Qatar World Cup: What gets missed in the war of narratives


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Doha, Qatar – What does wearing an armband mean? At the World Cup, that could mean sparking a clash of civilizations.

On the pitch, the tournament has thrilled fans with chaotic matches, upsets and a host of non-traditional football powers reaching the knockout stage. But off the field, the World Cup, the first to be held in the Middle East, has been the site of a more hostile rivalry between moral Westerners and the more exasperated Qatari hosts and their Arab brethren.

Western governments, especially European countries participating in the tournament, and the media have viewed the event and the oil-rich kingdom that hosts it with suspicion. They protested human rights and the lack of protection for workers, and pointed to abuses that took place in the shadow of major construction projects for the UAE World Cup. And despite efforts by FIFA, soccer’s controversial governing body, to curb political posturing at the tournament, they took some protest action.

This included German Interior Minister Nancy Pfizer in Qatar wearing the “One Love” armband in support of LGBT rights, which the captains of the United States and a number of European teams eventually refused to wear for fear of a FIFA sanction. they did Fesser’s gesture was derided in Qatar and the region, with some prominent commentators interpreting the move as less of a comment on threats to LGBTQ minorities. More of a grand royal actis separated from the lived reality of these societies.

The German national team also protested, taking a pre-match photo with their hands over their mouths, a clear message to FIFA officials that they will be snubbed. But the early departure of the team caused Madness of mockery In social networks and Arabic TV

Families of migrant workers who died in Qatar are waiting for answers

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There is heated rhetoric on other fronts as well. Halfway through the tournament, social media is still abuzz with comments about what has been described as “modern day slavery”, including Qatar’s flashy stadiums and new infrastructure. For many years, human rights groups and labor advocacy organizations have highlighted the shortcomings and abuses common not only in Qatar, but in the wider Persian Gulf region, where millions of migrant workers live, sometimes in dire conditions and vulnerable to predatory employers and Exploitative recruiters portray.

But the fraud against Qatar’s World Cup seems to portray the UAE authorities as arrogant pharaohs who move the palace to build their shining pyramids. Casualty figures suggested several thousand workers lost their lives in Qatari logistics – figures that Qatari officials have dismissed as grossly inaccurate and misleading, and which the UN’s International Labor Organization has not confirmed.

Last month, my colleagues reported in part on the story of the Indian man who died after work: “Qatar downplayed the death toll in part by insisting that work on infrastructure separate from the World Cup stadiums was not related to the tournament. has rejected On construction sites, Qatar has also taken measures that labor and human rights groups say are significant and, if fully implemented, would better protect workers.

The reforms include a new centralized electronic system to monitor payments between private companies and their migrant workers, wage increases and other measures to grant greater mobility to workers whose status in the country depends on the whims of their employers. There are signs of progress.

The Post’s Monkey Cage blog explained: “Concrete changes include removing the requirement for workers to obtain an exit permit to leave Qatar and obtain a no-objection certificate before changing employers. More than 300,000 foreign workers changed jobs between September 2020 and March 2022, according to data from the International Labor Organization. Additionally, 13 percent of Qatar’s workforce would see their base wages increase after the implementation of the non-discriminatory minimum wage in 2021. New rules in 2021 reduced that number. “The hours employers can set for outdoor work during the summer months is a further move to protect the health and safety of workers.”

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Adaptation of the World Cup with a small diameter

Rights groups argue that more needs to be done to protect workers from exploitation and ensure the proper implementation of new policies in the country’s largely privatized labor sector.. But according to Zahra Babar, an associate professor at the Center for International and Regional Studies at the Georgetown University in Qatar and a long-time researcher on migration issues in the Persian Gulf, the polar conversation about the World Cup has not helped much to understand the real complexities of the World Cup. What the immigrants in the region are facing and their lives. (You can get a picture of this complexity in a podcast series produced by Babar’s Voices of Immigrants in Qatar program.)

“The narrative of heroes and villains hasn’t really helped,” Babar said.

There is a lot of talk about Western hypocrisy and double standards in Doha. In conversations I’ve had with Qatari officials and other Arab commentators, I’ve heard references to how Europe looks on as thousands of potential migrants drown in the Mediterranean. to documented abuses in the US program to bring low-skilled farm workers to work on American farms; to the indifference of the West in the face of its legacy of imperialist exploitation and later support for various dictatorial regimes in the developing world; To the disrespect of European officials who publicly condemn Qatari society and customs and privately pursue their own economic interests with Doha – including major gas deals.

When I suggested that some of these arguments could be construed as “dependency,” one official pushed back, insisting that this was the proper context for viewing Qatar’s place in the world and its efforts to calculate the pace of change. The small country’s population has more than quadrupled in less than two decades, much of it due to a major influx of new immigrant workers.

According to Babar, the systems in place around the world – not just in Qatar – for low-skilled migrant labor are “designed to exploit and exploit a devalued cadre of workers whose lives are constantly in limbo.” He argued that despite all the special focus on Qatar during the World Cup, the situation for expatriates here is not unique.

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In addition to its efforts to reform its labor sector, Qatar sees the World Cup as an opportunity to attract a different kind of tourist. While nearby Dubai has established itself as a playground for Western travellers, Doha may be an attractive destination for visitors from the Middle East, Asia and Africa. 1.5 million people are expected to visit Qatar during the World Cup. After the tournament, Qatar will have visa-free entry for people from more than 95 countries. This regime is much more generous than what the United States or the European Schengen Area countries offer.

Ali Al Ansari, Qatar’s media liaison in the United States, said: “Qatar has long been a global travel hub connecting East and West, making the tournament an opportunity for many fans who have never had the opportunity before. They have not participated in the World Cup. .

The ease of entry and access – flights to the Gulf, a major air travel hub, from parts of Asia and Africa are quite affordable – was evident in my conversations with a group of Ghanaian fans before they left Ghana to watch their country fall. . Friday’s match against Uruguay

It is very easy to come here. Joe Mensah, an electrical engineer from the city of Kumasi, said: “Qatar is the right place to host the World Cup.”

Mensa fellow John Appiah of Accra said he arrived in Qatar with “certain perceptions” about Arab racism and mistreatment of foreigners. But my treatment here has been excellent.

Appiah added that he would like to visit the United States for the 2026 World Cup, but believes that obtaining a visa could be difficult. “I don’t know if they want me to come or not,” he said.


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