Qatar lives off oil, gas and inequality, says professor

The view of the Persian Gulf from those arriving at the international airport of Hamad is the scenery for tourists to enter Qatar, a country that has the eyes of the whole world as of this Sunday (20). By hosting the World Cup, the place, which has an area smaller than Sergipe and a population of almost three million people, has an economy dependent on oil and gas, and now seeks to attract more tourists, as explained by Professor Antônio José Barbosa, a researcher in contemporary Asian history.

The retired professor at the University of Brasília (UnB) understands that today the country’s deepest mark is, in addition to the heat, the profound inequality between rich and poor, and the lack of freedom of its citizens. “It is a dictatorship, by the way, like all Muslim monarchies in the Middle East. There is no election and there can be no functioning political party”. Regarding customs, Islamic traditions must be strictly followed.

“The biggest problem, above all, is in relation to the situation of exclusion of women. For us in the Western world it is unacceptable. The World Cup will not alter Qatar’s internal conditions. It will remain a dictatorship and one of great inequality”. The professor puts into context that Qatar is one of the four richest countries in the world and, however, low wages are paid to less qualified workers.


Barbosa understands that the country has become involved with football as a strategy to generate visibility. “There was an awareness that bidding to host the event for the first time in the Middle East was a big move by marketing🇧🇷 By the way, Qatar has invested in football. But it was an unlikely country to host the event due to the year-round heat”. Unlike other editions, FIFA made the Cup possible in November and December, in the autumn, due to temperatures around 30 degrees Celsius (°C). In summer, it exceeds 45°C.

Check out the interview with the expert below.

Brazil Agency: What are the most important brands in Qatar?
Professor Antônio José Barbosa: Qatar is smaller than Sergipe, which is the smallest Brazilian state. It is a tiny country that has a single land border with Saudi Arabia. And it’s a new country. Officially, it emerged as a national state in 1971. It is a territory originally as a British protectorate. It’s different from the kind of colony we had, for example, in the 19th century.

A protectorate area has a certain amount of autonomy. While English rule was present in Qatar, the rich and powerful families were not affected and did not lose their privileges. It is as if a great power, in this case, the United Kingdom, protected that area.

This ties in with the geopolitics of the Middle East that emerged at the end of World War I. Everything there was Turkish empire. That’s why we here in Brazil mistakenly call Arabs Turks. They arrived here with a Turkish passport. Turkey was defeated in World War I. There the victorious powers, such as England and France, divided up the Middle East among themselves. The UK got a good chunk of the Muslim states.

After the Second World War, this changed profoundly. First, because the state of Israel emerged. Qatar, in fact, survived despite its very small territory because it is a country rich in oil and natural gas. For you to have an idea, from this war between Russia and Ukraine, the country profited a lot because it is a producer of natural gas and oil.

Brazil Agency: Does this translate into business power?
Professor Barbosa: Yes, and as it is a dictatorship, these riches are assumed by a tiny portion of the population, usually the Reigning Dynasty and the people closest to power. It’s an Emirate. In fact, we are talking about a society that is tribal. This tribal organization began to change with the emergence of states, but this tribal foundation is culturally present in Arab countries to this day. The country has difficulties with agriculture because of the small territory and the climate.

Brazil Agency: A country that is more modern in architecture and also unequal in essence, right?
Professor Barbosa: It’s a kind of urban modernity that you don’t see in the rest of the world. Those tall buildings with profoundly modern architecture that gave rise to cities. In the desert, cities like Doha, the capital, sprouted.

In this sense, civil construction generates many jobs. It shows no signs of stopping. But there is a very serious problem. Less than 20% of the population is native. The rest are people from outside, very poor people who go there to work and from countries in both Africa and Asia. Complaints about the situation of the workers who built the stadiums have gained visibility and the World Cup will help bring more information about this.

Brazil Agency: The situation of women is also worrying.
Professor Barbosa: Something happens in Qatar that is very common in Islamic countries. In general, the position of women is one of absolute subalternity. But there is a reaction. Now, for example, we have seen in these countries very courageous demonstrations by Iranian women after the death of a young woman who was under state custody and she was probably tortured and killed. In Qatar, the situation of women is also one of absolute subalternity.

Brazil Agency: In relation to oil, has this oil production, to a large extent, occurred since the formation of the state?
Professor Barbosa: In fact, since when that region was colonized by the English and French. Lebanon signed a historic agreement with Israel in economic terms. We are noticing a certain movement from some Arab countries and even from Qatar itself with a view to economic, commercial, scientific and technological agreements.

Everyone knows that, sooner or later, oil will cease to be the driving force of the global economy. I mean: there is an effort in various parts of the world in this sense of clean energy, such as wind and solar. This requires investment and technology. Oil is not going to run out tomorrow, but the tendency is for it to cease to be the number one source of energy for the world economy.

Brazil Agency: What is the impact for Qatar?
Professor Barbosa: I would say that the country is one of the three largest producers and exporters of natural gas. This is critical even if demand for oil decreases.

Brazil Agency: Is there any kind of similarity with Brazil?
Professor Barbosa: The differences are brutal. Perhaps the only cultural approximation we can make concerns football. Today, the residents there enjoy football in the same way that in Brazil it is our most important sporting and cultural event.

Brazil Agency: And has this turned into tourist dividends?
Professor Barbosa: Luxury international hotels give absolute freedom to guests who come from all over the world. They may drink alcoholic beverages, but they are not subject to those strict moral laws that fall upon Muslims. Regarding the place of attraction, it is precisely because of the modernity that it presents, especially in urban terms. In fact, one of the essential reasons why Qatar negotiated to host the World Cup is to open the world to the novelties and fascination that this modernity can cause.

Translated to english by RJ983

From Brazil, by EBC News