During the build up to the World Cup, Qatar faced massive criticism over its human rights record. In a speech on the eve of the tournament, FIFA president Gianni Infantino defended Qatar’s migrant worker policy. He said the West could learn a lot from the way Qatar treated migrant workers. Despite the criticism, Qatar has managed to build seven new stadiums for the World Cup.
However, as the World Cup approaches, the international media has focused on the treatment of migrant workers. Many of the migrant workers who came to Qatar for work on construction projects were exploited, with reports showing that some were subjected to abusive working conditions. According to a report by Amnesty International, practices such as withholding salaries and forcing workers to change jobs were found. In addition, the International Labor Organization has noted Qatar’s non-discriminatory minimum wage.
Qatar has also been under attack from human rights organisations for the treatment of LGBTQ+ people. Many LGBTQ Qataris have been subjected to harassment and conversion therapy. Some have even been jailed. The country operates a version of Islamic Sharia law, which carries the death penalty for stoning. The country has also been criticized for religious extremism. The country has also been accused of curtailing freedom of expression and women’s rights.
During the build up to the World Cup, migrant worker deaths have also been highlighted. According to reports, at least 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar since it was awarded the right to host the World Cup. The Qatari government has defended its migrant worker policy, arguing that it has introduced reforms that have improved the conditions of migrant workers.
While the migrant worker issue is still a prominent focus in the international media, many are arguing that the inequality that exists in Qatar is not an exclusive problem. In the United States, for example, there is a stark inequality between the rich and the poor.
A number of prominent figures have called on FIFA to strip Qatar of its 2022 World Cup. Qatar’s Emir has called the criticism a “unprecedented” campaign. He has also condemned the “fabricated” double standards of European critics of Qatar. Several European football associations, including England and Wales, have responded to the human rights concerns.
Several journalists have also been arrested in the run up to the World Cup. BBC World reporter Mark Lobel was arrested for investigating the conditions of migrant workers in Qatar. Others, including Norwegian journalists, have been detained for trespassing on private property. Qatar has offered journalists expenses-paid trips to the World Cup, and it has also offered to pay for fans to travel to Qatar. However, these efforts have not been enough to quell the criticism of the Qatari government.
Some have suggested that the World Cup has made some rich people even richer. While the migrant worker issue will be front and center during the World Cup finals, the question remains whether Qatar’s World Cup will benefit those who are not migrant workers. In a statement, the Qatar Sports Council has said that everyone is welcome to the World Cup, and that it will “begin to show the world how diverse and welcoming we are.”
The World Cup is a celebration of the planet and of sports. However, its success will be determined by Qatar’s ability to protect human rights for all.