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Monday, March 27, 2023

Qatar, the World Cup and human rights

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Gabriel Carrion Lopez
Gabriel Carrion Lopez
Investigative journalist, author

Some Arab countries can buy anything and everything, even the conscience of those who lead football. The country with the highest per capita income in the world, around 128,000 euros on average, compared to Spain’s 27,000, bought a World Cup in 2010 in the United States. A country where the rights of women, construction workers and LGTBI groups are violated.

One need only look at Amnesty International’s website to see first-hand the lack of women’s rights in Qatar. Despite being the first Arab country to give women the vote in 1999, women still have a miserable position in the country’s decision-making process and are still under the tutelage of men. It is usually the father or brother who makes important life decisions for them, such as getting married, studying abroad, travelling, and having some specific reproductive health care. This leads to the conclusion that Qatari women do not even own their own bodies. In Qatar, moreover, divorced women are never allowed to have custody of their children and are socially ostracised.

There are many reports from human rights organisations, such as the aforementioned Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, which affirm the permanent violation of these rights with regard to women and not only women.

The LGTBI groups

The Qatari Penal Code continues to criminalise homosexual relations between men as an offence punishable by up to seven years’ imprisonment. Its Article 296 specified the offences of “leading, instigating or enticing a male in any manner to commit sodomy or dissipation” and “inducing or enticing a male or female in any manner to commit illegal or immoral actions”. (Source Amnesty International)

Just a few days ago Khalid Salman, a former Qatari national team player, in an interview with a German television station ZDF, described homosexuality as an infection of the mind. Germany’s own interior minister, Nancy Faeser, described these statements as “horrible”. But she nevertheless stated that she would go to the World Cup.

If we take into account what former Qatari football player Khalid Khalid said and his warning that homosexuality in Islam is “haram”, we have a recipe for trouble around the subject.

But the question is: if no one wants to go, why do we go?

Perhaps FIFA and what happened in 2010 in Zurich has a lot to do with it, as Qatar then bought off several of the board members in order to ensure that the World Cup could be held there in 2022.

FIFA and the permanent scandal of football.

Nobody doubts that football is no longer a sport where the ball spins and a few players kick around a field of more or less metres. Today it is a business that moves billions of dollars around the world. And that is why on 2 December 2010, when everything about football was being bought, sold or rigged, 14 of the 22 members of the FIFA Executive Committee voted in favour of Qatar and against the United States to host the 2022 World Cup. The remaining 8 simply abstained or, to give it more “veracity”, decided to vote in favour of the American venue. This did not sit well with the American authorities, who saw an important business opportunity slipping away, especially for the large multinationals and corporations that wish to incorporate the sport into American culture, knowing the pull it has on the already majority Hispanic minorities in some states.

But things did not stop there, given that 16 of the members of that 2010 committee have been prosecuted over the years for fraud, embezzlement, etc., and some of them have been imprisoned. That Committee, at least for the Americans, ceased to be a secret club and began to be held accountable. Yet no one ever dared to try to reverse that decision. Why?

Although nobody says it, the business opportunities for the owners of important clubs, with the Qatari government, are wide open. Nobody comments on the urban development possibilities that open up or the investments of the Qatari sheikhs in other countries that can be closed. Anything goes in order to close million-dollar deals without even taking sport into account.

And while loopholes are opening up, and some national team players will be wearing a multicoloured armband, the bribes in spices that await them, along with the treatment of their wives, must be sufficiently unimaginable for them to decide to “enjoy” a bath of bought-up crowds at a World Cup that will fill them with shame.

Perhaps the wives of the footballers, on this occasion – this is an opinion – should stay at home and not be accomplices of their husbands, and perhaps for once, the football players should consider not going to play in a country that violates human rights in such a way that it does not even respect foreign labour. A country that has exported workers to create those stadiums that will no doubt be remembered as the tomb of some 6,500 of them, according to figures from human rights organisations that have closely followed the Qatari government’s exploitation of this cheap and disenfranchised labour force. Watching half the world’s teams play among the graves is not in my plans, so I have once again declared myself a human rights objector and will not watch the World Cup of a country that does not respect human rights.

First published in Europa Hoy News

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