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Friday, October 30, 2020

Qatar sandstorm thought to contribute to death of Central Market vendor

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With reporting from Heba Fahmy and Peter Kovessy

As the sun came up after an overnight sandstorm blanketed Qatar, workers at the Central Market made a tragic discovery this morning: vendor Manzour Gaa’far had died while asleep in his stall.

Gaa’far was a colleague of several men who spoke to Doha News a few days earlier about what it’s like to be homeless in Qatar, shedding light on the living conditions experienced by some of the country’s low-income workers.

Manzour Gaa’far asleep at the Central Market earlier this week.
Manzour Gaa’far asleep at the Central Market earlier this week.

His body was found at approximately 5am when a vendor who works in a neighboring stall tried to wake him. When Gaa’far remained motionless, his colleague informed the Iranian man’s sponsor, who subsequently called the authorities.

While the official cause of death is not known, medical personnel from the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning (Baladiya) who took Gaa’far’s body away told Doha News that the sandstorm, coupled with Gaa’far’s advanced age (he was thought to be in his 60s or 70s), were primary factors.

A colleague of Gaa’far’s sponsor, Abu Abdullah, who was also at the market, said that Gaa’far had complained of an upset stomach and a headache three days ago, but had refused to go to the hospital as he didn’t think that the pain was severe.

He added that he had seen Gaa’far after work yesterday and that he seemed fine.

Housing issues

Technically, Gaa’far – who hailed from a Pashtun region on the border of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan – had housing in Qatar, according to his sponsor.

However, it was located far from the Central Market, where he worked long shifts. This made it impractical to commute each day, prompting him to sleep in his stall at night.

Workers at Central Market
Workers at Central Market

When Doha News visited the Central Market earlier this week, Gaa’far – who was injured approximately a year and a half ago when a car backed into a door that then fell on his leg – lay fast asleep on a dirt-laden cloth on the floor of his stall.

“He’s old, so he would stay here, but we don’t know if he had a house. If he did, he probably slept here because of the sandstorm,” said Abdullah, a 73-year-old hamaali at the market. “No one wanted to drive anywhere last night. We were with him until about 10pm before he went to sleep.”

Nick McGeehan, a researcher from Human Rights Watch, told Doha News that the experiences of the Central Market workers highlight one of the problems with Qatar’s sponsorship (kafala) system.

While not familiar with this case, McGeehan noted that many low-income workers are forced to live long distances from their workplaces.

“Housing is tied to their contract, leaving it up to their sponsor to provide it,” he said. “It can be cheap housing that fulfills their contractual obligations, but is practically inappropriate.”

For his part, Gaa’far’s sponsor, a Qatari of Iranian descent named Hamza, said he had adequately provided for his employee.

“We gave him a house, but he didn’t want to stay (there). He preferred to live here because it was closer. We can’t do anything if he refused to go to his house.”

However, in a followup phone call, Hamza told Doha News that the apartment he provided Gaa’far was actually located behind the market, adding that the man only had to work seven hours a day.

Somber scene

When Doha News arrived at the Central Market at approximately 7:30am, police officers had strung tape in front of the entrance of Gaa’far’s stall. His body was removed about an hour later.

The stall where vendor Manzour Gaa’far's body was found.
The stall where vendor Manzour Gaa’far’s body was found.

An official with Baladiya, which is responsible for inspecting the market, said the problem of homelessness was widespread around Doha. He estimated that several thousand residents lack adequate shelter and are forced to sleep in makeshift accommodations, such as abandoned buildings, at night.

“We can’t build houses nearby because it’s market land. All the other places close by are taken. If we help one, we have to help all the other thousands, and how can we do that? That’s for the police to do – to (enforce) that the sponsors have to provide housing,” he added.

Several hamaalis seemed visibly moved at Gaa’far’s death, and some could be seen in tears. Green-robed and white-turbaned, they had spent the night sleeping on their trolleys and beneath a large tree at the market’s entrance to escape last’s night storm.

Elsewhere, a large crowd of vendors gathered in the market to pay respects to Gaa’far’s body as it was transported away on a stretcher and eventually taken to the Hamad Medical Corp. (HMC) morgue.

