Zahir and his family have been virtual prisoners in the Arab sovereign since 2010 because of a dispute with his employers – football club Al Jaish SC – over wages being withheld to the French-Algerian striker. Under Qatar’s ‘Kafala’ law the employer holds an employees visa privileges, most importantly the exit visa, which the football club had up to this point withheld along with any salary. Zahir and his family were forced to sell nearly all their possessions in order to live day-to-day.
A campaign by Zahir’s family, supported by various human rights organisations, to pressure the FIFA into action fell on deaf ears, as did the open letter Zahir penned to various ‘Qatar 2022’ ambassadors such as Pepe Guardiola and Zinedine Zidane.
However the arrival of a delegation from the footballers rights organisation FIFpro in Qatar seems to have done the trick, and this morning Zahir’s brother Mhadi tweeted that a resolution had been reached and that Zahir and his family would soon be returning to France.
One of those most vocal on the plight of Zahir was journalist James Masters, who tirelessly brought the case to the wider attention of the public in Europe and the US. An understandably emotional Zahir spoke to James this morning leaving this message for his supporters:
“I had to talk to you. Thank you so much to all of those who supported me. I’m so happy”
A happy ending I’m sure you all agree, yet the circumstances around Zahir and his family’s detention raise ever more questions over Qatar’s human right record and it’s eligibility to hose the 2022 FIFA World Cup.