Qatar 2022: Human Rights Abuses & World Cup

With the FIFA World Cup kicking off in Qatar on 20 November, the Gulf state has come under the global spotlight.

FIFA granted Qatar the games in 2010, with no human rights due diligence and no set conditions about protections for migrant workers who were to construct the massive infrastructure: eight stadiums, an airport expansion, a new metro, multiple hotels, and others (with an estimated cost of US$220 billion), analyses Human Rights Watch.

The organization also failed to examine the human rights concerns for journalists, systemic discrimination that women and LGBT people face in Qatar, and some abuses that have been denounced internationally by multiple organizations. For example, Amnesty International has repeatedly denounced Qatar’s authorities for repressing freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and freedom of association.

Some of the most outstanding abuses are laws to stifle those who are critical of the state, with some citizens being arbitrarily detained after criticizing the government and sentenced following unfair trials based on confessions obtained coercively, Amnesty international has worded.

Women continue to face discrimination in law and practice in Qatar. As Amnesty International describes, under the guardianship system, women require the permission of their male guardian, usually, their husband, father, brother, grandfather, or uncle, to marry, study abroad on government scholarships, work in many government jobs, travel abroad (if under the age of 25), and access reproductive healthcare.

Additionally, Qatari laws discriminate against LGBT people with Article 296(3) of the Penal Code criminalizing a range of same-sex consensual sexual acts, including potential jail terms for anyone who “leads or induces or tempts a male, by any means, into committing an act of sodomy or debauchery”. Similarly, Article 296(4) criminalizes anyone who “induces or tempts a male or female, by any means, into committing acts contrary to morals or that is unlawful”, picks up Amnesty International.

Mistreatment of workers

In 2017, FIFA adopted a Human Rights Policy, pledging to take “measures to promote the protection of human rights,” saying, “FIFA will take adequate measures for their protection, including by using its leverage with the relevant authorities.”

Nevertheless, Human Rights Watch picks up that despite repeated warnings from the workers themselves and civil society groups, FIFA failed to impose strong conditions to protect, especially workers, and became a complacent enabler to the widespread abuse workers suffered, including illegal recruitment fees, wage theft, injuries, and deaths.

Living and working conditions for workers have been one of the most discussed topics leading up to the game. And rightfully so, since there are around 2 million migrant workers, most of whom come from less-wealthy countries such as India, Bangladesh, or Nepal, that make up about 95% of the working population.

Many are paid poorly, must work longer and harder than they initially agreed to, and are poorly housed. As DW explains, in some cases their passports are confiscated, and they cannot leave the country. Furthermore, significant labor reforms haven’t fully gotten to the point of protecting workers’ rights and are poorly enforced.

Migrant workers remain barred from forming or joining trade unions and, instead, they are permitted to form Joint Committees, an initiative led by employers to allow workers’ representation. To date, Amnesty International recalls that the initiative is not mandatory and covers only 2% of workers.

The Guardian newspaper said that some 6,500 migrant workers had died since Qatar won the bid in 2010 to host the 2022 World Cup. However, this number could be higher, since, as Human rights watch explains, migrant worker deaths are not investigated, and their families are not provided reparations.

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