Next Sunday, billions of earthlings will plant themselves in front of their TV sets until December 18, to watch the 2022 Soccer World Cup, which this time takes place in Qatar. The games, which are normally run in June-July every four years, were moved to November-December because of Qatar’s extreme heat and humidity in the summer. It’s not a picnic in winter either, but the organizers have equipped the stadiums with enormous air conditioning systems, and most of the games will be played in the afternoon and evening.
Despite the billions it has spent, above and below the tables, to win the right to host the games, Qatar has been unable to shake the relentless complaints about its miserable treatment of the foreign workers who were hired to build the stadiums. A 2013 investigation by The Guardian claimed that many migrant workers were denied food and water, had their identity papers taken away from them, and were not paid on time––or at all––making some of them effectively slaves. Other reports have claimed that more than 6,000 workers perished under these conditions.
Human Rights Watch on Monday issued its own comprehensive report on Qatar’s World Cup. The 42-page guide, “Qatar: FIFA World Cup 2022 – Human Rights Guide for Reporters,” summarizes Human Rights Watch’s concerns associated with Qatar’s preparations for and hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup and outlines broader problems with protecting human rights in the country. The guide also describes FIFA’s human rights policies and how the global football governing body can more effectively address serious violations in Qatar and mitigate harm.
“The World Cup draws immense international media and fan attention, but the tournament’s dark side is overshadowing football,” said Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch. “The 2022 World Cup’s legacy will depend on whether Qatar remedies with FIFA the deaths and other abuses of migrant workers who built the tournament, carries out recent labor reforms, and protects human rights for all in Qatar – not just for visiting fans and footballers.”
The report stresses that FIFA should have recognized that Qatar lacked the infrastructure for the World Cup, and so, millions of migrant workers would be needed to build and service it. This included eight stadiums, an airport expansion, a new metro, multiple hotels, and other key infrastructure, at an estimated cost of $220 billion.
“FIFA is responsible not just for stadium workers, a minority of the total migrant workforce whose employers are held to higher standards for workplace conditions, but also for workers to build and service projects for tournament preparation and delivery, including transport and accommodations, security, cleaning, and landscaping,” the report claims,
“Despite repeated warnings from the workers themselves and civil society groups, FIFA failed to impose strong conditions to protect workers and became a complacent enabler to the widespread abuse workers suffered, including illegal recruitment fees, wage theft, injuries, and deaths,” Human Rights Watch said.
A 2021 Human Rights Watch report documented that Qatari laws, regulations, and practices impose discriminatory male guardianship rules, which deny women the right to make key decisions about their lives. Women in Qatar must obtain permission from their male guardians (male family members) to marry, study abroad on government scholarships, work in many government jobs, travel abroad until certain ages, and receive certain reproductive health care.
Qatar’s penal code also punishes consensual sexual relations between men above age 16 with up to 7 years in prison (article 285). It also provides penalties of 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 up to 10 years (article 288) is imposed on anyone who engages in consensual sexual relations, which could apply to consensual same-sex relations between women, men, or heterosexual partners.