Political and human rights criticism grows louder as World Cup nears in Qatar


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Western anger was already palpable in 2010, after soccer’s governing body FIFA rejected Qatar’s bid to host the 2022 World Cup. The German newspaper Bild reacted to this action by printing the headline “Qatarstroff” and claimed that only oil wealth and corruption could influence the choice of the Persian Gulf kingdom. The only explanation for this decision is that FIFA sold the World Cup to small-state sheikhs in the desert, Bild noted. “There is no other explanation.”

There was also an element of disbelief and condescension. How can a small country without a sports tradition hold such an important event? At the time, the left-leaning French newspaper Liberation observed. At several points, demographic, economic, environmental, sports and tourism, this choice will surprise you.

Twelve years later, many of these sentiments remain. Pop star Dua Lipa denied He was performing at the opening ceremony and said he was looking forward to visiting Qatar until it meets its human rights obligations. Philipp Lahm, who captained Germany to the World Cup in 2014, cited human rights concerns as the reason for not attending Doha. Even with the World Cup just a few days away, The talk of sanctions only gets louder.

Soccer fan protesters showed their displeasure over the weekend, particularly in Germany, where tens of thousands of supporters put up anti-match banners at local club league matches in Hamburg, Berlin, the Ruhr Valley and elsewhere. These included a list of complaints about the host country’s authoritarian monarchy, including alleged human rights abuses, repression of dissent, persecution of LGBTQ people and mistreatment of migrant workers.

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5000 deaths for 5760 minutes of football. Shame on you!” read the message echoed across Germany, a reference to varying estimates of worker casualties during Qatar’s ambitious construction projects since winning the tender 12 years ago.

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Even the chief executive who chaired the winner of the Qatar bid now says it was a “mistake”. Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter recently told Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger: “Qatar is a very small country. Soccer and the World Cup are too big for that.

To be sure, Blatter’s remarks carry a strong note of sour grapes. He left his post in 2015 amid a corruption scandal involving some of his colleagues. In previous years, he strongly advocated moving the tournament to Qatar, whose vast natural gas reserves would finance the first World Cup in the Middle East, despite the country’s absence from previous tournaments.

While Blatter is still locked in legal battles over fraud, Qatari officials are outraged by the accusations against them. Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani said in a speech last month that his country was the target of “unprecedented” foreign attacks that “included fabrications and double standards that were so brutal that they unfortunately led many people to ignore the real reasons.” question the motives of this campaign.”

There is no clear chain of evidence linking Qatari officials to any wrongdoing or embezzlement that warranted their World Cup bid. Indeed, far from the smoky backrooms in Zurich, where FIFA is based, since winning the bid, Qatar has publicly splashed its wealth and leverage through the purchase of French club Paris Saint-Germain. has expanded Paris Saint-Germain is now a veritable Harlem Globetrotters of the world game, including some of its most famous superstars such as Brazil’s Neymar, Argentina’s Lionel Messi and French talisman Kylian Mbappe.

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Critics of PSG’s ownership see it as an exercise in “sports laundering” to flatter the image of a troubled regime. They will extend that argument to the World Cup itself, as Qatar has plowed an estimated $220 billion into building the vast infrastructure needed to host a tournament of this scale from scratch. This includes new roads, a subway system, dozens of hotels and seven new stadiums.

This huge construction project has always drawn attention to the country’s labor rights records. Eighty-five percent of Qatar’s population of 3 million are foreign workers, and a significant portion of this group are migrant workers from poor communities in East Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Long before Qatar won the World Cup, human rights groups documented the abuses and harsh conditions faced by these migrants.

The Guardian revealed last year that around 65,000 South Asian workers have died since the World Cup was awarded to Qatar. But these deaths are figures for all workers and were not related to World Cup projects. Qatari officials have said the death toll of construction site workers has been around 38 – although Amnesty International has investigated Qatar’s failure to investigate the root cause of most of the workers’ deaths.

Outside investigations have revealed a range of problems in the labor sector, from housing issues to heat illness, lost wages and other employer abuses. Since the World Cup was awarded, Qatar has reformed its labor laws, introducing a minimum wage higher than many countries in the region and claiming to abolish the infamous “kefala” system, a policy that effectively governs the rights of migrants. Workers of some Arab countries

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In a report this month, the U.N.’s International Labor Organization said Qatar had implemented “significant” reforms that “improved the working and living conditions of hundreds of thousands of workers,” but acknowledged that “more needs to be done for full implementation.” . and implement labor reforms.”

A recent report by Eqidem, a human rights organization, documented numerous cases of abuse of workers involved in FIFA-related projects over the past two years. The group noted that the prevalence of these alleged abuses “in workshops heavily regulated by Qatar, FIFA and their partners” “suggests that reforms implemented over the past five years have served as cover for powerful businesses seeking to exploit workers.” They are immigrants. Forgiveness.”

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Both Qatari and FIFA officials are urging the more than one million fans who enter the country to tone down their political criticism and respect the tournament for its historic uniqueness.. For many Qataris, it feels hypocritical to have fans, celebrities and politicians elsewhere. In 2018, when Russia hosted the tournament, there certainly wasn’t this level of condemnation from other sports officials and fans. Nor does the broader scrutiny of Russia’s human rights record seem as intense as the current glare on Qatar — even though President Vladimir Putin’s regime was fueling a separatist war in Ukraine and committing war crimes in Syria at the time.

In response to Germany’s criticism, Qatar’s foreign minister questioned the agenda. On the one hand, the German people are misinformed by government politicians. In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung this month, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said: “On the other hand, the government has no problem with us in terms of energy investment or partnership.”


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