The first World Cup organized by an Arab country is increasingly controversial instead of being a bridge between different cultures. From the choice of the country as the venue to the treatment of migrant workers, restrictions on freedom of expression or the prohibition of LGBTQ + demonstrations, Qatar faces a series of accusations that increasingly tarnish the World Cup less than a week before its start. .
The week-long countdown to the World Cup began on Monday, as the world’s top footballers turned their attention to one of the most controversial tournaments in history. It culminates Qatar’s extraordinary campaign to first win the vote to win the tournament and then embark on spending tens of billions of dollars to build stadiums and infrastructure.
FIFA’s calls to “focus on football” have gone unheeded as the countdown to the start of the competition has only increased scrutiny over the Gulf state’s treatment of migrant workers, to women and the LGBTQ community.
South Asian workers have been at the center of an often acrimonious dispute over deaths, injuries and their working conditions since Qatar was awarded the World Cup in 2010.
Qatar has angrily rejected most of the attacks and local media have denounced the “arrogance” of some Western countries.
The British newspaper The Guardian commented that in a speech before the Shura council, the state legislative body, on October 25, the ruler of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, expressed a certain degree of bitterness for what he saw as a decade of relentless attacks. The emir did not quite say that he wished his country to be left out of all the revelry, but it certainly sounded like if he had finished apologizing to Westerners.
“Since we got the honor of hosting the World Cup, Qatar has been subjected to an unprecedented campaign that no host country has ever faced,” he said.
“Initially we dealt with the matter in good faith, and even found some of the criticism to be positive and helpful, helping us to develop aspects that need to be developed. But it soon became clear to us that the campaign was continuing, expanding to include manufacturing and double standards, until it reached a level of ferocity that caused many to question, sadly, [sus] reasons and motives”.
Sheikh Tamim insisted that the World Cup would still be a big announcement for Qatar, but as the clock ticks down to the opening match on November 20, challenges to Qatar’s narrative of a dexterous and in-demand Gulf state are mounting. modernization process, said the outlet in its note.
But the criticism does not only come from activist groups.
Denmark will wear shirts with the manufacturer’s logo dimmed, because the Hummel company “doesn’t want to be visible at tournaments that cost lives.” Players from Australia recorded a video showing their concern about the suffering of migrant workers and the inability of LGBTQ+ people in Qatar to “love the person of their choice”. Additionally, 8 of the 32 teams plan to wear some form of rainbow armband in support of LGBTQ+ rights.
London declared that it would not host fan zones or public screenings of the matches. Paris, home to Qatar-sponsored Paris Saint-Germain, and other French cities followed suit. The BBC quoted the mayor of Lille as calling this year’s tournament “nonsense in terms of human rights, the environment and sport”. In Britain, the Labor party said it would boycott the World Cup, and MPs who have visited Qatar on free trips have been denounced in the press.
The labor exploitation It is one of the big issues surrounding this World Cup. Thousands of migrants in Qatar who work on projects linked to the World Cup or worked on the construction of the stadiums continue to face problems such as unpaid wages, denial of rest days, unsafe working conditions, obstacles to changing jobs and limited access to education. justice, while the deaths of thousands of workers remain uninvestigated.
In August at least 60 workers were arrested for participating in a demonstration that took place in front of the offices of Al Bandary International Groupa major construction company, according to equidem, a London-based labor rights organization. Most of the workers were sent home.
From the Washington Post reported that a government official from qatar said in a statement that the protesters had been detained for violate public safety laws and that the incident was under investigation.
The working conditions of these immigrant workers in the Persian Gulf countries has been in the eye of the storm for many years. The protest in question was held on August 14while the calls for attention to the FIFA for compensate workers for alleged labor abuses incurred on the eve of preparation for the tournament.
On Friday, Amnesty International made an urgent appeal to FIFA president Gianni Infantino to commit to a compensation package for the workers who built the tournament’s gleaming stadiums.
