Zahir Belounis' limbo existence is almost at end.
After two years of legal wrangling, threats of a hunger strike and thoughts of suicide, Belounis has been told he will finally receive his Qatari exit visa on October 21.
The 33-year-old footballer had been unable to leave the Gulf state following a pay dispute against club side El Jaish.
Living with his wife and two young children, he was left without pay and struggling to provide for his family.
Now, following intervention from the French government and numerous meetings with the Qatari Football Association, he will be allowed to return home with his wife and two children. The QFA has disputed Belounis' claims.
"I feel like a hostage," Belounis exclusively told CNN.
"Life has become a nightmare for me, my wife and my two small daughters.
"I try to be the best daddy I can but after I tuck them in at night, I go to bed and cry like a baby.
"They killed me inside. I hated myself. I had very dark thoughts."
Trapped in Qatar and with little or no support, Belounis had taken to speaking out to the western media in the hope that he would gain enough publicity to help acquire an exit visa.
Qatar has come under intense media scrutiny since winning the right to stage the 2022 World Cup, particularly over its employment laws -- notably the kafala system, which requires expatriate workers and some visitors to have a residence permit.
Hunger strike threat
Staging a World Cup is a major undertaking, requiring the building of stadiums and transportation links.
That requires labor and according to United Nations figures it is estimated that 500 new immigrants arrive in the country every day -- many from the Indian sub-continent and Southeast Asia.
A CNN report in May highlighted allegations by rights groups that thousands of construction workers building the infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup have been abused, denied their wages and trapped in a situation from which they cannot escape because, under Qatar's visa system, workers cannot leave the country without their employer's consent.
"At the time of that report, the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee said in a statement to CNN: "The safety, security, health and dignity of workers -- be they professionals or construction workers -- is of paramount importance.
"Our commitment is to change working conditions in order to ensure a lasting legacy of improved worker welfare. We are aware this cannot be done overnight. But the 2022 FIFA World Cup is acting as a catalyst for improvements in this regard."
The system ties a worker to one employer only -- meaning they are unable to work for anyone else but their sponsor.
Earlier this year Belounis was so desperate he threatened to go on hunger strike, but was advised by his legal team that would only undermine his case.
"I've done nothing wrong and I shouldn't be here," said Belounis, as he tried to hold back his anger.
"I met the French President Francois Hollande and he told me that it will be OK," added Belounis.
"This is not a case of justice -- it is a case of my human rights being violated.
"I've lost my freedom and I've done nothing bad. My life is a disaster -- it is a nightmare."
Belounis' tale has been challenged by the Qatari Football Association, which pointed out in a statement given to CNN that "as in any other football association in the world, there will unfortunately always be contractual disputes between clubs and players/coaches."
It went on to add: "It is also relevant to emphasize that up to now the player has not taken any action in front of the competent judicial bodies of FIFA.
"Our records show also that Zahir Belounis received salaries from one of our other affiliated clubs, Al Markhiya Club, when he played there during the second half of the 2011/12 season.
"At the end of that season, Zahir Belounis contacted the QFA for outstanding salaries from Al Markhiya Club. The QFA immediately took action and, after analysis and investigation which gave him right, the player received full compensation.
"However, in the alleged case of El Jaish Club, Zahir Belounis did not contact QFA, although he had experienced the efficiency of doing so when his request was legitimate."
While the QFA has denied Belounis' accusations, his case is not the only example of a highly skilled foreign worker being stranded in Qatar.
Nick McGeehan, a Human Rights Watch lawyer, who has worked with Belounis throughout his case, is also in touch with several others trapped by the kafala system.
"It's pretty grim out there," McGeehan told CNN.
"These people have nobody to support them. We want the Qataris to abolish the exit visa system and we're confident they will," he added.
"They don't need it anymore and they now find themselves in a horrendous situation.
"We have met with many low-paid migrant workers who have complained that they cannot leave the country because they either don't have their passport or they haven't been provided with the exit visas they require.
"It is our understanding that migrant workers often encounter serious difficulties getting exit visas from their employer for a variety of reasons.
"Migrant worker abuses are typically associated with low-paid workers from south Asia."
In an interview with CNN in early October, Hassan al-Thawadi, secretary general of the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, defended his country's efforts, while acknowledging that it takes time to develop and enforce labor rights laws.
He said: "I'd be worried and concerned and appalled and disgusted at any individual working on any project -- not just relating to the World Cup, but any project out there -- that suffers such circumstances, and definitely these stories that have been reported are being investigated currently.
"The government is taking a look at them."
Meanwhile the wait for Belounis went on.