QATAR WORLD CUP OF SHAME

Life – Terror. Ecstasy. Fight. Denial. Flight. Failure. PAIN. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Hope. Love. Peace – Death.

The Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup bid was a bid by Qatar to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. With a population of just 2 million people, Qatar will be the first Arab state to host the World Cup. Working against the Qatar bid was the extreme temperature in the desert country. The World Cup always takes place during the European off-season in June and July. During this period the average daytime high in most of Qatar exceeds 40 °C (104 °F), the average daily low temperatures not dropping below 30 °C (86 °F).

According to leaked documents published by The Sunday Times, Qatari state-run television channel Al Jazeera (beIN Sport) secretly offered $400 million to FIFA, for broadcasting rights, just 21 days before FIFA announced that Qatar will hold the 2022 World Cup.

The contract also documented a secret TV deal between FIFA and Qatar’s state run media broadcast Al Jazeera that $100 million will also be paid into a designated FIFA account only if Qatar won the World Cup ballot in 2010. An additional $480 million was also offered by the State of Qatar government, three years after the initial offer, which brings the amount to $880 million offered by Qatar to host the 2022 world cup.

Whatever the truth of allegations made in a 2020 US court indictment that three South American FIFA chiefs were paid bribes, which the supreme committee denies, then President of FIFA, Blatter himself has always maintained that the crucial votes resulted from high political influence, not backroom machinations.

Michel Platini, then UEFA president, and other key Europeans, voted for Qatar rather than the USA after the French football legend was invited to lunch with his country’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, now the Emir of Qatar, in the Élysée Palace nine days before the FIFA vote.

  • FIFA’s annual report reveals World Cup will drive revenues of £3 billion in 2022 and the governing body will make a profit of more than £1 billion before tax
  • Amnesty International has written to FIFA to say migrant workers are still being exploited despite commitments by Qatar to improve employment rights 
  • 6,500 migrant workers many earning just £8.30 per day believed to have died in Qatar since World Cup awarded 
  • FIFA and Qatar government insist good progress made on workers’ rights 

Qatar is a rich country?

Qatar has the third largest natural gas reserves globally, following Russia and Iran, at nearly 900 trillion cubic feet, earning 60% of its collective GDP. Having discovered oil in 1939 and natural gas 30 years later, it began producing 46,500 barrels of oil per day in 1951. Qatar, a major oil-exporting world center, is the world’s third richest country.

Qatar is an independent and sovereign country situated in the Gulf region. Both Qatar (and Dubai) have an abundance of oil and natural gas as their natural resources. The main difference between Dubai and Qatar is that Dubai is a city, one of the seven Emirates of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). No information is available about the distribution of wealth in Qatar, but poverty among Qataris is believed to be virtually non-existent. Qatar, relies upon migrant workers for virtually all ‘manual labour‘.

The sovereign wealth fund Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) bought Paris Saint-Germain in 2011, with billions of investment fueling PSG since into a super-club, stocked with prestige acquisitions. BeIN Sports, the Qatari broadcaster that was originally part of Al Jazeera, the country’s globally influential news channel, paid unprecedented sums for coverage of France’s Ligue 1.

BeIN’s wealth and influence extends across football; it is a major buyer of Premier League TV rights, last year paying a reported $500m for 2022-25, and has a current $600m three-year deal with UEFA for Champions League coverage. Qatar Airways became the first commercial sponsor of Barcelona in 2013 and sponsors Bayern Munich, plus the governing bodies UEFA and FIFA, whose four-year deal is said to be worth up to $200m.

The Gulf state strategy of national image projection through sport alongside huge financial heft is replicated by Qatar’s regional rivals: Abu Dhabi through its ownership of Manchester City and the global City Football Group, Dubai through its Emirates Airline sponsorship of Arsenal, Real Madrid, Milan, the FA Cup, several more clubs and other sports, including the Tour de France-winning UAE Team Emirates.

Saudi Arabia took longer to align itself with sports, and when its sovereign wealth Public Investment Fund bought Newcastle United, it was glaring that Boris Johnson and his government appeared to have encouraged it, rather than acknowledge the concerns of Amnesty and other human rights groups about “sportswashing” by a notorious regime.

It’s all about (always about) the money?

On the day the Premier League approved the Newcastle takeover, the UK announced a consultation for a planned trade deal with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE and the other countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council. It cited “lamb, biscuits and chocolate” exported by the UK to the Gulf, while expressing hope for massive investment from Gulf states into essential UK industries, including renewable energy, infrastructure, tech and life sciences.

A month earlier the Abu Dhabi investment fund Mubadala agreed a £10bn investment from the UAE to Britain, and signing the agreement in Downing Street in front of Johnson and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, de facto ruler of Abu Dhabi, was Khaldoon al-Mubarak who, in another of his roles, is Manchester City chairman.

