Œuvres ouvertes

Laurent Margantin | Qatar of the Dead

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1. We make death invisible.

2. Modular galvanised-steel containerised buildings for sports facilities.

3. I write my air-conditioned articles in an air-conditioned room.

4. Your passport will be restored to you on your return, whether you are alive or dead.

5. A few men are smoking in the shade of a sheet-metal shelter.

6. A combination of hypothermia, exhaustion, and dehydration.

7. The design of the Al-Thumama stadium is based on the shape of a traditional head-dress and the Al-Wakrah stadium looks like a vagina.

8. The Qatar Foundation transfers 35 000 euros a month to the Muslim theologian Tariq Ramadan.

9. 20 hectares of land in the middle of nowhere, living accommodation for 3700 workers.

10. The Emir created the Qatar Steel Company (QSCO) by decree number 130 dated 14th October 1974. It was a joint enterprise between the Qatar government (70%) and two Japanese firms : Kobe Steel (20%) and Tokyo Boeki (10%).

11. Did you see all those dead people ? No, no one’s seen them : they’re in the newspapers.

12. In his air-conditioned office, the senior manager from Qatari Diar Vinci Construction (QDVC) is wearing a light woollen sweater.

13. On Thursday 28th March 2019, the French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe visited the Al-Wakrah stadium, built specially for the 2022 World Cup Finals in Qatar.

14. Sheikha Mozah, mother to the ruling Emir of Qatar, chairs the Qatar Foundation which transfers 35 000 euros a month to Tariq Ramadan.

15. I am a journalist for a major newspaper, recognised as a newspaper of record in France, they pay me to summarise facts.

16. Cadaver pouches with handles (body bags).

17. At first, I entered everyone who died onsite into an Excel Spreadsheet, then I stopped.

18. North of Doha, an underground station 35 metres is under construction 35 metres below the surface.

19. Edouard Philippe, the French Prime Minister, signed an agreement with Qatar which “aims to build a strategic partnership to prepare for the 2022 World Cup and security management for the event”.

20. Installing air-conditioning in an open-air stadium : a challenge which Qatar has been able to meet.

21. At the airport someone will meet you and take you to a bus : you will hand over your passport.

22. They make far too much of the heat in Qatar. Anyway, the 2022 World Cup will be played in winter and there is air-con everywhere

23. Working conditions at Qatar Diar Vinci Construction (QDVC) : 8-hour day + 2 hours overtime, 60 hours a week, 450 euros per month average salary. Qatar minimum wage in 2017 : 180 euros a month.

24. They died from the heat : they were working on the construction of an air-conditioned stadium.

25. On that day, he refused to return onsite : I tell you, he refused.

26. 51% owned by the Diar Qatari Sovereign Wealth Fund and 49% by Vinci, QDVC has raked in 5 billion euros worth of contracts in Qatar since 2007.

27. A range of biodegradable body bags to meet regulatory norms and adapted to current needs.

28. On his Twitter Feed, Edouard Philippe announced that “we are mobilising our joint capabilities as regards logistics, infrastructure and security for the coming Football World Cup in Qatar”.

29. Tariq Ramadan sent 590 000 euros home from his Qatari bank account thanks to the monthly transfers from the Qatar Foundation.

30. These transferred funds may have been used to buy a duplex apartment on rue Gabrielle on the Butte Montmartre in Paris.

31. Transforming a heap of sand into skyscrapers, marinas, and shopping centres.

32. Qatar Steel produces steel, steel plate, rolled steel, steel bars, stainless steel, steel cables, reinforced sheet steel.

33. Nasser Al-Khelaïfi, President of PSG, indicted for bribery in the World Athletics scandal in Qatar.

34. Summonsed by Judge Renaud van Ruymbeke, Nasser Al-Khelaifi did not appear, pleading his presence at the finals of the Qatar Football Cup, and was indicted by post.

35. In 2007, QASCO unveiled its new name Qatar Steel and its strapline : “We make Steel Matter”.

36. Our role is to meet the needs of our clients. We are building workers’ accommodation ready for handover in conformity with current projects.

37. An installation by the American sculptor Richard Serra has been inaugurated in the open desert.

38. Qatar signed contracts worth more than 10 billion euros when Emmanuel Macron visited Doha on December 7th, 2017.

39. “East-West/West-East” by American artist Richard Serra was commissioned by the Emir’s sister, Sheikha Al-Masaya, who intends to turn the country into a major artistic centre.

40. I have collected football posters since I was five years old, I have at least one thousand. Some are even autographed.

