Every year, the world’s working class population is honored on May 1 by dozens of countries around the world, many of which consider International Workers Day to be a public holiday. There’s no day off today in Qatar for most people, but much of the population is still planning to take some time to honor the country’s blue-collars workers. Here, Qatari resident Fatima Al-Dosari explains why she and a group of others decided to cover Pharrel Williams “Happy” to mark the occasion.
I still remember that Thursday evening in December 2010, when we went from having a typical family gathering of eating machboos at Grandma’s to joining everyone on the Corniche to celebrate.
Citizens, residents, expatriates and laborers were cheering, dancing on the streets and “car parading” after Qatar won the 2022 World Cup bid. Everyone likes the feeling of being a winner. And I felt proud that my country had achieved this goal.
Yet, even back then, I began analyzing the various scenarios facing Qatar in the coming decade, and I knew that I wanted the journey to 2022 to be a successful one.
So without realizing it, I became a labor rights advocate.
Last month, Qatar was again in the headlines, but not in any positive way. Most news pieces discuss the laws and system here, and the affected labor force. But it often neglects the voice of the Qatari people.
So I and a team of others came up with our own version of Pharrell Williams’s “Happy” to celebrate International Workers’ Day in Qatar.
Here, we aimed to portray an image of a Qatari who represents me, and many others like me. The Qatari (represented by local comedian Hamad Al-Amari) who embraces our humanity and believes in shoulder-to-shoulder equality, and who can unfortunately be stigmatized as an enslaving monster as a result of widespread negative media attention and criticism.
Another aim with this video was to bring some happiness to some of the people working in Qatar’s service and construction industries. We visited laborers at their workplaces and during their leisure time without any preparations, and we asked for their permission before filming.
We respected the wishes of some who declined to participate, and appreciate that many voluntarily approved. We have also kept a record of all participants’ names and contact information to forward them the video, which was produced by Hawazi Pictures.
This was not an easy project, but I thank the video team, Yousef Al-Madadi, Hamad Al-Amari and Omar Abdulla, for their effort and accepting to be part of it.
One of the women in the video is Estela. She told me, “I was feeling sad about working on a holiday, away from my family, but you did make me happy today. Thank you for coming.”
To make a difference doesn’t mean you should wear a superhero cape (a bisht, in the Qatari context), call yourself a “labor rights advocate,” or start a drastic revolution.
Making a difference involves having the will, power and passion to create a genuine change for a day or a person.
My friend and fellow labor rights advocate Aakash Jayaprakash, who helped me to better understand Qatar’s labor laws and conditions, has written a practical and informative op-ed on how you can personally help with labor issues.
There are nearly 1.2 million Estelas in Qatar who are all part of the story of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and we all can and should contribute in making their days happy in return.
fair play to Hamad Al-Amari – it good to see something positive about Qatar in the news. An, if even for the cameras, engagement with the blue collar ex-pats
Y’all deserve a hashtag. #Respect. May God bless your beautiful hearts.
What would be nice if “someone” would just say please and thank you when dealing with these people. Next time at McDs say “I’d like a cheeseburger and fries please” and once received say “thank you and have a nice day”. A little kindness goes a very long way.
LOVE this! What a beautiful way to express our common humanity. Well done Hazawi pictures, more of this please! I know that some people will say ‘it doesn’t change the situation for workers in Qatar’, but it helps raise awareness, and shows the way for more fraternity in Qatar. It’s heartwarming to see that Qatari people care, reforms are desperately needed, may they come soon…
too far ? I’m not sure how this will (or would) be received by an international audience
How about this:
“Oil rich state forces its slaves to perform a song and dance as a publicity stunt. Those whose smiles were deemed not wide or genuine enough were terminated with immediate effect.”
Before anyone gets too outraged, this is tounge-in-cheek (mostly).
*Gas rich… not oil rich
forgot tiny… The tiny gas rich state… your point gets across better using tiny…
No it should be, ‘Tiny, Arab, Muslim, Gas Rich State’ laughs at the plight of it’s ‘poor, non-Muslim, abused, hard working, honest slaves’
You could add “about the size of Connecticut”
There are good and bad people everywhere. Lets appreciate the ones who are willing enough to come up with something like this and spread the love. Three thumbs up to the team 🙂
Fatima Al-Dosari and Team – This helped start my day off with a smile…Appreciate you!
Good stuff by Hamad again. It amazes me that most of the people I worked with have never even spoken to a Qatari, like they are aliens from a different planet but stuff like this shows we are all the same. We have the same desires, we laugh just the same. It’s good to see someone project Qatar as not such a bad place, whcih is the truth of the matter.