One vendor said Gaa’far had previously told him that he was a widower, but had several adult children living in Iran.

Thoughts?

69 COMMENTS

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Farhan Khurshid
5 years ago

Such a sad news.. RIP

al-Lalal
al-Lalal
5 years ago

Sad news. BTW, DN, need an editor? Only a woman can be a widow.

ShabinaKhatri
ShabinaKhatri
5 years ago
Reply to  al-Lalal

Sad that that’s all you got out of this story.

Gray Black
Gray Black
5 years ago
Reply to  ShabinaKhatri

This is not a story. Its the bitter reality.

Saeed Ahmad Khan
Saeed Ahmad Khan
5 years ago
Reply to  ShabinaKhatri

Just few days back a story on these hard workers and today his death. Oh god really sad. He is atleast happy now than being ruined with the modern slavery. No words.

A_qtr
A_qtr
5 years ago

Please explain to me how he was part of what you call modern slavery?

Observant One
Observant One
5 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

Ohh please open your eyes and mind…read Amnesty International reports and the like…..Stop defending the practice and stand up in the eyes of your god and humanity and make change for the sake of the poor souls. As a citizen only you have the power to make change.

al-Lalal
al-Lalal
5 years ago
Reply to  ShabinaKhatri

ShabinaKhatri, what makes you think that that’s all we got out of this story?

ShabinaKhatri
ShabinaKhatri
5 years ago
Reply to  al-Lalal

Deleting this thread because it’s irrelevant to the article.

al-Lalal
al-Lalal
5 years ago
Reply to  ShabinaKhatri

Good on you Shabina, my comments are deleted, yet someone posts for the sole purpose of calling me a fool and you keep that comment because it is relevant to the article? Bye bye

Tim
Tim
5 years ago
Reply to  al-Lalal

This smelly bitsh has always been like that in her “free-press” blog.

BillyBob
BillyBob
5 years ago
Reply to  ShabinaKhatri

You are a dictator

BillyBob
BillyBob
5 years ago
Reply to  ShabinaKhatri

DOWN WITH SHABINA! PEOPLE OF D.N. ARISSSSE!!

al-Lalal
al-Lalal
5 years ago
Reply to  ShabinaKhatri

OK, it is your blog, but there are many examples where you allow the relentless bashing of Qatar, its people and the “kafala” system (which, btw, I do not approve of), even if there is little or no relevance to the original article.

BillyBob
BillyBob
5 years ago
Reply to  ShabinaKhatri

Sad that that’s your reply to OP.

Misha
Misha
5 years ago
Reply to  ShabinaKhatri

Sad that you are making the assumption that his/her comment is all al-layal got from the story.

I, for one, do not write all my thoughts in my comments of a story, instead I “like” existing comments that have already expressed my sentiments and try to save my comments for succinct meaningful contributions or replies to others.

Asking al-layal if that is all he got from the story would have been a better response in my opinion.

al-Lalal
al-Lalal
5 years ago
Reply to  Misha

Part of the problem is that DN publishes an article and opens it for comments, but then constantly makes changes or updates to the original story. Thus some of the early comments may end up looking irrelevant or even plain stupid later on. Then Shabina shows up and deletes some, but not all of the comments in a thread as “irrelevant”. For a reader/commenter who visits the article at a later time, all that is hard to follow. Reputable online newspapers (which DN wants to be like when it grows up) don’t normally do that. Now I expect Shabina, who is not known for her openness to criticism, to delete this as irrelevant.

ShabinaKhatri
ShabinaKhatri
5 years ago
Reply to  al-Lalal

Well, since you asked so nicely, sure, I’ll delete this. We are happy for people to point out typos and will fix them forthwith.

khawar
khawar
5 years ago
Reply to  al-Lalal

Woman is a widow but a man whose wife has died is a widower.

al-Lalal
al-Lalal
5 years ago
Reply to  khawar

I know, but don’t tell that to people who can’t handle criticism.

Ms. Hala
5 years ago
Reply to  al-Lalal

Please learn English before offering to be an editor as DN used the word correctly.

al-Lalal
al-Lalal
5 years ago
Reply to  Ms. Hala

Ms. Hala, at least you were polite and used the word “please”. I’ve done my fair share of studying the English language. A widow is a woman whose husband has died, while a widower is a man whose wife has died.