41. The dead are often in their twenties. Their death certificates mention “heart attack” or “respiratory failure”.

42. Be careful to place the passport inside the body bag (memo).

43. I have always loved football. Stories about corruption among top FIFA people don’t interest me. My relationship with football is purely aesthetic. I don’t have anything to do with the rest of it, it stinks.

44. Amongst the contracts signed when the French president visited Qatar : the Doha metro concession and the Lusail tramway awarded to an SNCF/RATP consortium.

45. Indian, Nepalese, or Bangladeshi workers deployed into oven-like heat and desert dust conditions.

46. There were dozens of them seated inside a barely air-conditioned tent.

47. Temperatures can rise to over 50 degrees in summer.

48. They tell me you are going to Doha and will report your findings on the situation in the Vinci construction sites.

49. I have always been good at writing reports, reports on reports, reports on reports on reports.

50. The installation which consists of four 15-metre-high steel plates is sited 60 kilometres from Doha and cannot be reached by asphalt road.

51. The American artist Richard Serra stated : “I have visited several places and I liked this desert”.

52. Obviously, on the pitch, in the interests of player comfort so they can play at their best level, ambient temperature will be kept at 26 degrees and the temperature for spectators will be acceptable.

53. Confirm the dead man’s identity (find label attached to his foot) before placing his passport inside the body bag (memo).

54. 100 000 Nepalese came to work in Qatar in 2012.

55. Workers had no access to rest areas and queued in full sunshine when meals were served.

56. Food quality is bad ; they serve up rotten fruit. Workers suffered from digestive ailments

57. Because of the heat, workers vomited and fell to the ground.

58. What grass for stadiums in Qatar with temperatures above 40 degrees ?

59. “These plates connect seas to the east and west of this landscape” added American artist Richard Serra whose work is exhibited in Doha.

60. Sheikha Al-Mayassa runs the Qatar Museums Authority (QMA). She aims to make the hyper-rich natural gas-producing Emirate a major artistic centre.

61. Sheikha Al-Mayassa spends about a billion dollars a year on the art market as the director of the QMA.

62. Rapid completion of steel structures and the thermal insulation of buildings. All prefabricated units can be disassembled and easily packaged for despatch.

63. The pitch in a stadium must be level, soft and humid enough to allow for sliding.

64. For the Football World Cup in Qatar, all pitches will consist of natural grass.

65. Strengthening the grass blades will be good enough. We will root natural grass in a substrate of cork, fine sand and synthetic microfibre to which the grass will attach itself securely by wrapping itself around the fibres.

66. 44 workers employed on the 2022 Football World Cup construction sites may have died between June and August 2013.

67. During summer 2013, Nepalese workers may have died at the rate of one every day.

68. Take care, as players can burn themselves if they fall or slide on this type of pitch.

69. When I go somewhere, I hardly talk about the place, I only look for material to go into my article.

70. For me, the world consists of word-blocks which I arrange as objectively as I can.

71. You need to know that the pitch is responsible for about 1% of the cost of building a stadium.

72. Forced labour, without access to drinking water in the middle of the desert, even though it’s free.

73. Anne Gravoin, concert violinist and wife of Manuel Valls, the then French Prime Minister, performed on 30th March 2015 in Doha in the presence of Hamad ben Abdelaziz al-Kawari, Qatar Minister of Culture.

74. My word-blocks are better kept cool in an air-conditioned office.

75. It is easy to hoist prefabricated units by crane or forklift truck. All units have hooks at each corner of the roof.

76. Polymers fill football stadiums.

77. In Qatar we use high-resistance polymers with silicon-coated blades planted in a mixture of expanded polystyrene and synthetic rubber granules made from old tyres.

78. Lusail City, 17 kilometres from Doha, is one of the largest building sites in the world with a forecast population of 250 000 residents for whom luxury apartments are under construction.

79. It’s incredible what they’ve done since I came here. Only thirteen years ago, this was just sand. It feels like it has all been coloured in with crayons.

80. Materials : 33 600 square metres SureGrip PE 100 AGRV, 3mm – 24 000 square metres sealing membrane AGRV, 3mm – welding rod AGRV, circular section, 4mm.

81. Unpaid work, insanitary lodging conditions with up to 12 employees in a single room.

82. They work on empty stomachs for 24 hours. 12 hours at work and then no food overnight.

83. Polyamide has given way to polypropylene or polyethylene.

84. Drinking water reservoirs for luxury residences in Qatar.

85. Sealing membranes and protection panels for concrete drinking water reservoirs.

86. Between 4th July and 24th August 2004 more than 50 patients suffering from conditions caused by extreme heat were admitted to Hamad general hospital.

