World-famous architect Zaha Hadid walked out of her interview with Radio 4 on 24 September after presenter Sarah Montague brought up reports of Qatar's World Cup stadium deaths. The two engaged in a heated debate as Hadid insisted that there had been "not one death" at the stadium.
Hadid was appearing on Radio 4's Today Programme to talk about becoming the first woman to win the Royal Flagship Gold Medal for Architecture. Montague had begun to ask Hadid about her work on the Qatar stadium, mentioning "considerable problems" relating to migrant deaths during construction, to which the award-winning architect cut her off by saying: "There haven't been any problems, actually."
Surprised by her statement, Montague went on to say it had been widely reported that more than 1,200 migrant workers have died and that a report by the International Trade Union Confederation had confirmed the same. However, Hadid hit back by saying: "There have been no deaths on our site whatsoever. You should check your information before you say anything."
Hadid told the BBC presenter that she had previously sued the press for reporting statements on the Qatar World Cup stadium deaths as they were "absolutely inaccurate". She claimed that the publication had then been forced to apologise and withdraw its statements. The publication Hadid referring to was the New York Review of Books, which was sued by the British Iraqi architect over an article she claimed accused her of "showing no concern" over the deaths of migrant construction workers in Qatar.
Montague then attempted to steer the conversation away from Qatar, moving on to question Hadid about her involvement in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Stadium and reports that she had pulled out of the bid to design it. However, tensions remained high as Hadid accused the presenter of not reporting the story correctly. When Hadid was interrupted by Montague, the architect said: "Don't ask me a question when you can't let me finish it. Let's stop this conversation right now. I don't want to carry on. Thank you very much."
Qatar has been the centre of controversy over the increasing number of migrant deaths in the country. A report by the International Trade Union Confederation in 2013 stated that Qatar's 2022 World Cup puts 4,000 migrant workers at risk, while 400 workers from Nepal and India die every year. Although no deaths have been confirmed on the World Cup Stadium site itself, campaigners believe that this is the case only because Qatar won't allow external bodies to investigate the matter.
"Zaha Hadid clearly doesn't want to talk about the wider issue because workers are dying in Qatar," said Stephen Russell, coordinator for the PlayFair Qatar campaign. "Exactly where they're dying we don't know because Qatar won't tell us. We will accept that no deaths have occurred on these stadiums once Qatar publishes independently verified statistics and so far they have refused to do so and they won't let anyone go in to check. If it's true, why aren't they letting people in to verify that it's true?"
In May 2015 the BBC said that their journalists had been arrested in Qatar for attempting to report on the migrant deaths. Earlier this year Amnesty International published a report that said there had been "little progress" towards improving the situation for migrant workers in the country.