BillyBob
BillyBob
5 years ago
Reply to  al-Lalal

1 al-Layal – zero Ms. Hala

Ms. Hala
5 years ago
Reply to  al-Lalal

You’re English is great and so is DN’s: “One vendor said Gaa’far had previously told him that he was a widower, but had several adult children living in Iran.”

I’d be more concerned about the subject of the article instead of bashing the only decent news source we have here in Qatar. Be polite with your comment timings and you’ll get polite responses.

Our apologies @ShabinaKhatri:disqus …

BillyBob
BillyBob
5 years ago
Reply to  Ms. Hala

Hi

BillyBob
BillyBob
5 years ago
Reply to  Ms. Hala

Calm down

Waveydavey
Waveydavey
5 years ago
Reply to  al-Lalal

Who on earth told you that…fool

al-Lalal
al-Lalal
5 years ago
Reply to  Waveydavey

A widower did.

Saeed Ahmad Khan
Saeed Ahmad Khan
5 years ago

Innalilah wa inna ilahi rajihoon. Shame on the kafala system.

Misha
Misha
5 years ago

How is the kafala system to blame for this particular case? He was a free agent meaning he could work anywhere where he could find a job.

Anonymouse
Anonymouse
5 years ago
Reply to  Misha

There is no such thing as a ‘free agent’ or ‘free visa’. He is not able to legally work anywhere he could find a job. His sponsor is a criminal (as was the deceased) and was engaged in illegal human trafficking related activities, enabled by the system the Qataris made.

N.R
N.R
5 years ago

Innalilah wa inna ilayhi raji’un, I was actually thinking about them during the sandstorm, wondering how they are going to keep themselves protected from the sandstorm. This is such a horrible news.

Elkhorn
Elkhorn
5 years ago

Any human life lost is always a cause for sadness and grief. Whether they had been close to us or an unknown until now. We don’t know how many ripples he has made in life, to change – for better or worse – the lives of others.

Let us give a moment in our lives, to pray for his soul and may he has more blessings that he has not received in this life.

Catalea
Catalea
5 years ago

I can’t believe they were talking about one of them a couple of days ago, and now this happens… I was thinking about them as well when the sand storm happened, Allah yer7amo. I’m sure he’s in a better place now than he ever was and will be, working in Doha 🙁

A_qtr
A_qtr
5 years ago

This is very sad indeed, no one with a heart or rasptory condition would have survived the night with all the dust.

I’m sure over the next two days we’ll be sure several similar stories…

But this highlights the issue and what I raised earlier and in many several posts before.

There is no way for us to confirm what the sponsor said, but if we are to believe his claim then housing was available and the people choose to sleep at their work site instead of commuting to work. The worest and cheapest housing is located in the Industrail area, which is a 15 to 30 minutes drive from the central market depending on traffic.

Realisticly, unless one works in Ras Laffan or Dukhan no commute is over an hour long… Give or take for traffic..

The sponoser claims the apartment was close to the central market, im guessing behind salwa road as that’s the only place that has apartments..

To be frank I don’t think ppl with free visas are afford housing, they pretty much work and fend for themselves and the sponoser takes an annual sponsorship fee of as low as a 1,000 riyal to a few thousand riyals

Many of the hamilis don’t have a fixed income, or probably recieve zero salary from their sponsor .. They have free visas which means they work in job they can work in, in this case bag boys, but pay an annual fee to their sponosr of 1,400 riyals … As quoted by Dohanews earlier

Many can work six hours a day or 12 depending on how much they’re days work earns them and how much money they need… Some may choose to be on the site first and last on the site meaning they had to work 16 hrs or more a day, maximizing their daily income… Maybe that’s why they choose to stay on site or maybe no housing is provided and the sponoser interviewed is lying ..

At what point does it become an individual’s choice versus that of his sponosor on their personal well being?