87. A population of such a considerable size requires a large amount of drinking water. Underground water reservoirs able to hold 150 000 cubic metres each are under construction.

88. Qatar Airways tweeted : “Which teams will be playing the opening game of CONMEBOL 2019 in Brazil ? Venezuela – Peru Brazil – Bolivia Qatar - Colombia Japan – Chile ?”

90. Stadiums will have roofs in transparent material, as glass roofs are not viable for such big spaces due to their weight.

91. In Qatar, 90% of the workforce consists of migrants from south Asia.

92. I don’t really like writing long investigative pieces, I prefer short articles : so many dead, so much money spent, on such and such a date and in such and such a place, just the facts without any waffle.

93. Workers suffered severely from sunstroke and were admitted to intensive care (ICU) in a critical condition.

94. Lining systems in high quality plastic material from AGRU Kunststofftechnik GMBH Austria.

95. When I went to Doha, it was just a round trip to interview the Vinci management and humanitarian organisations about conditions for workers.

96. The stadiums will be roofed in glass fibre material coated in PTFE (Poly-tetra-fluoro-ethylene), resistant to extremely high temperatures.

97. My life here is like prison. Work is hard, we work long hours in full sun.

98. When I complained about my conditions shortly after arriving in Qatar, the manager told me : “If you want to complain you can, but there will be consequences. If you want to stay in Qatar, keep quiet and keep working.”

99. PTFE, ETFE, two polymers beloved by architects because they make football stadiums look elegant.

100. A few drops of rain are enough to clean fabric sealed in PTFE covering a stadium with a life expectancy of 20 years. This material also reflects 73% of solar energy.

101. Former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, now a commercial lawyer, works for Veolia, 5% owned by a Qatari Fund.

102. The thorny dossier on working conditions.

103. In the eyes of the law, there is a manager.

104. After sport, Qatar has made art its latest communications medium.

105. Former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has an office in the Qatar Museum Authority directed by his former student Sheikha Al-Mayassa.

106. Dominique de Villepin is very close to the ruling family of Qatar, the Al-Thani. He tutored Sheikha Al-Mayassa, the Emir’s sister, when she came to study in Paris. She calls Dominique de Villepin her ‘second father’.

107. Every migrant working in Qatar must have a sponsor who must also be his employer.

108. Migrants working in Qatar must have their sponsor’s permission to change jobs or leave the country.

109. Some people think that Dominique de Villepin is personal financial adviser to Sheikha Moza, Mayassa ‘s mother, who bought the leather goods business Le Tanneur.

110. The cement manufacturer Vicat which is part of the Vinci group developed VCC (Vicat Compatible Concrete).

111. Had enough ? Want to end it ? Well get on the bus then.

112. Every migrant has his passport confiscated by his sponsor.

113. 15 two-storey buildings in sand-coloured sheet metal.

114. An ILO (International Labour Office) opened in April 2018 in Doha to deliver “fair trade recruitment”.

115. On the sites, although we didn’t know it, we were already dead.

116. Airconditioned aircraft, airconditioned airports, airconditioned taxis, airconditioned hotel rooms, airconditioned stadiums.

117. I spend entire nights rewriting my articles until each text-block is perfectly formed and they all combine into a big text-block.

118. Our dead travel a lot. They choose Qatar Fairway. Qatar Airway, dead people’s favourite airline.

119. As far as the desert in Qatar goes, I won’t talk about the heat that people experience, but I will try to establish the numbers dying from heat exhaustion. In fact, I have never been to Qatar.

120. For newspaper articles, it is better to keep a cool head, you find fewer and fewer people in the field.

121. Mohammed Jaham Al-Kuwari was Qatar’s Ambassador in Paris from 2003 to 2013. During this ten-year period, he corrupted many French politicians by offering them large numbers of gifts.

122. The Qatari Ambassador’s main targets for corruption were members of the Franco-Qatari Friendship Group in the French Parliament. They would be given Rolex watches or tokens for top department stores worth up to 5 to 6 thousand euros each.

123. Kafka wrote The Castle in 1922, exactly one hundred years ago.

124. All seven patients admitted to hospital were suffering from kidney failure.

125. They were also suffering from serious sunstroke and were transferred into ICU (Intensive Care Unit) in a critical condition.

126. The wives of politicians corrupted by the Qatari Ambassador Mohammed al-Kuwari were likely to receive Vuitton handbags worth 5000 euros each or other goods from leading brands.

