The architect who designed Qatar’s World Cup stadium in Al Wakrah is suing a New York-based publication and its architecture critic for an article she said portrays her as “showing no concern” for the welfare of construction workers here.
Last week, the Iraq-born Zaha Hadid filed a defamation suit with the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan.
She claimed that critic Martin Filler of the New York Review of Books falsely implied that she didn’t care about migrant workers’ conditions, according to Reuters.
In his June 5 review of Rowan Moore’s “Why We Build: Power and Desire in Architecture,” Filler wrote that Hadid “unashamedly disavowed any responsibility, let alone concern” for an “estimated one thousand laborers who have perished” while building the 40,000-seater Al Wakrah stadium.
However, at the time, enabling works were only just getting underway for the Al Wakrah stadium, and only some 100 people had so far been hired to work onsite.
Hadid’s lawyer Oren Warshavsky described the article as “a personal attack disguised as a review,” and said that it opened the architect up to “public ridicule and contempt.”
The lawsuit prompted a rare retraction and public apology from Filler, which has been published on the Review’s website.
The lawsuit and criticism of Hadid raises questions about the obligation various companies should have regarding the welfare of workers in Qatar, where opaque layers of contractors, subcontractors, recruiters and consultants can sometimes make assigning responsibility difficult.
‘Not my duty’
The controversy began for Hadid in February, when she was quizzed about workers’ rights at a press conference regarding the re-opening of her Aquatic Center in London.
The questions were spurred by a Guardian newspaper report that nearly 1,000 people had died in Qatar due to poor working and living conditions since December 2010, when the nation was awarded hosting rights to the 2022 World Cup.
Qatar authorities suggested that many of the deaths were due to automobile accidents or other causes unrelated to poor on- and off-the-job treatment.
At the time, Hadid is reported to have said:
“It’s not my duty as an architect to look at it. I cannot do anything about it because I have no power to do anything about it.
“I have nothing to do with the workers. I think that’s an issue the government – if there’s a problem – should pick up. Hopefully, these things will be resolved.”
The British-based architect claims that Filler took her words out of context and used them in the book review.
After Hadid filed her lawsuit, Filler publicly apologized in an open letter, expressing remorse about the comments he made in the article.
He admitted that work did not begin on the site of the stadium until two months after Hadid made remarks about workers in Qatar, and added:
“There have been no worker deaths on the Al Wakrah project and Ms. Hadid’s comments about Qatar that I quoted in the review had nothing to do with the Al Wakrah site or any of her projects. I regret the error.”
According to The Guardian, Hadid is seeking seeking damages, a halt to the review’s continued publication and a retraction.
The Editor of the New York Review of Books Robert Silvers told The Guardian that such retractions were very rare for the magazine, and added: “We have done this entirely on our own. This letter contains the facts that should be made public and the regret that we thought was appropriate.”
The newspaper adds that Hadid’s lawyer issued a statement saying:
“The decision to file a lawsuit is never one made lightly. Ms Hadid carefully considered the issues at stake to her professional career and reputation and came to the conclusion that the filing of the lawsuit was the correct action to take.”
It remains unclear if Hadid will proceed with the lawsuit following Filler’s apology.
Her lawyer said that she was reviewing the recently published retraction and would respond “after further careful consideration.”
Dear Ms. Hadid, unlike most countries in the part of the world where said stadium is being built, in the United States they enjoy a couple of wonderful ideas called “freedom of speech” and “freedom of press.” This means that any idiot is allowed to say or publish anything they want, no matter how stupid or factual or really is. Some people have even (gasp!) dared to criticize the government without being jailed! These freedoms are actually a pretty healthy concept.
Yes that’s true. And in exercising freedom of speech it is possible to make statements that are not true, that may affect a person’s reputation/ business/ etc. And so, in the United States, like most countries in the world there is the wonderful idea of being able to sue someone who does so.
True, there is always the option of a suit. The USA is drowning in litigation of all kinds, from justified to frivolous. This one is definitely on the frivolous end of the spectrum in my mind. The guy wrote about someone else’s writings and inserted his opinion. Guess what? Hundreds of writers everyday criticize Obama’s character, words (in or out of correct context, which is the crux of this article’s disagreement), and decisions in articles, books, book reviews, etc. (I won’t go on record here on either side of that lengthy argument). I haven’t seen Barry file any defamation suit yet. Just because someone files suit doesn’t mean it will (or should) be taken seriously though. Looks like sour grapes to me.
if working on a project that takes advantage of workers in qatar means you dont care about them, then pretty much every expat in qatar is guilty of not caring about workers. not to mention every international company is guilty from their board members and investors down to the secretaries and engineers
I wouldn’t go so far as to say it means people are guilty of not caring, but I would agree that there is some shared responsibility. It’s similar to buying clothes from a company that is well known to manufacture is products under dangerous conditions and abuse its workers’ rights–not illegal but morally questionable and easy to ignore.
Not saying they don’t care, just saying if your gona accuse this woman you should be fair and accuse all involved
Hey we are all guilty worldwide, except for those that like pictures of kids with cancer on facebook and those that pour ice water over their heads.
I’m surprised no one has sued over the Bible in the States, it makes many statements that are not true….
Your lucky you can make that joke there, some places in the world people get harsher sentences than rapists for disrespecting tales that are as truthful as “Aladdin”…
But I’m not there, I am here….
ah yes, the U,S of A…the country where you are free to say or do anything you want as long as the government knows about it.
Anyway, yeh your allowed to say whatever you want but if its not true you can sue.
