The World Cup is back, and most soccer fans all over the world are excited for its return. For the first time in FIFA history, an Arab nation is hosting it. However, with this feat comes a very dark turn. Qatar won the bid over several other countries such as the U.S., Japan and South Korea.
Before I discuss what occurred in the years leading up to the World Cup, I would like to start with the atrocities Qatar has consistently committed. In their 2022 freedom house report, the country was deemed “not free” with a score of 25 out of 100. For comparison, the U.S. has a score of 83 and Tunisia 64.
How did Qatar get such a low score? Well, despite having some of the wealthiest citizens in the world, Qatar has a large number of migrant workers and refuses to protect the rights of women and LGBTQ+ people. Qatar, like many other Gulf countries, lives under the guardianship system. In this system, women are treated as property to their male guardian. Women thus need permission from their male guardian (whether it be husband, brother, father or other male family member) for certain activities. LGBTQ+ members are constantly harassed, and Qatar legally prohibits sexual acts outside of heterosexual marriage.
So with these examples, and countless others, Qatar should not have even been eligible for the bid. Even though FIFA’s then-chairman Sepp Blatter supported the original bid, he has since admitted it was a mistake.
Even with the global spotlight on Qatar, they have yet to make changes. As I stated previously, a majority of Qatari workers are migrants and noncitizens. According to multiple reports, over the course of the ten years since Qatar received their bid, over 6,500 Southeast Asian migrants from India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have died building the stadiums and hotels that guests will stay in. This is not including the thousands of migrants that work in Qatar from other parts of the world.
The death toll is not the only issue with the migrant workers in Qatar. These workers are noncitizens, which means they are not granted the same rights as Qatari citizens. These workers would work 18-hour days, were subject to extreme heat and dangerous conditions and were sometimes imprisoned for what appeared to be no reason.
With the stadiums and hotels lying on the bones of those who built them, you can’t help but wonder why there aren’t more protests on the event. Sure, many newspapers have reported on the atrocities, and there has been plenty of buzz on the human rights abuses. But soccer teams and countries that are protesting the World Cup are doing it in a very superficial way. Cities in France join London in stating that they will not be hosting public screening of the events. Yet, both countries sent their team as representatives. And many have pointed out the hypocritical response from France as Paris Saint-Germain F.C. is owned by a Qatari company. Australia posted a video against human rights in Qatar, and Denmark has released a statement that they will be wearing more subtle jerseys to protest. However, and I know this is a shock to every individual reading this, all of these countries will still be attending the world cup and bringing hundreds of fans, and thousands of dollars, into Qatar.
Qatari organizers have tried to mitigate the issues by stating that “everyone is welcome.” But many do not feel that this sentiment is real. With statements of welcome from Qatar come very damaging ones. Like a Qatari ambassador saying that homosexuality was “damage in the mind” and that members of that community should respect their culture and accept their rules.
As the first game on Sunday roles around, millions of fans across the world will be tuning in to support their team. There will be thousands of fans there who will spend their money to continue to contribute to Qatar’s government that is flooded with corruption and human rights offenses. I am not blaming the fans. In fact, I will probably be turning on multiple games over the course of the series. Rather, I hope that it will make people think just a little more than they did previously on the graves that the World Cup is built on.
Contact Olivia Schatz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views of this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.