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Friday, April 23, 2021

Qatar’s workers vulnerable to charms of bootleg liquor sadeeqi

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Sadeeqi, stored in an old chocolate milk bottle.
Sadeeqi, stored in an old chocolate milk bottle.

A former soldier in the Filipino army, Arnel Teodoro didn’t used to be short on energy. But nearly every morning at 3:30 am, the Qatar’s resident’s roommates wake up, eat, and shower while he remains unconscious.

Only just before the bus to work leaves at 4:30 can they shake him from sleep to dress and hurry out the door.

Teodoro, who asked that his name be changed for fear of reprisals from authorities and his employer, told Doha News that his inability to rise from sleep and lack of energy throughout the day result from drinking sadeeqi, a bootleg liquor infused with toxic industrial alcohols that is sold outside his housing complex.

Other health problems he attributes to the substance include short-term memory loss, sporadic stomach pain, bleeding during defecation, and impaired vision. Sadeeqi, which means “my friend” in Arabic, appears to have stabbed the 37-year-old in the back.

Popularity explained

Sadeeqi is popular among Qatar’s blue-collar population for many reasons, including its widespread availability, low price and avenue as an escape from reality.

Ajit Mohan (not his real name), an Indian expat and consumer of the substance, said alcohol sold on the black market in the Industrial Area ranges in price. The liquor obtained from the sole alcohol distributor in Qatar and resold to workers costs around QR124 ($34) per liter, while a liter of homemade sadeeqi goes for around QR15 ($4).

According to a researcher who has worked with Qatar’s Nepali expat community, restrictions on alcohol consumption play a big part in the popularity of sadeeqi.

In Qatar, only residents with permits can buy alcohol for home consumption, and one must earn a minimum of about QR4,000 ($1,100) per month and pay a deposit of $275 to apply for such a license. This excludes most migrant laborers, whose salaries fall short of the cut-off line.

Luma, a cologne brand with a high alcohol content, is sometimes consumed in the Industrial Area.
Luma, a cologne brand with a high alcohol content, is sometimes consumed in the Industrial Area.

“The black market is thriving in the Industrial Area because of the prohibition,” said Tristan Brusle of the French National Centre for Scientific Research.

In a 2012 study, Brusle found that two avenues of substance abuse had become widespread: consumption of Luma, a brand of cologne known to have high alcohol content, and amateur distillation and consumption of homemade libations.

Over the past few years, the Qatari government has taken steps to regulate imported colognes, especially those sold to low-wage laborers. But the sale and consumption of bootleg alcohol persist.

In Brusle’s view, the black market could be upended if alcohol was available to workers and regulated by authorities, which could prevent workers from turning to toxic alternatives.

Sleep, stress and recreation

Mohan, who said he had a previous alcohol problem back home in India, said sadeeqi has been a way of coping with stress. He said concerns about his family, girlfriend and work responsibilities weigh on him so much that he often lies in bed unable to sleep.

When he drinks sadeeqi, he immediately feels drowsy—the sensation described by users is a light-hearted buzz like that from alcohol, but with an extreme tendency for sleepiness—and is able to doze off without a problem.

According to Crista Crittenden, a psychology professor at CMU-Q, anxiety and stress are common among migrant workers in Doha, who left their families to work long hours in a different culture. This anxiety leads to a desire for escapism.

Another reason commonly cited for drinking sadeeqi is simple recreation. Before coming to Qatar, both Teodoro and Mohan drank in their home countries of the Philippines and India, respectively.

And for both, drinking sadeeqi in Qatar has been a way to cure boredom, relax and have fun with friends.

Consequences

After nearly two years in Qatar, Teodoro no longer drinks the clear potent liquid, which is usually mixed with soft drinks and consumed in small repetitive doses. However, his body and mind still struggle on a daily basis.

“Now, even the texts from my wife, I cannot see,” Teodoro said, adding that he has trouble remembering simple instructions at work.

The crude production of sadeeqi is what appears to adversely affect many of its consumers.

Terrance Murphy, a chemistry professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, said that if distilled properly, industrial compounds with different forms of denatured alcohol “come off at different temperatures so you can collect each of them in a relatively pure form.”

But the equipment being used in the Industrial Area is likely cheap and unsophisticated. This means the desired alcohol is distilled with unwanted chemicals, Murphy said.

A sample of sadeeqi taken by Doha News from Teodoro’s compound to chemists at CMU-Q found that there was a high amount of ethanol, the normal chemical compound found in alcoholic beverages. But the results (below) also showed quantities of butanol and pentanol, two industrial alcohols known to cause brain and eye damage when consumed.