“All of these abuses are at odds with the image of the World Cup as a glittering celebration of humanity.”denounced Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch. “These are the people who have literally built the World Cup from the ground up, from the desert up. They are the ones who should receive financial compensation before kicking the first ball”, he added.
According to Guardian unions, as well as the UN’s International Labor Organization (ILO), say there has now been not only a compromise on the problem but a “transformation” in Qatar’s approach to migrant workers.
In 2018, reforms finally allowed workers to leave the country without first obtaining an exit permit, and in 2020 workers were allowed to change jobs before the end of a contract without the employer’s permission, effectively abolishing the system of exploitation kafalah. In a report published on October 31, the ILO said that more than 348,450 requests to change jobs were approved between November 1, 2020 and August 31, 2022.
Nevertheless, It acknowledged that “several unscrupulous employers have retaliated against workers who requested a job change.” This retaliation can take the form of threats of deportation, cancellation of residence permits, or filing charges for absconding, the outlet explained.
Qatar is one of the seventy countries in the world that consider sexual orientation a crime, causing many activists to seek to end these homophobic laws.
Countries like Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan are some of those that have a death penalty against homosexuals. As for Qatar, although it does not penalize gays, it does punish them and they could be sentenced to seven years in prison if they have relations with another person of the same sex.
Sep Blatter, a former FIFA president, had said that gays and lesbians attending the country this season should refrain from all sexual activity. This comment generated outrage from the different international associations of the LGBT + community, since they feel that instead of supporting them he has allied himself with the repressors.
People in the community can become incarcerated for express your orientation in public or even for making it private: what’s more, there are traps to catch them, as is the case of looking for young homosexuals in internet forums where “they set up fake dates with them and then arrest them.”
Nasser Al Khater, executive director of the organizing committee of the event, assured that “it is a tolerant country. It is a welcoming country”, but there are already anti-LGBT+ hotels in Qatar.
Human Rights Watch documented six cases of severe and repeated beatings and five cases of sexual harassment in police custody between 2019 and 2022.
The British outlet explained that security forces ordered detained transgender women to attend so-called conversion therapy sessions at government-sponsored “behavioral health care.” center. Activist Peter Tatchell said that he had personally counseled a gay Qatari man who was devastated and humiliated by attending a conversion course.
Qatar likes to defend its conservative culture, saying “we are not dubai”, but at the same time, there is sometimes a gap between the law and its application. “What people do in the four walls of their hotel is up to them. If two guys book a hotel room together or show some PDA [muestras públicas de afecto]there is no morality police here,” said an official.
Sophia Stone, a Briton living in Doha, said the negative press was unfair. “I wouldn’t listen to everything you hear on the news,” she told AFP. “If you really want to have an opinion about it, come to Qatar and see for yourself. From what I’m reading, it’s not like that at all. It is a very open and welcoming country.”
The country of just three million people, one of the world’s largest producers of natural gas, has spent hand over fist.
The new stadiums cost more than $6.5 billion and a $36 billion driverless subway system serves five of the eight venues.
By some estimates, total infrastructure spending over the past decade is as high as $200 billion.
Organizers have planned for more than a million fans to travel to Qatar and have responded to concerns over lack of accommodation by using three cruise ships as floating hotels. They are now fully booked for the first two weeks of the tournament.
Organizers say 2.9 million of the 3.1 million tickets have been sold and fans have been waiting outside FIFA’s ticketing center in the hope that scarce tickets for the biggest matches will become available. .
Qatar announced its first arrests of World Cup ticket scalpers on Monday, with three foreign men detained outside official ticketing centers in Doha. Details of his nationality were not provided.
In Europe, the discomfort that a country with hardly any football tradition is hosting the tournament is strongly felt.
The captain of the 2014 World Cup-winning German team, Philipp Lahm, said on Sunday that Qatar should never have been allowed to host the World Cup because of rights abuses.
“Awarding the World Cup to Qatar was a mistake,” Lahm wrote in a column for Die Zeit newspaper. “It doesn’t belong there.”
Lufthansa said that a plane with the sign “#DiversityWins!” will lead the German team to their World Cup campaign.
(With information from AFP)
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