Qatar, ‘Human Rights’, is Qatar cleaning up it’s act?

In July 2021, Qatar passed new laws to regulate its first legislative election, which took place in October; however, the laws effectively disenfranchised thousands of Qataris from voting or running because of their nationality by lineage. This led to debate among Qataris on social media as well as small-scale demonstrations led by members of one of Qatar’s largest semi-nomadic communities. Politically motivated arrests and detentions followed.

Earlier, in May, Qatari authorities forcibly disappeared a Kenyan security guard and labor activist, Malcolm Bidali, detaining him in solitary confinement for a month, after which they conditionally released him back to his company’s worker accommodations. On July 14, Qatar’s Supreme Judiciary Council handed down a criminal order stating that Bidali had broadcast and published “false news with the intent of endangering the public system of the state” under article 6 of the controversial cybercrime law, arising purely from the exercise of his right to freedom of expression.

The court ordered him to pay a fine of 25,000 Qatari riyal (approximately US$6,800) and ordered the confiscation of his personal mobile phone and the blocking in Qatar of his Twitter and Instagram accounts through which “the crime was committed.”

On August 19, Human Rights Watch and other international organizations called on Qatari authorities to quash his conviction and to urgently reform its judicial processes, including the cybercrime law. Bidali left Qatar on August 16th 2021.

Women’s Rights

In a report released in March 2021, Human Rights Watch documented how the discriminatory male guardianship concept, which is incorporated into Qatari law, regulations, and practices, denies women the right to make many key decisions about their lives. Women in Qatar must obtain permission from their male guardians to marry, study abroad on government scholarships, work in many government jobs, travel abroad until certain ages, and receive some forms of reproductive health care. The discriminatory system also denies women the authority to act as their children’s primary guardian, even when they are divorced and have legal custody, without regard to the child’s best interests.

Single Qatari women under 25 years of age must obtain their guardian’s permission to travel outside Qatar, and women can also be subject to travel bans at any age by their husbands or fathers. Qatari women are also required to have a guardian’s permission in order to work for some government ministries and institutions, and women who attend Qatar University face restrictions on their movements. Some hotels also prohibit unmarried Qatari women under 30 years old from renting a hotel room, and Qatari women are prohibited from some events and bars that serve alcohol.

Qatar’s Family Law also discriminates against women in marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance. Women are required to have a male guardian’s permission to marry. Once married, a woman is required to obey her husband and can lose her husband’s financial support if she works or travels or refuses to have sex with him, without a “legitimate” reason.  Men have a unilateral right to divorce while women must apply to the courts for divorce on limited grounds. Under inheritance provisions, female siblings receive half the amount their brothers get. 

While the family law forbids husbands from hurting their wives physically or morally, and there are general criminal code provisions on assault, Qatar has no law on domestic violence or measures to protect survivors and prosecute their abusers. No law explicitly prohibits corporal punishment of children either.

Women can be forced to return to their families by the police if they leave their home, including when fleeing abuse. In January, a Yemeni woman was killed by her former Qatari husband outside a family court that had ruled in her favor in a dispute concerning their child.

Qatar allows men to pass citizenship to their spouses and children, whereas children of Qatari women and non-citizen men can only apply for citizenship under narrow conditions. This discriminates against Qatari women married to foreigners, and their children and spouses.

Women continued to report that they faced intimidation by government cyber security for their tweets or other online actions about women’s rights or other political issues, including through interrogations, being asked to sign pledges not to speak about these issues, and being asked to give officials access to their Twitter accounts or surrender their electronic devices to them.

Freedom of Expression

Qatar’s penal code criminalizes criticizing the emir, insulting Qatar’s flag, defaming religion, including blasphemy, and inciting “to overthrow the regime.” Qatar’s 2014 cybercrimes law provided for a maximum of three years in prison and/or a fine of 500,000 Qatari riyal (around $137,325) for anyone convicted of spreading “false news” (a term that is not defined) on the internet or for posting online content that “violates social values or principles,” or “insults or slanders others.”

In January 2020, Qatar amended its penal code to impose up to five years in prison for spreading rumors or false news with ill-intent and/or a fine of 100,000 Qatari riyal (around $27,465). The new text does not define who determines what is a rumor or “fake news,” how to make such a determination, or what standards are to be used in doing so.

In August and September 2021, newly introduced election laws that effectively disenfranchise thousands of Qataris from voting or running in Qatar’s first legislative elections provoked controversy and debate among Qataris on social media as well as small-scale demonstrations. Qatari authorities responded to the criticism by referring seven people for prosecution on charges of “spreading false news” and “stirring up racial and tribal strife.” Informed sources told Human Rights Watch that Qatari authorities arrested and detained at least 15 people in the aftermath, some of whom remained detained without charge a month later.

