By A. Melcon
The 2022 World cup is currently being held in Qatar, making it both the first Arab country, as well as the smallest country, to ever become the host. Because of the extremely high temperatures which would be intolerable for athletes in the summer, the cup has been moved to November, despite its new date disrupting numerous other important football tournaments. The questioning of this choice has led to many allegations of bribery and corruption entangled in the choice of where the FIFA world cup would be held, especially as a dozen FIFA officials involved in the selection have since been banned due to bribery allegations. The FIFA administer at the time of the decision, Sepp Blatter, who was eventually banned due to a bribery scandal, has admitted that bringing it to Qatar was a “bad choice”. Many have criticized the choice of the host being Qatar immensely, from reasons ranging from labor scandals, LGBTQ bans and the discrimination of women.
One of the main controversies regarding the World Cup being in Qatar is the exploitation in the labor industry. When the country was selected as the 2022 host in 2010, absolutely none of the infrastructure needed was already built, leading the country to use its migrant worker force, who make up for 90% of the labor force, to trap them into inhuman working conditions which they, due to their visas being granted only with their employment, couldn’t leave. According to a 2021 Guardian investigation, since constructions in preparation for the cup began, 6,500 migrant workers from distinct south Asian countries have died, principally from workplace accidents, heat and suicide. Qatar has been denying these allegations, claiming there has been only 3 deaths, and stating that the conditions for workers have actually improved as a result of the World Cup, as demonstrated in the new protections enforced in the 2014 Workers Welfare Standards. However, many, such as the Amnesty report in the Reality Check 2021, have criticized the effectiveness of these regulations, as they are rarely enforced, and workers’ rights are still rapidly deteriorating despite the 2014 reforms.
Many countries around the world have criticized this issue immensely, and a coalition of worker rights NGO’s have called on FIFA and Qatar to create a remedy fund for all migrant workers and their families to compensate their suffering and abuses during the world cup. They are enforcing that the fund should total $440 million, the same amount as the winning team’s prize money. The football Associations of 10 distinct European nations are also putting pressure on Qatar and the FIFA officials organizing this World cup to improve the rights of migrant workers.
Moreover, Qatar has received a lot of criticism as a result of its legalized homosexuality, as sex between men is punishable by up to seven years in prison, and even “enticing” another man could lead to one to three years of imprisonment. The World Cups Qatari ambassador has called homosexuality “damage in the mind”- explicitly demonstrating the country’s intolerance towards members of the LGBTQ community. These televised values make many question if Qatar really was the right place to hold the World Cup as the country’s values go directly against those described in the Universal Declaration of Human rights. LGBTQ people in Qatar have found to be tortured, harassed and imprisoned, as well as sent to conversion therapy, tragically leading to other members of the community across waters not coming to watch the football games in fear for their lives.
Furthermore, regarding the One love armbands, there has also been a lot of criticism for the way in which numerous captains, which were planning to wear them to send a message condemning the discrimination, were threatened to be booked if they did so, even being faced with extreme blackmail until they agreed to dropping the gesture.
In addition, Qatar’s controls on alcohol have also been controversial, as despite initially stating that fans would be allowed to buy beer before and after the match, it changed this stance last minute on the 18th of November, which already began to make many question on if Qatar would be willing to go through with the compromising promises it had made.
The misogyny and sexist discrimination in Qatar have also contributed to the raised questions over if the cup should’ve been held there. The fact that women rights are limited in terms of education, movement, travel, divorce, and more demonstrate how little it has progressed in terms of equality. Even the women who are not Qatari nationals, and are solely there for the world cup, are being advised to follow the country’s dress code- which demonstrates how Qatar being the host is allowing them to, to some extent, succeed in enforcing their idolism on the international community. The fact that sexual and domestic violence against women is not criminalized also poses greater threat to female visitors considering visiting the cup. This can be exemplified in June 2021, where a Mexican World cup official reported she was sexually assaulted, and instead of being seen as a victim of sexual violence, she was seen as an offender under the extra martial sex law, and threatened with imprisonment and 100 lashes instead of being given judicial justice and remedy. This treatment of women does not only affect the limited amount of women visiting Qatar for the cup, but all the millions who watch and witness this explicit discrimination on their screens. Essentially, a country which supports this degrading treatment of women’s culture being streamed internationally, and watched by billions, could potentially lead to steps back in terms of milestones reached in inequality. How, in the modernized world we live in today, can we possibly celebrate success somewhere where women have not even been granted basic rights?
Ultimately, we must thoroughly access and balance a host country’s values when deciding where an event, especially if it is to be broadcasted so internationally, will be held. It is also important to, in the future, strive for football matches to be just football matches- where all individuals can forget that their choice of how they dress, who they love and what they drink is a privilege, and not a guarantee. We should not allow corruption to let countries which are not willing to adapt their strict regulations on women in the cause of the progressing times to be given an international audience, as it seems to insinuate that other countries and not willing to take any steps to help Qatari suffering citizens.