Butanol is a common ingredient in paint thinner, cosmetics, biofuel and brake fluids, while pentanol is frequently used to make paint and plastics.

In response to inquiries from Doha News, Qatar’s Ministry of the Interior said in a statement that it polices the area as rigorously as any other district. But several workers who spoke to us said alcohol and sadeeqi dealers operate with near impunity in the area.

Recently, Mohan and Teodoro were moved by their company to a compound outside Doha in Al Wakra, far from the Industrial Area. There, liquor and sadeeqi as not easily available.

This has come almost as a relief to Mohan, who said that even though he used the susbtance about three times a week, he wished the police would make it disappear.

Options for help

Both Teodoro and Mohan said that they are not addicted to sadeeqi and do not need rehab. Even if they wanted to seek help, they said this would not be feasible given the demands of their jobs and the fact that their families depend on their paychecks back home.

Ahmed Omar Al-Agib, a psychiatrist who specializes in addiction and works for Qatar’s Supreme Council of Health, told Doha News that a three-month substance abuse rehabilitation program is available to people of any national or economic background, and can be administered at any general hospital in Qatar.

Individuals seeking treatment would not face legal consequences, he added.

However, Al-Agib concedes that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for many workers to take months off from work without being fired, as there’s nothing the government or hospitals can do to protect a rehab patient from losing his or her job.

That decision is with the private employer.

Awareness appears to be an additional obstacle. When asked about this program, neither Teodoro and Mohan had ever heard of it.

Thoughts?

45 COMMENTS

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DavidRSS8
DavidRSS8
6 years ago

Maybe they should switch to Snapple.

johnny wang
johnny wang
6 years ago

What a shame that this underprivileged workers cannot have access to a drink after a hard days work under the sun that they have to resort to such horrible and stoneage methods to get some relief at the end of their work day. How can it be okay for some to have it legally and as they wish while others just have to resort to such crude methods and substances to get a kick and to forget their tensions of the day. Would not making the drinks available to all solve the problem once and for all and the QDC could have a lot more business on its hands and the city would have a lot less bootleggers on the streets

thedrizzle96
thedrizzle96
6 years ago
Reply to  johnny wang

So what you’re saying is, make it easy for migrant workers to buy legit alcohol rather than say increase enforcement and provide other areas for escapism and regulate work environments so they’re more bearable? I can see the headline now “Migrant workers in Qatar encouraged to blow entire salaries on government regulated and profiting alcohol – Families back home go hungry due to labour camp bar culture”

Marilyn McLeroy
Marilyn McLeroy
6 years ago
Reply to  thedrizzle96

If they cannot control themselves, then they should be fired. Give them the right to purchase legally.

Deepak Babu
Deepak Babu
6 years ago
Reply to  thedrizzle96

I have a limit of how much alcohol I can purchase every month based on my salary. The same would apply to these guys also. So they won’t be blowing their entire salary.

Wonder if “sadeeqi” could be one of the reasons for these young workers who die of strokes.

Saffa
Saffa
6 years ago
Reply to  Deepak Babu

Deepak, given the toxicity of some of the alcohols included in the mix, it very well could be!

Will
Will
6 years ago
Reply to  thedrizzle96

Yeah, why should they be treated like adults who are able to act responsibly? Obviously giving them access to alcohol would turn the entire worker population into alcoholics, because that’s what happens everywhere else in the world! Frankly they should enjoy life exactly how we dictate they should!

thedrizzle96
thedrizzle96
6 years ago
Reply to  johnny wang

It’s not a shame they can’t have a drink, because clearly they can, it’s a shame the contracts they sign back home don’t match the contracts they’re given here. It’s a shame they have to wake up at 3:30 am, it’s a shame the government has to step in to make sure they’re paid. It’s a shame a lot of people will never make enough to bring their families out here. It’s a shame many people don’t have access to trainings to improve their situation further. There’s a lot of shames when it comes to people leaving their families for the chance at a better life, having access to a drink just isn’t on that same list.

Desert Witch
Desert Witch
6 years ago
Reply to  thedrizzle96

Have to agree with you there.