Statelessness

Qatar’s decision to arbitrarily strip families from the Ghufran clan of the Al Murra tribe of their citizenship starting in 1996 has left some members stateless 20 years later and deprived them of access to key human rights. In 2021, Qatar made no commitments to rectify their status.

Stateless members of the Ghufran clan are deprived of their rights to work, access to health care, education, marriage and starting a family, owning property, and freedom of movement. Without valid identity documents, they face restrictions accessing basic services, including opening bank accounts and acquiring drivers’ licenses, and are at risk of arbitrary detention. Those living in Qatar are also denied a range of government benefits afforded to Qatari citizens, including state jobs, food and energy subsidies, and free basic healthcare.

Sexual Orientation and Morality Laws

Qatar’s penal code criminalizes extramarital sex. Individuals convicted of zina (sex outside of marriage) can be sentenced up to seven years imprisonment. In addition to imprisonment, Muslims can be sentenced to flogging (if unmarried) or the death penalty (if married) for zina. These laws disproportionately impact women, as pregnancy serves as evidence of extramarital sex and women who report rape can find themselves prosecuted for consensual sex.

In addition to banning sex outside marriage for Muslims, Qatar punishes consensual sexual relations between men above sixteen, Muslim or not, with up to seven years imprisonment (article 285). It also provides penalties between one and three years (article 296) for any male who “instigates” or “entices” another male to “commit an act of sodomy or immorality.” A penalty of ten years’ imprisonment (article 288) is also imposed on anyone who engages in consensual sexual relations with a person above sixteen, outside marriage, which could apply to consensual same-sex relations between women, men, or heterosexual partners.

Journalists and printers operate under section 47 of the 1979 Press and Publications Law, which bans publication of “any printed matter that is deemed contrary to the ethics, violates the morals or harms the dignity of the people or their personal freedoms.”

Climate Change Policy and Actions

As a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, Qatar is contributing to the climate crisis that is taking a growing toll on human rights around the globe. The country has the sixth highest greenhouse gas emissions per capita globally, a considerable portion from air conditioning.

Qatar has taken few steps to move away from production and use of fossil fuels and instead is doubling down on producing liquefied natural gas (LNG) for export. It has the world’s third largest reserves of natural gas and until recently was the world’s largest exporter of LNG. Qatar has yet to submit its second Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), a Paris Agreement-mandated five-year national climate change action plan due at the end of 2020. Its first NDC contained no quantitative targets.

As one of the world’s hottest countries, Qatar is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Ninety-seven percent of Qatar’s population lives along an exposed coastline making them particularly vulnerable to both sea level rise and extreme weather events.

Key International Actors

In January, Saudi Arabia ended its years-long isolation of Qatar, which began in 2017 when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates closed their borders to Qatar and expelled Qatari citizens over allegations of Qatar’s support for terrorism and ties with Iran. All four countries restored their diplomatic relations when Qatar suspended its World Trade Organization case against the UAE’s economic isolation efforts.

Qatar played a key role in Afghanistan after the United States military withdrawal in August propelled a Taliban takeover of Kabul, both by extensively aiding the US in evacuating tens of thousands of vulnerable people from Afghanistan and by operating daily flights to deliver humanitarian aid to the country.

Change – post winning bid

Hassan al-Thawadi, secretary-general of the supreme committee, has said Qatar’s spending on infrastructure since winning the World Cup bid 2010, including the new metro system, is projected to be $200bn, and direct costs of the World Cup $6.5bn.

Such is the commitment to the project that appeared so outlandish when Blatter pulled the name of Qatar out of the envelope, but is set a year from now to claim the world’s attention, for the tiny, super-rich state in the Gulf.

“Through infrastructure, education, football for development, support for regional innovation and a dedication to improving workers’ welfare, our efforts are forging a better future for Qatar, the Middle East, Asia and the world,” Qatar’s “supreme committee” says of the preparations.

Clearly, they still have a long way to go?

Thanks for Reading

Peace

https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2022/country-chapters/qatar

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2021/dec/15/former-qatar-world-cup-worker-jail-term-angers-human-rights-groups-abdullah-ibhais

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2021/nov/21/qatars-multibillion-dollar-world-cup-signifies-shifts-in-wealth-and-power

Published by Riff

Husband to my inspirational, (long suffering,) wife Gail, father to two, amazing (adult) children, Aubrey & Perri, teacher, former guitarist, recent 'granda(r) to my beautiful grandson Henderson, with another two on the way. I Love people. I love my family, my incredible friends, I have love(d) what I do (my Job), I love Music, Glastonbury Festival, Cars, Everton .... I love many things but, most of all, I fucking love 'life'.

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