I don’t know what his circumstances is and I won’t assume I just don’t hope I ever be in a situation where I have to labor 12+ hrs a day when I’m in my 70’s to support adult children…

Saeed Ahmad Khan
Saeed Ahmad Khan
5 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

And what kind of an accommodation does the sponsor provide. Is it worth staying.

Misha
Misha
5 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

I find it hard to believe that the sponsor provided housing if he was a free agent as the 1400 qr a year fee wouldn’t cover the rent. If he had housing then I would be surprised if it was close by. I’m not sure what the bus routes are but I would imagine he could only take a bus if it was convenient for him (as an old man), taxis would be too expensive for him. Housing is either in industrial area or out of town therefore if a sponsor or job does not provide transportation it becomes very difficult for someone to get around.

This is a heartbreaking story, no elderly should have to go through this. May he rest in peace.

johnny wang
johnny wang
5 years ago
Reply to  Misha

Exactly. They said he had a house but nobody knew where it was and that’s because he DID not have a house pure and simple. The sad truth is that as mentioned in this article he was not the only one without a place to stay but there are so many others making a hand to mouth existence who have no clue where the next meal will come from

MKJ
MKJ
5 years ago

Gaa’far’s death brings tears to my eyes.
Our house & office was filled with dust in spite of all windows & doors being closed during the Sand storm, I cannot imagine how these poor people manage to sleep out doors or in shanty accommodation?
Shame. Where is Human Rights? When will the Sponsor’s realize?

A_qtr
A_qtr
5 years ago
Reply to  MKJ

I’m sorry MKJ, but the article above clearly states he did in fact have an apartment close to his place of work. The article also says his friends left him at 10 PM after he decided to stay there for the night.

yesjay
yesjay
5 years ago

Housing facilities not at all a matter in Doha, but affordability is where the reality jeers at you. If I’m not wrong there are ample housing facilities available in Doha, but if you care to inquire the number of housing affordable to a QR1000 monthly earning expat, you will find the total number of fingers in both of your hands are sufficient enough to get the answer in seconds.

MIMH
MIMH
5 years ago

To be fair I think him being very old contributed to his death.

Saeed Ahmad Khan
Saeed Ahmad Khan
5 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Old and totally neglecting an old person, leaving him alone just to die and this will be the case of every hammali there

MIMH
MIMH
5 years ago

It is not Qatar’s responsibility to look after all the old people in the world. However why should Qatar be granting visas to people this old? It is just asking for them to die in Qatar

Daniel Schriefer
Daniel Schriefer
5 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

“It is not Qatar’s responsibility to look after all the old people in the world.” Right, but for those in Qatar they do have the responsibility. At least their ‘Constitution’ says that.

A_qtr
A_qtr
5 years ago

Look after old people of Qatar not old exoats folks who are best looked after by their families back home

al-Lalal
al-Lalal
5 years ago

It is not collective responsibility. One can criticize his sponsor not the State of Qatar. But then, while not all local sponsors are exemplary, in this case they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If the sponsor forces him to sleep at accommodation, someone would say that this is a violation of his human rights. If the sponsor lets him sleep in the storm, the sponsor is not looking after him. And how about the responsibility of his native country and its ‘Constitution’? Was the poor guy, God bless his soul, receiving Old Age Pension from Iran? I seriously doubt it, yet not a single word about that.

Osama Alassiry AlMaadeed

I don’t think it’s in our constitution.

Which article are you referring to?

A_qtr
A_qtr
5 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

There should be a cut of period of 60 to grant or extend a work visa … A major issue in Qatar are exoats families brining their families to Qatar to get treatment… Go to alamal cancer hospital or Hamad heart hospital and they’re are dozens of expat parents who “developed” the illness when they arrived to Qatar in their tourist visa…

I don’t say not to treatment, treat them but not at the subsidd government rates, treat them at a higher cost..

Excrew
Excrew
5 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

maybe there should be a rule to people who have spent over 30 years in qatar to enjoy the same benefits of a Qatari…..

Excrew
Excrew
5 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

So after he has worked here all his life and given a Qatar his best years, he must pack up just because he is old ?

MIMH
MIMH
5 years ago
Reply to  Excrew

Please explain how your country provides for non citizens.