127. June 2019, during the French heatwave. In Ille-et-Vilaine, an enquiry was opened into the death of a 33-year-old local roofer when the temperature was over 35 degrees centigrade in the shade.

128. Are you alive ? Are you dead ? Can you hear me ? Can you see me ?

129. Mohammed Jaham al-Kuwari offered luxury designer shoes to Nicolas Bays, French Socialist MP for the Nord-Pas-de-Calais constituency and a member of the France-Qatar Friendship Group in the French Parliament.

130. Please order sand-coloured body bags from now on, black body bags show up too easily (memo).

131. At his leaving party, Mohammed Jaham al-Kuwari received everyone he had corrupted, mainly from the worlds of politics and entertainment, while in office.

132. QDVC, a subsidiary of Vinci, was the first to have organised elections for workers’ representatives, given the absence of trade unions which are forbidden in Qatar.

133. In Doha, the National Museum of Qatar was designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel in the shape of a Desert Rose. Its cost is estimated at 434 million dollars.

134. High performance concrete is a new building material which achieves strengths six times higher than normal concrete together with similarly improved durability, thanks to the optimisation of the mix and the addition of metal fibre.

135. Biodegradable body bags in white Plastylon Link with front-mounted double-zipped closings.

136. Desert Rose Motif : 539 steel discs ranging from 14 to 87 metres diameter, clad in 115 000 square metres of ultra-high performance fibre concrete.

137. While admiring Jean Nouvel’s Desert Rose design during the opening ceremony, I wondered how many workers had died on site.

138. A biodegradable material, Plastylon Link is in keeping with our times in that it respects the environment by fully decomposing in less than 8 months.

139. “My goal was to create an architecture in harmony with geography, in keeping with local tradition, a building able to bear maximum sunshine” wrote architect Jean Nouvel on his blog.

140. June 2019, French heatwave. In Cernay in the Haut-Rhin department, a 36-year-old man was found unconscious beside a digger.

141. Since the Nineties, there has been a quantum leap in our understanding of concrete materials with the development of new concepts in formulating cement mixes, using fibre and optimising granular stacking.

142. Plastylon Link emerged in 1989 as a biodegradable material for coffin-liners and burial bags. This material is typically used in coffins intended for cremation as it is flammable and sublimable.

143. “The National Museum of Qatar springs from desert which has ventured into the sea” wrote Jean Nouvel about his Desert Rose building.

144. During drinks held after the opening of the Desert Rose, architect Jean Nouvel and Sheikha Al-Mayassa, sister of the Emir and Chair of the Qatar Museums Authority, chatted together like old friends.

145. If used in a burial, Plastylon Link film is impermeable in water for up to one month and will then decay from hydrolysis or bacterial action, ensuring the decomposition of any corpse.

146. Taking the Desert Rose as a departure point is becoming a very progressive idea, not to say utopian, writes Jean Nouvel.

147. In my airconditioned hotel room, I write airconditioned text-blocks : “A tall figure, always shaven-headed, always dressed in black, Jean Nouvel likes to talk about his latest baby.”

148. The building’s skin is made of high-performance fibre concrete, finished in a beige sand colour, used both inside and outside.

149. Jean Nouvel objects to the charge of working for non-democratic governments : “I work on a secular or trans-secular scale, for everyone, not for someone who happens to be in power”.

150. The body breaks down quickly as Plastylon Link contains very little plastic amongst mostly biodegradable materials.

151. During drinks after the opening of the Desert Rose, I saw Jean Nouvel and Jack Lang chatting together. I noted it, but I didn’t use it in my article as it was an insignificant detail.

152. Our body bags are not talcum-powdered but are very soft and are therefore very pleasant to handle. Furthermore, the effect of the texture and white colour of the bag confers a certain decorum.

153. The UHPFC (Ultra High-Performance Fibre Concrete) range allows for highly varied textures and satin-smooth facings in mat, brilliant, homogenous, and very consistent finishes with excellent aesthetic qualities.

154. Once the body bag and the corpse inside it have decomposed, there is no trace left of either.

155. The Desert Rose is the first architecture self-created by nature, wind, spray, sand, and millennia, surprisingly complex and poetic.

156. Currently, we are working on a new model of biodegradable body bag which will speed up the decomposition of the body inside it, wiping out any trace in a few weeks.


Translated into English by Bill Jenkinson, from the French “Qatar des Morts” by Laurent Margantin

© Laurent Margantin _ 13 mars 2022
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