The working class in Qatar are unceasingly worked to death with institutionalised indifference to their plight. Amnesty International reported that ‘a significant number of employers effectively leave their employees ‘undocumented’, by not making arrangements for them to be issued with residence permits and the accompanying ID card,’ that in turn leaves them at the mercy of the police who ‘often assume those without valid residence permits to have ‘absconded’ from their employers – a criminal offence’ as anyone ‘without a valid permit and accompanying ID card is at risk of arrest by police, who regularly stop migrant workers to check their papers.’
The effects of austerity
However, it should not come as a surprise that MMU has made an agreement with a regime such as this. Universities in Britain have seen enormous cuts to their budget that have been covered only partially by £9,000 tuition fees. As a result they are being forced to throw scruples, academic integrity and all semblance of progressive ideas out of the window in a desperate hunt for profit. Morality under capitalism is nothing more or less than the pursuit of profit. Universities like MMU are forced to do deals with the most repressive elements of a repressive regime just to keep themselves financially afloat. This is the result of capitalist crisis and cuts to education.
But this isn’t the only reason why students should be concerned at MMU’s deal with Qatar. Qatar’s Al Thani regime is founded upon what is ultimately an unsustainable economic system, with the patronage networks kept in place by the assurance that the welfare state can keep people happy – reforms from the top that are supposed to stave off revolution from below. The regime is built on shifting sand as it can only be sustained by that paradoxical notion in capitalism of ‘sustainable growth’. Maintaining such a growth as has been seen in Qatar will be difficult to achieve – Qatar’s largely unfettered capitalism (through the Sheikhly paradigm) cannot continue forever. The majority of Qatar’s populace are migrant workers, who are heavily exploited, compared with the small minority of actual nationals. 75% of Qatar’s population are expatriates.
Therefore Qatar has a rising and increasingly homogenous proletariat that can’t necessarily be won to ruling class ideology with appeals to nationalism or ethnic superiority. The ruling class are creating a migrant working class as their source of local production; this national difference emphasises the class division in society and so has the potential to develop class consciousness more rapidly.
In short, these factors, coupled with the Qatari rulers’ hostility to a number of other nations in the region, leaves the ruling class in a weak position. The ground is being prepared for movements of the working class in countries like Qatar. We can be sure that the police will be used against such movements, police that MMU are training.
Making the case for socialism
MMU has planned an agreement with a regime that epitomises capitalism’s most brutal elements. All students, staff and workers should fight such practices through discussions and action with friends, colleagues, unions, societies, clubs and gatherings with a view to understanding them as a growing trend in the increasing privatisation of education in favour of big business.
A protest against this as a singular issue cannot address the true cause of these problems; capitalism does not work in the interests of the working class and will always put the workers’ interests as subordinate to the insatiable hunger for profit of the ruling class. Workers and students must organise in opposition to such flagrant disregard of their interests. We must make the argument for socialism, as it is only with genuine workers’ democracy that we could really control the policy of the state and other institutions towards such repressive foreign powers. This is possible and necessary, but it will not happen by itself. We must all fight for our future in this society, or capitalism will swallow that up too.
 Amnesty International, (2014), Index: IOR 42/002/2014, Available at: https://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/IOR42/002/2014/en/75a913ae-6870-42ff-9f75-0fa317ff9698/ior420022014en.pdf.
 The Cornell Daily Sun, Inc. 4 December 2002. “Qatar’s Gay Rights Policy Under Scrutiny.”
 James Onley and Sulayman Khalaf, “Shaikhly Authority in the Pre-oil Gulf: An Historical Anthropological Study,” History and Anthropology, Vol. 17, No. 3 (September 2006), p. 199.
 J.E. Peterson, “Succession in the States of the Gulf Cooperation Council,” The Washington Quarterly, Vol. 24, No. 4 (Autumn 2001), p. 183.
 Mehran Kamrava, “Royal Factionalism and Political Liberalization in Qatar,” Middle East Journal, Vol. 63, No. 3 (Summer, 2009), p. 406
 Amnesty International, (2014), Index: IOR 42/002/2014, p. 7
 Amnesty International, (2014), Index: IOR 42/002/2014, p. 8
 Mehran Kamrava, “Royal Factionalism and Political Liberalization in Qatar,” Middle East Journal, Vol. 63, No. 3 (Summer, 2009), p. 401