Marilyn McLeroy
Marilyn McLeroy
6 years ago
Reply to  thedrizzle96

That’s a lot of shames. How about giving them the ability to purchase legally. If they do something illicit then they get sent home. If they abolish the khalafa and do to require these huge recruiting fees pressed on these fellows, and pay them timely it will be an easy police. If you do not show up on time or in a proper state to work you are fired.

views
views
6 years ago
Reply to  johnny wang

You never know the ill effects of liquor it can have on family , I come from a place where I see almost many of the labours spend their hard earn daily wage on liquors without even having a second thought on family who depends upon him.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  views

That’s a different issue

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

They should have access to alcohol is they want it. They are not minors and can make choices for themselves. As halal food is available in European countries, so alcohol shops should be allowed to operate to serve all members of the community. I know some will say shops selling alcohol go against cultural norms of the country but halal shops in Europe also go against the cultural norms and fair treatment of animals but are allowed. It is allowed because adults are allowed to make choices for themselves.

By the restrictive laws in Qatar it is affecting the health of low income workers. They work hard enough to build this country for others, (remember they have to go home when their job is finished) the least some of them expect is a cold alcoholic drink at the end of the day.

Truth-Seeker
Truth-Seeker
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

I find it difficult to accept your argument to put food and liquor on equal footage!

Am I alone here in thinking that the focus should be on basic human needs, rather on a controversial lifestyle that you and I might differ on its legitimacy. Next thing you will be asking for dope to be available to them.
Again, I think the emphasis should be on securing their basic rights and preventing the abuse of power by the companies that employ them, foreign or local.

If you tell me that the slow process in serving the justice that they deserve is due to the conflict of interest of some who hold public office and indirectly control some of those companies, then Bingo! You are talking substance.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Truth-Seeker

It is the same. Alcohol and halal meat are not necessary for human life but they are a choice for some. These people are bring denied freedom of choice and as a result putting their health at risk

Truth-Seeker
Truth-Seeker
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

I am afraid you are speaking out of a mentality of someone who enjoys superior fringe benefits that not only those workers can dream of, but also some Qatari citizens would envy you for.
So your remaining desires are finding a nice bar or bottle of wine or perhaps a flashy night club!

thedrizzle96
thedrizzle96
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

the least they should expect is a safe work and living environment, being paid a fare wage and perhaps some other basic human rights, what they deserve is enforcement and fair treatment, in my opinion anyways, im sure some alcohol will numb away the pain and help some forget their problems, then when the problems aren’t resolved….well there’s the three month rehab program they’ve never heard of

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  thedrizzle96

We shouldnt even be having the duscussion about a safe living and work enviroment. That should be a given. This is about freedom of choice for an adult for a different subject.

thedrizzle96
thedrizzle96
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Unfortunately it’s not a given, and the average Joe Doha News reader can do little to change it, the problem with this discussion is it’s a distraction to the real problem and becomes a talking point, grabbing our limited attention, addressing a symptom with a band-aid and something that will bring with it more strain. I feel I’m being trolled by the idea alcohol is psycho-socially beneficial for a low income migrant society that is under represented, and under served and over exploited by some. Last time I checked the UN doesn’t fly in booze and cigarettes as part of its relief packages.

Marilyn McLeroy
Marilyn McLeroy
6 years ago
Reply to  thedrizzle96

Then you have never lived in Africa!

Saffa
Saffa
6 years ago

That’s a non siquitur and is BS to boot! The UN does not waste valuable food volume on non-essentials!

As many have said, this article just serves to distract from the real problems.

As it is, the bootleg trade is about greed, the suppliers see an opportunity and cease it, using the cheapest means possible. They are not interested in the health of their customers, just their money. Fact is this illicit trade will exist no matter what, when one gets caught another will take its place.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  thedrizzle96

So you are saying the UN should fly in food for these workers? Stop being absurd, however they should have the choice to buy alcohol or not if they wish. They are not children.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Halal food being available in Europe does not equal alcohol must be available for all in Qatar. That’s a false equivalency. Never heard of anyone committing crime or hurting others becasue they were under the influence of halal food.

Marilyn McLeroy
Marilyn McLeroy
6 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

It all requires responsibility on the consumers behalf. If you are muslim you must eat halal. If you are outside of your country that requires halal be sold entirely, it is up to you to responsibly seek out an acceptable market that will fit your needs. If you do not you must live with the consequences. If you drink and drive and do not seek proper livery service you will have to live with the consequences to any actions as well.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
6 years ago

Sorry, but you’ll have to rewrite your comment as I have no idea what you said here.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

I think Marilyn means, if you drink and drive you should be arrested and if found guilty put in jail. This is something I 100% agree with and wish the police in Qatar would do random breath tests on both expats and locals. Too many locals and expats drink and drive here because unless you get in an accident there is virtually zero chance of getting caught.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

Land Cruisers kill many in Qatar then using your logic they should be illegal

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

You presume that my logic is “It kills, therefore it must be banned.” That’s not what I said; in fact it has nothing to do with what I said. Kindly don’t put words in my mouth.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

OK look at your statement the other way, unfortunatley we live in a world where people kill to implement Sharia law, therefore halal food being a part of Sharia law then many have killed in the name of halal food.

