Protest in Herne: 20,000 grave candles commemorate dead World Cup construction workers

It is probably the most controversial football World Cup in the history of the tournament so far.

Protest in Herne: 20,000 grave candles commemorate dead World Cup construction workers

It is probably the most controversial football World Cup in the history of the tournament so far. The central point of criticism of the host Qatar remains the way it deals with guest workers, who have been building the World Cup stadiums for years. An Osnabrück artist and the workers' welfare organization light thousands of candles for them in Herne.

People in Herne expressed their dissatisfaction with the World Cup in Qatar with a commemoration, protest and mourning event with powerful images. They distributed 6,500 sand-filled footballs on the lawn of the stadium at Strünkede Castle. "Conscience of the world, you are a stain of shame" was read on the balls. In addition, on Sunday - the day of the World Cup opening game - around 20,000 grave candles lit up the grandstands of the stadium. With this action, the participants of the event initiated by the artist Volker-Johannes Trieb commemorated the guest workers who died during the construction of the World Cup stadiums.

"The World Cup cost the lives of many thousands of people," said Trieb. "They were treated like slaves and died of heat, exhaustion or lack of safety precautions. FIFA and the Qatari government walked over dead bodies and that cannot be lost in the World Cup celebrations." The Osnabrück artist Trieb runs the event together with the Arbeiterwohlfahrt (AWO).

"For us as a workers' welfare organization, human rights are non-negotiable. The life of the migrant workers is more important than any profit," said Michael Scheffler, chairman of the AWO district of Western Westphalia. "With our action we want to speak to the conscience of the football world and remind them of the atrocities that took place in the run-up to the World Cup. Sporting events must never again be awarded to hosts who violate fundamental values."

Qatar has long been criticized for human rights violations and the treatment of workers from other countries. Fatal accidents have also occurred on construction sites in the past. The emirate's government refers to its own reforms and rejects some of the criticism.

(This article was first published on Monday, November 21, 2022.)

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