Image Source: CGTN
Qatar has dominated the headlines for the past few weeks, and it’s been quite a ride.
The World Cup was a well-run tournament and a chance for Qataris to show the world their culture, from their buildings to how they treat visitors.
But being in the spotlight also means being closely looked at, and much of the coverage, especially in the west, has been about the Qatari government’s record on human rights, from the deaths of migrant workers and the conditions they had to live into the ownership of LGBTQ people and women.
Why Qatar wanted to host the World Cup?
Qatar is a small country—smaller it’s than Connecticut—but it has become a bigger political and economic player on the world stage in recent years, despite its size.
A state in the Gulf is one of the world’s largest exporters of liquid natural gas. It has also made a name for itself as a peacemaker on the international stage. For example, it is working to ensure that everyone left Afghanistan in August 2021 and that officials from the US and Iran can meet in Doha to talk about things indirectly. It was also the beginning of the news network Al Jazeera.
It has hurt so much.’
But because of the World Cup, more people know about Qatar and its record on human rights.
It is hard to know how many migrant workers died while working on projects for the tournament.
The Guardian reported last year that since Qatar won the World Cup in 2010, 6,500 South Asian migrant workers have died there. Most of these people were doing dangerous work that didn’t pay well and was often done in very hot conditions.
CNN hasn’t been able to confirm on its own that all 6,500 deaths were caused by building infrastructure for the World Cup.
During a TalkTV interview with Piers Morgan, Hassan Al-Thawadi, who is in charge of planning the World Cup for Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), said in November that between 400 and 500 migrant workers have died while working on projects for the tournament. This number is higher than what Qatari officials had previously said.
Al-Thawadi said in the same interview that three migrant workers had died in accidents while building stadiums for the World Cup. In addition, 37 more workers died of other things.
Rothna Begum, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, told CNN Sport that Qatari LGBTQ people and women who came to her organization made her write reports about human rights abuses in the country.
In Qatar, it is against the law for men to have sexual relations with other men. If you do, you could go to jail for up to three years. Human Rights Watch released a report last month saying that in September, Qatari security forces arrested LGBTQ people for no reason and mistreated them while they were in jail.
Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) told CNN last month, before the tournament started, that the 2022 World Cup “will be an inclusive and safe tournament” and that “everyone is welcome, regardless of race, background, religion, gender, orientation, or nationality.”
Most people stop caring about human rights as soon as the tournament starts. Begum talks about how her group reported on human rights violations in Russia before the 2018 World Cup and in China before the 2022 Winter Olympics, but not at Qatar 2022.
Human rights groups have asked FIFA and Qatar to set up a program that makes it easy for migrant workers and their families to get money as compensation.
On the eve of the World Cup, FIFA announced a Legacy Fund to “help those who need it most.” However, human rights groups point out that the fund doesn’t include a way to pay workers for their work.
The Qatari Ministry of Labor’s Workers Support and Insurance Fund began in 2020.
The human rights coalition says, “The fund is not set up right now to be able to provide meaningful compensation.” The International Labor Organization (ILO), on the other hand, has given workers more than $350 million.
“A well-liked part of the peace.”
Qatar was in the middle of a diplomatic crisis from June 2017 to January 2021, when the World Cup was about to start. Several countries, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates, cut diplomatic ties with Qatar because they said it supported terrorism and made the region unstable.
Qatar has always said they are not true.
Tensions have slowly started to go away over the past two years. Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia and the country’s natural leader, wore a scarf from Qatar at the World Cup’s opening ceremony. The thaw could be seen in this way. At the same time, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim al-Thani returned the favor by wearing Saudi Arabia’s scarf over his shoulders during its game against Argentina.
At this tournament, Arab teams have done better than ever before. Saudi Arabia shocked everyone by beating the winner, Argentina, and Morocco made history by making it to the semifinals.
All over the Arab world, it has made people happy. Al Thani said that in Doha, “people were crying and jumping” after Saudi Arabia won.
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Qatar is definitely on the map because it draws hundreds of thousands of fans from all over the region and the world. When these fans go home, they tell their friends and family that they saw the “greatest show on earth.”
But the massive cost of this World Cup and the extra attention has put the country’s human rights record in the spotlight in a way that has never happened before.
Opinions expressed by California Gazette contributors are their own.