Nikolaos Stelgias

Nikolaos Stelgias

Workers and the LGBTQIA+ community turn their backs on FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

The depressing and extremely problematic picture of contemporary capitalism and conservative ideology lies behind the big football event

Football enthusiasts will soon concentrate on the FIFA World Cup 2022, which is taking place in Qatar. The biggest football competition is being held in the tiny Arab nation, which was previously targeted by other Arab states in the region. Qatar hopes to portray the image of a developed, sophisticated, and peaceful country during this year's event. Fans of the national football teams are also expecting a spectacular show.

A different picture—the depressing and extremely problematic picture of contemporary capitalism—lies behind the meticulous preparations in Qatar and the excitement of the spectators for the games that begin in a few days. The "sacrifices" of foreign employees allowed a small nation like Qatar to host the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 successfully. Foreign nationals who took an active part in the extensive World Cup preparations complain that their labor rights are being violated and that they are being forced to work in appalling conditions.

There are valid concerns regarding FIFA's choice to award this year's event to this Arab nation, given the controversial stance of conservative Qatar toward the LGBTQIA+ community.

Dreadful working conditions

According to Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, and Mohna Ansari, a former member of Nepal's National Human Rights Commission, "Over the past 12 years, millions of migrant workers have toiled to make the 2022 World Cup possible, building key infrastructure, including the stadiums in Qatar. However, these workers have always been at the margins, and the authorities have been less than responsive to their abusive work conditions."

"South Asia has played a major role in the tournament's preparations. The balls are not the only thing produced in Sialkot, Pakistan. South Asian laborers mostly constructed Qatar's cutting-edge stadiums and the $220 billion auxiliary infrastructure. Additionally, regional migrant workers are employed in stadiums, hotels, shopping centers, and airports, providing essential services," add the activists, who also emphasize that the Qatari government introduced reforms that only partially addressed significant abuses following years of international pressure.

Most of the migrant workers, according to Ganguly and Ansari, "paid to build" the expensive infrastructure project under oppressive heat. At the same time, a South Asian worker told Human Rights Watch he delayed sending his money for months and even considered committing suicide because he knew his family had to take out loans to pay for his children's schooling and his parents' medical expenses. In addition, only a few individuals could land positions without shelling out unlawful recruitment costs.

Ganguly and Ansari's comments are supported by Roshan Sedhai and Samik Kharel with further troubling details, which overshadow the image Qatar hopes to create through the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. Even though Qatar has never been open about its data, according to them, up to 15,021 non-Qataris perished between 2010 and 2019, according to official statistics cited by Amnesty International (Qatar was awarded the World Cup in December 2010). The Foreign Employment Board of Nepal reports that, since 2010, at least 1,700 Nepalis have passed away in Qatar.

As Sedhai and Kharel emphasize, the systematic exploitation of workers by Qatar through Kafala, the now-modified sponsorship system in which a worker's mobility is tied to their employer, has received widespread attention in the foreign media. Human rights organizations have documented many instances of workers being forced to overwork in the heat for little or no compensation. Sometimes, employees were made to give up their passports and even endured abuse and violence at the hands of their employers. However, none of the South Asian nations that export labor have openly criticized Qatar because of the bilateral economic ties.

Targeting the LGBTQIA+ community

The LGBTQIA+ community is also affected negatively by the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and the workers. The conservative ideology of Qatar and the physical and verbal abuse that community members experience are raising alarms in the international community.

Khalid Salman, a former Qatari national team player and Qatar's ambassador for the World Cup, recently spoke publicly about homosexuality, which is prohibited in the conservative Muslim nation. Salman states, "They (the visitors) have to abide by our norms here. It is prohibited to be gay. You're aware of what the word haram (forbidden) means? Why is it haram? Because of the mental harm it causes."

Salman's remarks are unacceptable for Dr Nasser Mohamed, the only publicly out gay Qatari. According to Mohamed, in "modern" Qatar, even oblique signs of gender identity or sexual orientation might cause imprisonment. "They frequently target LGBT Qataris, particularly less well-off LGBT Qataris. Foreigners are also subject to the same rules. Therefore, depending on your country's political ties to Qatar, you [a white Westerner] would be regarded differently than an Egyptian or an Indian," stresses Mohamed.

The latest reports and information from Qatar support Mohamed's observations. Recent reports show that Qatar Preventive Security Department forces arbitrarily arrest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQIA) people and subject them to ill treatment in detention. Between 2019 and 2022, Human Rights Watch identified six severe and repeated beatings and five instances of sexual harassment in police custody. One transgender woman from Qatar claimed that after being detained by security personnel in Doha, Preventive Security agents accused her of "imitating women". They beat her in the police car until she was bleeding from her lips and nose. She added that two Moroccan lesbians, four gay men from the Philippines, and one homosexual man from Nepal were among the other LGBTQIA+ individuals she saw jailed there. "Officers sexually harassed me regularly while I was imprisoned for three weeks without being given a charge," stresses the unlucky woman, who also adds that "attending sessions with a psychologist who "would make me a man again" was one requirement for freedom.

Qatar in defensive

As the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 draws near, Qatar dismisses criticisms of its treatment of LGBTQIA+ persons and employees' fundamental rights. Qatar aims to project the notion that it deals with discrimination and unfounded accusations through publications and interviews in international media sources supportive of the Arab nation.

According to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, "a few people's attacks are frankly unfortunate. The world is looking forward to this celebration. Over 97 percent of the tickets have been sold. Among the ten countries that bought the most tickets, we find European countries like France" Al Thani, who is also the deputy prime minister, stresses.

"The attacks were being made by a very limited number of persons" according to Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Minister of Foreign Affairs. "To be honest, it's unfortunate. Everyone in the world is eagerly expecting this event. Over 97% of the tickets have already been sold. We find European nations like France among the top ten ticket-buying nations" emphasizes Al Thani, who also serves as deputy prime minister.

Thani maintains that there is a "double standard" at play when the Qatari government is "systematically" blamed for the difficulties faced by workers. In contrast, "the tiniest event is placed on the firm in Europe." "All we want is for fans to abide by our rules, just as we expect you to abide by yours when we visit you," he adds.

The words of the Qatari Minister shed light on the gap between the conservative ideology of the Middle East and the perspective of modern supporters of fundamental freedoms and rights. For the latter, material wealth is not a decisive criterion of a nation's development. Fundamental liberties, such as the right to safe work and personal choices, constitute eminently universal norms that cannot be confined within the narrow and, in many respects, outdated boundaries of "norms" defined by each national government.

Previus and Next Posts