Truth-Seeker
Truth-Seeker
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Does that include Kosher food too ?

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Question: do you know what halal food is? Let me explain this little bit; Muslims are prohibited from consuming certain food items, everything else is halal. Fish is always halal, and so are fruits and vegetables.

Halal mainly has to do with food not containing pork or alcohol, or with the method of animal slaughter. Those who object to halal food are motivated by 2 things; they consider it cruel to slit the throat of the animal while it’s alive, and or they just dislike Muslims.

Care to explain why even in the West restrictions on alcohol sale and consumption exist? Why do they have dry communities where no alcohol is sold?

But I’ll tell you what; if Europe feels halal food represent a threat or danger to them, or they just don’t like it, by all means, let them ban it. What they do in their land is their business, just the same as everyone.

Firas Zirie
6 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

That’s almost exactly what you said. Being under the influence of alcohol leads to an increase in crime (your words). Ergo, alcohol ban is justifiable (but not for white people, they’re cool)

By using your exact same line of reasoning, vehicular manslaughter is a crime occasionally committed in white Landcruisers; Therefore, white Landcruisers should be outlawed (hooray?)

Either ban it entirely or let those who choose to drink, drink. Let’s not try to polish the turd here.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
6 years ago
Reply to  Firas Zirie

Not what I said, but your free to be argumentative if you want. Just don’t expect me to actually waste my time trying to explain to you why comparing alcohol to Land Cruisers is, well, stupid.

Also, who said that only white people can have alcohol in Qatar? The restriction is based on income, not race or nationality.

Deepak Babu
Deepak Babu
6 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

So you are saying alcohol is not available for these workers as they will resort to crime or hurting others under influence? Doesn’t that apply to the rest of us expats who do earn enough to obtain a license as well then?

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
6 years ago
Reply to  Deepak Babu

Feel free to buy alcohol and give it to them if you believe that’s what’s best.

Deepak Babu
Deepak Babu
6 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

No thanks, please dont incite me to commit a crime .

Mr. B
6 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

However, the argument that alcohol restrictions make Qatar a safer place is undermined by Dubai and Bahrain’s nearby examples.

views
views
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

The most absurd comparison I have ever seen.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  views

I don’t see why. Neither halal food or alcohol is a necessity for life. It’s just a personal choice

johnny wang
johnny wang
6 years ago

………In Qatar, only residents with permits can buy alcohol for home consumption…what about the others…. are they not grown up enough or are they not polished and good enough to walk in through the doors of the official distributor of this drinks…..This guys without the permits certainly have more then enough money on them to buy the stuff just like the others. This is pure and simple discrimination at its worst.

thedrizzle96
thedrizzle96
6 years ago
Reply to  johnny wang

I think there’s probably worse forms of discrimination going on than differentiating between who is allowed to purchase alcohol at a distributor. The problem with articles like this is they distract and stick on peoples minds instead of the real issues. It’s a non-issue. What’s next, expat communities fund raising to buy cold drinks for the poor migrant communities, liquor for labourers?

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  thedrizzle96

That would be a good idea but unfortunately illegal in Qatar.

Marilyn McLeroy
Marilyn McLeroy
6 years ago
Reply to  thedrizzle96

How can you consider this a non-issue? You make enough money to meet the threshold requirement…so no issue! The do not even get the chance to make a decision whether ti imbibe or not because they do not meet the wage threshold.

Naji Haddad
Naji Haddad
6 years ago

In Brusle’s view, the black market could be upended if alcohol was available to workers and regulated by authorities, which could prevent workers from turning to toxic alternatives. I’m afraid that Brusle missed the point that those migrants, even if they got a permit to buy alcohol, the black market will be active anyway, simply because they can’t possibly afford buying from the QDC. In fact, the prices are one of the highest in the world….

johnny wang
johnny wang
6 years ago
Reply to  Naji Haddad

Well sadly you are so mistaken my friend…the talk is that its the guys at Industrial who keep the QDC in circulation and the bootleggers running between the Industrial and the stockist for more stocks to cater to the high demand at inflated prices

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