Freedom of speech guarantees you the right to say anything, but does not shield you from being responsible for your statements. In other words I cannot sue/prosecute you because you said something, I can however go after you if what you said is not true/damaging/…
Lots of people in the press all over the world made fun of what part of the body they thought the Al Wakra stadium design looks like. Why didn’t she file suit over that? If Qatar has to cover up statutes of babies in utero because they’re supposedly offensive, I would think the allegations of what she’s putting on display would be incredibly damaging. Perhaps that’s her tacit agreement that those allegations are true? I guess you could turn the question around: of all the writers in the world, why target this specific guy?
Because you are entitled to your opinion.What the writer did, however, was make a totally off topic slam at Ms. Hadid, in a completely erroneous and careless way.
Agreed, everyone can form their own opinion. I was hoping to go to the source so I followed the link in the article to the actual book review, but you only get the first few paragraphs, and none of what discusses this article’s subject. Is there a good link to the review? I wonder how many people on here (self included) form opinions without seeing the original source text. We’re just relying on someone else’s interpretation as well.
The review was a sensationalist article that included a patently unjustifiable attack on her character.That is not freedom of the press, that is a clear libel, and the by the speed and force of the apology they know it.
If this publication has committed libel and defamed her character then she is right to sue for damages as this will affect her reputation and her business.
I wonder if the 2022 Committee has given their lawyers orders to sue The Times and The Telegraph over what they described as lies? If they print libel then they should be held accoutantable.
This is definitely a blow to those
This is a severe blow to those ‘bias-free’ media who has been trying to tarnish Qatar’s image.
It’s Hadid’s image that is in question, not Qatar’s.
No one is challenging the claim that worker conditions aren’t appalling. Hadid is simply claiming that her image should not be tarnished because the mistreatment they receive in Qatar.
And why on earth, do you think she is suddenly targeted? Come on every one knows these kind of media has been burning the midnight oil to tarnish Qatar & her attempt to host the FIFA world cup. Ms. Hadid is targeted because she is involved in that process. You cant deny that.
So are we moving from accusing the UK Media to the US Media?
When is the boycott US twitter campaign starting?
The US, UK, Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, French, Egyptian, South African, Brazilian, Mexican, Korean, Indian (and that of over 100 other countries that have printed negative stories about Qatar’s worker conditions) . . .
The CEO of 2022 had said that as well in an interview with BBC, that people were being discriminatory because an Arab country won the rights to host. Funny how nobody ever had an issue with any international event held in the UAE, even Bahrain hosts F1 events! lol
Maybe they are racist and also jealous of Qatar’s several great achievements, such as the world’s longest reading session or producing the world’s largest t-shirt, these amazing creative achievements deserve nobel prize considerations. Most countries if blessed with Qatar’s wealth would spend it on frivolous and wasteful projects like a decent healthcare system, quality education, libraries and other nonsense that benefits nobody.
UAE and bahrain actually both have a much worse history of abusing workers rights than qatar,
qatari’s get amazing health care if i get sick i get a business class ticket to some of the best hospitals in the world and stay in a nice hotel before i see my doctor, most would kill for such treatment. i pass high school with a decent grade and i get a full scholarship to some of the best uni with no student loans or obligations, you can accuse qatar of many things but not spending money on Qatari’s isnt one of them
Yes because Hamad Hospital and the independent schools are examples of Qataris receiving the best quality healthcare and education locally…
nope they suck, hence they send us abroad to the best that money can buy
I sense a sense of entitlement.
I’m just pointing out that saying qatar isn’t spending money on qatari’s is a ridiculous thing 2 say considering how much the government gives us. Although im pointing it out in a some what dickish way
Ok My bad I read it wrong. Apology to you.
That’s unfair, of course Qataris have an entitlement. What should happen? All the gas money just goes straight to the Royal Family and let the ordinary Qataris fend for themselves. At least in Qatar and the UAE they share some of the wealth, unlike places like Nigeria when the ruling elite just steal it all.
That is my point, you have all these poor quality hospitals locally, which everyone deals with day to day, including Qataris, and only when something major turns up they send you abroad. Otherwise, your everyday health is managed by an incompetent bunch.
They have improved over what they used to be and hopefully they will continue to improve. In the mean time for major things they send us away for major surgeries/ treatments. As for universities they are still sending us away but they also brought many of them here as well to provide the best possible education for qatari’s. The earlier levels of education need improvement and they have improved a lot. You should have seen things back 10 years ago
I’ve often wondered about that. Food security has been identified as a national priority, is Qatar’s dependence in the health care sector talked about in the Q community as an area of national strategic weakness? I would think that buying something so important from foreign countries that can be so easily turned off must cause policy makers some sleepless nights.
Do the workers get the same treatment?
Much worse in UAE especially around 4-5 years ago. However In all fairness Bahrain has significantly improved the workers conditions so they may be better off there than in qatar.
The media is only ‘tarnishing’ Qatar if the reporting about its treatment of workers isn’t true. If this is the case, then Qatar (like Hadid) can simply file a libel suit. As she has demonstrated, it’s relatively easy to do and can force the media to issue a retraction.
The bigger question is: why isn’t Qatar filing a suit in the UK or the US (or the hundred or so other countries that have printed the claims)?
Because as the official PR guy had said in an interview, they are too busy to address silly false allegations. The fact that the introduction of “international labor day” coincided with the period when there was intense media criticism is just pure coincidence, it was part of the National Vision 2030 to have that day introduced.
I think she is right to sue. The article focused on Tarnishing her image when she has no jurisdiction over the situation. The responsibility lies with the Qatari Government. Its Not her’s. If the news paper wanted to write an inflammatory article then they should direct their attention correctly and provided factual data. They deserve to be sued! The news paper is not helping the situation here. In fact by blaming her I think they have diverted attention to the root cause of the situation.