The curtain falls, on Sunday, on the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, after about a month of competition between 32 teams.
In the past weeks, the wealthy Gulf emirate was in the heart of the world after it became a destination for the most important global sporting event, which put it under the spotlight.
For the Qataris, the World Cup was an opportunity to introduce the world to their culture, showcasing everything from their architecture to their hospitality, as well as to organize a good tournament without operational problems.
But being in the spotlight also brings scrutiny and a lot of coverage, particularly in the Western world, centered around the Qatari government’s human rights record, from deaths and conditions suffered by migrant workers to LGBT people and women’s rights.
network saysCNNAl-Ekhbariya said that although the State of Qatar is small in size, it has confirmed its presence as a global player politically and economically in recent years.
The whole world is now exposed to Qatar, said Haya Al-Thani, 32, of Teach For Qatar – a local organization that works to solve problems students may encounter at school.
“Now it is easy to answer when someone asks me where you are from without explaining where Qatar is,” she said.
The Gulf country is one of the world’s largest exporters of liquefied natural gas, and it has played a mediating role in international conflicts, working to secure evacuations from Afghanistan in August 2021 and hosting indirect talks between US and Iranian officials in Doha.
“I think Qatar doesn’t want to be just a superpower when it comes to energy,” said Anna Jacobs, senior Gulf analyst at the International Crisis Group. “I think they are trying to differentiate themselves in terms of what support they can provide to help with some kind of international effort to resolve disputes.” .
For his part, Daniel Reich, a professor at Georgetown University in Qatar, said, “I believe that sport plays (a greater role) as a political tool for Qatar in its foreign relations than any other country in the world.”
A legal controversy
But hosting the World Cup made Qatar face human rights scrutiny in the years leading up to the tournament.
H. Hellyer, a Middle East analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the University of Cambridge, tells CNN, “I don’t think Qatar ever had a reputation as a human rights defender in the first place…but their record hasn’t been under close scrutiny either.”
It is difficult to ascertain the number of migrant workers who died as a result of the work done on projects related to the tournament.
Last year, The Guardian reported that 6,500 South Asian migrant workers have died in Qatar since the country won the World Cup in 2010, most of them working in low-paid, dangerous jobs and in sweltering conditions.
The report did not link all of the 6,500 deaths to World Cup infrastructure projects.
In an interview with Piers Morgan, broadcast on TalkTV in November, Hasan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, said that between 400 and 500 migrant workers died as a result of work done on projects related to the tournament — a higher number than officials cited. Formerly the Qataris.
Al-Thawadi said in the same interview that three expatriate workers died in accidents directly related to the construction of the World Cup stadiums, and that 37 deaths were due to other causes.
Human rights groups have also criticized the Gulf emirate for transgressions against the rights of LGBTQ people.
Human Rights Watch researcher Rothna Begum said her reports documenting human rights violations in the country were raised by Qatari LGBTQ women.
She added, “Qatar society is a rather closed society, and they viewed the World Cup as an opportunity to really raise the alarm and hopefully the scrutiny would allow for some changes in their country.” Qatar criminalizes sexual relations outside marriage, including same-sex relations.
Although Qataris welcome everyone to the World Cup, regardless of race, background, religion or sexual orientation, members of the community were wary of attending the World Cup.
“If the country were gay-friendly, I would be there (but) I don’t feel comfortable going,” said Rishi Madlani, co-chair of Pride in Football, an organization for LGBTQ football fans.
Madlani recalls hearing Qatar’s ambassador to the FIFA World Cup and former footballer Khaled Salman say that homosexuality represented “brain damage”, a turning point in his decision not to go to the World Cup and his feelings about the tournament.
However, some said that while the media criticism of human rights was substantive, it was sharper than what was leveled at Russia in 2018 – another controversial host of the World Cup.
For Maryam Al-Hajri, a country researcher at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, some of the discourse was concerned with feeding “orientalist discourse,” rather than addressing human rights concerns, as she put it.
Critics cited an on-air joke by a French journalist about the existence of “too many mosques” and a caption of the photo by the London newspaper The Times stating that “Qataris are not used to seeing women in Western dress in their country” as examples.
Al-Hajri told CNN last month, “This should not be read as an excuse to stop criticizing the situation of migrant workers in Qatar. Instead, it should be interpreted as an argument for the need to frame the situation of migrant workers as part of a globalized economic system built on colonialism and ethno-capitalism.” “.
German student Bengt Kunkel, 23, was one of the hundreds of thousands of fans who traveled to Qatar for the World Cup matches.
He wore a rainbow shoulder armband and wristbands at the France-Denmark match, but security officials told him to take them off.
Kunkel said he was stopped four more times before he was allowed to sit inside the stadium wearing the rainbow armband and wristbands.
He said that this incident did not harm his overall experience in the tournament, speaking of “people coming from all over the world to celebrate football”.
He added that “Qatar is a country that is more tolerant than it appears… It has done its best to act as a global open host for the tournament.”
Arnouf Paul Chowdhury, a 21-year-old student from England, was among those fans who also traveled to Qatar after his two-week visit.
He said he was “not sure what to expect” beforehand, but staying in Doha and meeting fans from all over the world and the hospitality of the Qatari people made his experience a good one.
He continued, “I think the tournament saw a lot of negative glare which is understandable, but from the experience of the people who actually went out there I don’t think I’ve heard a negative experience from anyone.”
The England fan said that “all the fans I spoke to loved” their experiences in Qatar.