The proud Gulf state of Qatar boasts human habitation dating back to 50,000 years ago. It may not be the only country across the world with such an impressive historical habitation story. But what makes it unique is its skillfully planned preservation tradition, particularly its persistent touch on medieval, not ancient, history.
Qatar is the world's wealthiest country, or more of a family-run gas station. It boasts abiding by various aspects of the sharia (Islamic religious law), which, according to its constitution, it considers the main source of its legislation. In Qatar, flogging and stoning are legal forms of punishment. Apostasy (leaving Islam) is a crime punishable by the death penalty.
The Qataris, not knowing that their grandchildren would one day be the best strategic allies of their Ottoman colonialists' grandchildren, fought the Ottomans to gain their independence in 1915, ending the 44-year-long Ottoman rule in the peninsula. Independence came at last, and lasted for about a year -- until 1916, when Qatar became a British protectorate, retaining that status until 1971.
Apparently Qatar, along with England, is the cradle of football, as evinced by the fact that it will host the 2022 World Cup at dazzling stadiums, one of which some people tend to liken to a vagina.
"Modern day slavery" is the way many people describe Qatar's treatment of expatriate laborers on World Cup sites. "The fact that thousands must die to build 12 fine stadiums for us has nothing to do with football," said William Kvist of the Danish national team. Some 1,200 workers have already died and, according to warnings, up to 4,000 could perish before World Cup begins.
The family of a Nepalese worker, who died in Qatar while working on a football stadium site, prepares to bury him in Nepal. Foreign laborers in Qatar work in dangerous conditions, and Nepalese laborers alone die at the rate of one every two days. (Image source: Guardian video screenshot)
But there is something phenomenally weird about the world's wealthiest country -- and its Turkish allies. And it is not just about the fact that this Sharia-ruled Sheikdom has been trying to bring "democracy" to Egypt and Syria, nor about the fact that Qatar's best regional allies, Islamist Turks, recently built a military base in the Gulf state, hoping to bolster a Sunni war against the "heretic" Shiite.
Recently, Hamad bin Nasser al-Thani -- apparently a lucky chap from the royal family, as his name might attest (Hamad means Praised One, Nasser means Victory) -- chairman of the Doha-based Qatar Charity, praised Turkey for taking in millions of refugees from across the region -- he must have meant the Syrians; Turkey has not taken in millions of refugees from other countries in the region. Al-Thani also praised Turkey's "promotion of Islamic values," adding that "We [Qatar] are committed to helping the destitute."
According to a 2013 census, Qatar's total population is 1.8 million, of which 278,000, or barely 15% are "Qataris." What a colorful, heterogeneous and cosmopolitan life the world's wealthiest country should be offering to its inhabitants. Right?
According to the 2013 census, the largest number of expatriates living in Qatar are Indians (543,000), followed by the Nepalese (341,000), Filipinos (185,000), Bangladeshis (137,000), Sri Lankans (100,000) and Pakistanis (90,000).
By that account, Muslim expatriates roughly account for 15% of all expatriates allowed as residents with working permits in Qatar, or slightly more than 12% of the entire population of the world's wealthiest country.
How many Syrians among them? The statistics do not tell: there are just too few to mention. All the same, the Qataris praise Turkey's promotion of "Islamic values" -- whatever those are. Why not promote "Islamic values" by taking in even just a few thousand -- forget hundreds of thousands -- of Syrian refugees, instead of praising Turkey for taking in nearly three million Syrian Muslim refugees and praising it for promoting "Islamic values?"
Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a Turkish columnist for the Hürriyet Daily and a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.