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November 2001 WTO meeting scheduled for inaccessible, undemocratic Qatar

No constitution. No political parties. Arbitrary detention in security cases. Restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, and on workers' rights. No domestic human rights groups permitted in this Monarchy. And round trip plane fare from Chicago for only $2,123. That's Qatar, host of the next WTO meeting.
The WTO Hides Out in Qatar
by Matthew Rothschild
Thursday, February 1, 2001

This week, the World Trade Organization announced the cite for its next big meeting.

You remember the WTO, don't you?

It's the trade group that occasioned the massive street protests in Seattle back in November '99, making Seattle synonymous not with Starbucks or grunge bands or Microsoft but with activism.

Well, it seems like the honchos at the WTO don't want any repeat, so they've chosen Doha, the capital of Qatar, as the host this November.

Get out your atlas.

Qatar is the little thumb of a country that sticks up from the eastern flank of Saudi Arabia.

To say that it's inaccessible would be an understatement.

I checked with my travel agent, and it would cost me $2,123 roundtrip from Chicago.

I don't imagine they'll be planes full of protesters descending on this meeting.

Getting there's just half the battle, though.

Protesting may be another thing entirely.

The State Department's report on Qatar, dated February 25, 2000, notes: "Qatar . . . is a monarchy with no constitution or political parties.

"Arbitrary detention in security cases, and restrictions on the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, and on workers' rights continued to be problems."

The report adds, "The government does not permit domestic human rights groups to exist."

Now the emir of Qatar says protests will be allowed at the WTO meeting, but somehow that's not reassuring.

While such a repressive government may be ideal for avoiding another Seattle scene, it's almost a metaphoric concession that the WTO is oblivious to human rights, labor rights, and the most basic input from citizens.

But this wasn't the thing about Qatar that troubled the WTO planners. No, that's what made it attractive.

The primary concern, according to the Wall Street Journal, was not having enough hotel rooms for the delegates in Doha. But Qatar solved that one by offering to put them on cruise ships in the Persian Gulf harbor.

Cruise ships off Qatar--ah, the glories of globalization.

Where to next for the WTO? Burma?

Copyright 2001 The Progressive, Madison, WI



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