I’d love to get the opportunity to talk to Qatari ladies – they avoid us white western expat women like the plague (well at least that’s how it feels). Any attempts at friendliness, conversation, smiling are completely ignored. I’ve come to accept they just don’t want to engage with me.
I’m male and I have good Qatari female friends, admittely I met them all at work but even when I changed jobs I still speak to them. In fact I like the ladies better than the men!
That’s good to hear MIMH 🙂 I think working must make it a lot easier to meet local people. I found it so difficult, and so disappointing, because it’s one of the aspects of being an expat that I was looking forward to. I’ve met, and made friends with, loads of people from other cultures though 🙂
I thought that was generally frowned upon A_qtr……. and what would my husband say!!! 🙂 I would say that the oldest generation of Qatari men seem the friendliest – they smile back! May be they’re all granddads and know that a smile goes a long way 🙂
But seriously, I’d enjoy sharing female stuff with local ladies – recipes, gardening know-how, etc,- just the stuff women do all over the world.
Why would husband say…or he is ok with the old generation…the new generation are also good because they follow what their elders say n respect them
It was just a small joke, Saeed. Hence the smiley face 🙂 He wouldn’t mind at all – I wouldn’t have married him if he did.
I wonder why men smile back at a milk skinned woman!
Tip for the Qatari women: they are friendly and easy to approach. It really depends on where you approach them and what type of person you apprpach. Go to the Salon and strike a conversation they usually are open in such settings versus malls
Don’t know Mayette – why? We are only talking about Grandads here – I assumed it was because they enjoy watching my little boy and me play together at the park.
I love your analogy 🙂 Never thought of myself as milk skinned before! How very Cleopatra! As for going to a salon, there isn’t a cat in hell’s chance of that happening – if that’s what it takes, I hereby accept that I’ll never get to meet any local ladies. We wouldn’t have anything in common anyway, if that’s the case, as I really don’t get the whole ‘preening’ culture – too old for that, and too much of a hippy chick 🙂
No wonder why your so misinformed
Are you saying I shouldn’t listen to my Qatari friends opinons? That a bit rude to the locals.
This is very good, and certainly brought a smile to my face. I think it could have had an even greater impact if they had managed to randomly find a few Qatari who were also willing to dance around with the labourers. And even the white collar expats to do the same. Could have ended with a big group of people from all cultures dancing together celebrating the work these guys do. Just my thoughts!
This is the first time I comment on Doha News. I registered just express how much I loved this video. Keep doing what you are doing Hamad cause you are a phenomenal human. It takes one person to make a difference and clearly that person is you. You will be going places, so don’t slow down now cause you are the pride and joy of everyone who knows what you do and has been following your work since day one. Your work and ideas always makes so many people smile and I really hope this video gets tons of views. Ignore all the miserable idiots who never have anything good to say cause you are doing the walk and all they will ever do is talk.
Take care always and God bless!
shows how much simple gestures can make someone’s day … a smile, a sincere Thank you does go a long way … especially to those away from home … Thank you to the makers of the video for recognizing these hard-working expats!
Love it, put a smile on my face … not sure about an impact though but at least the people in the vid had a good time and laugh with Hamad Al Amari 🙂
Thank you Fatima, Hamad, Yousef and Omar for a great video and showing that some Qataris do care. For people that negatively stereotype us, you havent met us all and unfortunately cruel and disrespectful behaviors are more widely visible than positive ones. When we do show someone gratitude, respect or show kindness in any form it usually isnt in a public scene as it is not meant for others, its for that individual. So let this video publicly represent all the non-visible acts of caring from both Qataris and Expats. Happy International Labor Day!! ..a little kindness goes a long way…if you can’t give help…smiles and thank yous are free!
Kudos to the team for making a difference – Wish there were thousands and millions of Hamad Al-Amari ‘s.
Keep up the good work, all philosophy aside, you simply bring smile to everybody’s face with your acts / gigs.
Great fun. Well done to the team who put this together.
This was a nice idea, too. Emirati Volunteers Become Street Cleaners for a Day
Excellent work by Hamad and the team.
I think they will be more happy if they are not working at labors day :/… anyway thumbs up for the video..
So what did we learn from this video? No Qatari or Labor worker in Qatar has any rhythm what so ever. LOL!
Just kidding… All Jokes aside… Happy International Labor day! Good Job with the video. Love it!
I hope the true spirit of the day is observed in Qatar. But seriously… nobody has any rhythm or soul here. 😉
All problems with the treatment of workers and human rights aside, this guy is a hoot. I love his videos and commentaries.
This made me so HAPPY!!! Fantastic video, and thank you Doha News for sharing 🙂
Really great! Thank you for doing this. I hope more will start to feel this way