A_qtr
A_qtr
5 years ago

According to the story he was offered a ride at 10 PM to his apartment, but he decided to stay. Are you talking about his adult children in Iran leaving him to labor 12 hrs a day while he is in his 70s?

Saeed Ahmad Khan
Saeed Ahmad Khan
5 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

Is this the way an old man is treated or neglected. Whether he left or not is a different question. What about the past he suffered or struggled.

Saeed Ahmad Khan
Saeed Ahmad Khan
5 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

Strange even the baladiya has given an inappropriate comment

Waveydavey
Waveydavey
5 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Just a bit inappropriate. You are probably right, but a bit of humility goes a long way.

Waveydavey
Waveydavey
5 years ago

What an awful story. Rest in peace.

Ms. Hala
5 years ago

To God we belong and to Him we shall return… may he rest in God’s eternal peace and light… Ameen.

Daniel Schriefer
Daniel Schriefer
5 years ago
Reply to  Ms. Hala

But not that way.

Ms. Hala
5 years ago

Agreed…

johnny wang
johnny wang
5 years ago

Exactly. After a hard days work and not even a proper place to rest his tired body

SIR HADJI
SIR HADJI
5 years ago
Reply to  Ms. Hala

Innalilah wainnalilah rajiun

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
5 years ago

“Housing is tied to their contract, leaving it up to their sponsor to provide it,” he said. “It can be cheap housing that fulfills their contractual obligations, but is practically inappropriate.” I wonder what percentage of people in Qatar and around the world for that matter, manage to always find housing that’s “practically appropriate!”

I’m not defending the sponsorship system here, but really now, this notion that not being able to find suitable housing that’s close to work qualifies as a labor right is silly.

Shaz Shahar
Shaz Shahar
5 years ago

Looking at those frail old men at the Central Market every time I go there touches my inner self thinking about what if these people are my relatives. Reading about their living conditions whether they opt to, or had to couple of days ago moves me. Reading about the death of one of them, really sadden me. What on earth the sponsor(s) are doing? Why not find an alternative providing them container home to be parked nearby. It wont take too much of a space. It even can be stack. Please sponsors — these frail old men are human. Please treat them like human. You easily earned their hard sweat money. Just have a heart for their predicament.

Timeys
Timeys
5 years ago

I know his sponsor says that Gaffar’s (May God rest his soul) house is close by, however, if this is true why didn’t he walk there?

RescueMe
RescueMe
5 years ago

I recently read that these men sometimes survive on less than QR30 per day, last night I put back a lettuce that cost that much in the supermarket. If he did have accommodation then he obviously did not travel to it as he could not afford to. There are reasons they sleep out, besides who prefer’s to sleep out? While we were all asleep in our cosy beds he was unwell and his last night in our world must have been unimaginable in that storm. This was neglect. By us. And we are all guilty of it. There are more elderly men, who still sleep out and I for one plan, with other caring human beings, to do something about it. Will you all do the same?

Duha
Duha
5 years ago

if they have homes, they have to provide transportation. they don’t make enough money to waste it on transport!
this “7 hours work shift” is a lie. they make them work double shifts because they are paid so little that they can’t make enough money on one shift, they have to do two shift to survive, so they don’t have time left in the day to keep going and coming even if they do have homes, and the sponsors have less people in the country doing in those positions. the sponsors know who is on shift (or taking car of the markets) and for how long because they pay them!!!

the whole thing is unacceptable, yet again someone is going to get away with HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSE!!! its haram
Allah yirhamu

Ashraf Kodiyathur
Ashraf Kodiyathur
5 years ago

Innalillahi Wainna ilaihi rajioon,, may Allah enter hin in Jannah. Very sad, I cannot imagine his last moment in this sandstorm which I didn’t experienced never before in Doha.

Jake
Jake
5 years ago

the plight of the poor treated worse than cattle……. this is all common here. I met a Qatari man recently who was escorting two maids to the airport to drop them off, they were reluctant an when i asked him why he told me, i bought 5 of them a week back these 2 are not that good that is why sending them back… i was amazed at the way he was referring to them as if they were some kind of cattle.. This is a disgusting deep rooted attitude among nations about expats.. i for one think should change, which will lead to better living standards an treatment of expats……

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