The FIFA controversy has gained much attention in recent times. It is alleged that more than 6500 migrant workers from five countries- India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Pakistan have died in Qatar since the World cup. Gary Neville, a former defender for England, has received criticism for agreeing to commentate the World Cup for a TV network controlled by Qatar. What is the connection between the World cup, FIFA and Qatar? Why was Gary Neville criticised? Why are people boycotting FIFA 2022? Let’s discuss it in detail!
The story of Qatar in 2010
Despite having a very small population, 2.24 million immigrants entered Qatar for employment after being chosen to host the FIFA World Cup. But they faced huge challenges regarding their fundamental rights, working conditions, and many other reasons. Out of the whole population of Qatar, 85% are foreign workers, and 15% are local Qataris. Qatar had strict laws regarding every matter, be it women, the LGBTQ community, workers’ rights, and working conditions.
Human rights violation in Qatar
FIFA's failure to take human rights violations related to the World Cup seriously is demonstrated by the length of time it spent ignorant of workers at the World Cup venue. It was alleged that 6500 workers died in Qatar, but the Qatar government claimed it wasn’t true. Let us understand briefly how Qatar violated human rights.
- Migrant Worker’s rights
- The government failed to enact changes and enforce them while alleging to do so, allowing abusive behaviours and bringing back the worst aspects of kafala (the sponsorship-based employment system).
- Qatar has been at its peak in exploiting and abusing these workers by encouraging forced labour, excessing working hours and unpaid wages despite Labour reforms made in 2014.
- Abandoned by companies, people were not getting paid for months and were deprived of basic necessities such as food and water.
- According to the authorities, 37 additional fatalities off-site that are not "work-related" and three "work-related" deaths on the stadium building sites since work started in 2014. The Supreme Committee affirms that employee well-being comes first.
- The researchers claim that the deaths are unexplained because of a lack of investigation.
- Freedom of expression and assembly-
- In Qatar, there were no laws to encourage the freedom of expression. People’s voices were curtailed as they started expressing the reality of Qatar.
- One example is Malcolm Bidali, a Kenyan security guard, blogger and migrant worker’s rights activist. The Qatari government refused to give him legal aid. It held him in solitary confinement for a month on the allegation of publishing false news to endanger the state’s public system. The order was passed ex-parte as he was not allowed to attend the hearings. After a while, he paid his fine and moved to another nation
- Women’s rights-
- Discrimination in law and practice.
- The guardianship system- Women were bound to their male guardian, typically their father, brother, grandfather, uncle, or, in the case of married women, their spouse under the guardianship system.
For important life decisions, including getting married, studying abroad on government scholarships, working in numerous government professions, travelling abroad until a certain age, and receiving several types of reproductive healthcare, women still needed their guardians' consent.
- Divorced women - By making it difficult for women to get a divorce, family laws continued to discriminate against them. Women who have divorced are nonetheless unable to parent their children.
- LGBTI people’s rights
- The Penal Code still considers "sodomy" or same-sex sex acts between men to be a crime subject to a seven-year sentence.
- According to Article 296 of the Constitution, it is unlawful to "guide, incite, or seduce a male in any way to commit sodomy or dissipation" and to "induce or seduce a male or female in any way to perform illegal or immoral actions."
- Mashrou' Leila, a Lebanese rock band with an out-homosexual lead singer, cancelled its scheduled performance at Northwestern University's Doha campus in February due to "safety concerns" following an anti-gay online outcry.
Qatar and FIFA
Qatar has never before qualified for the World Cup and was ranked 113 in the world until it was given the event in 2010. The team proceeded to the first knockout round (quarterfinals) of the AFC Asian Cup in 2000.
With a permanent population of fewer than one million as of 2010, Qatar will be the smallest nation to host the World Cup (smaller than 1954 hosts Switzerland). Uruguay had a permanent population of 1.7 million people in 1930, the year they hosted the event. Some people questioned whether Qatar's extensive football culture made them unfit World Cup hosts in light of these facts.
Qatar faced many criticisms because it got selected to host the world cup in 2010. The two main reasons are the human rights violation of migrant workers and corruption. Another reason was the temperature; the country’s scorching climate made it impossible to hold the competition during the usual summer slot. It was shifted to November and December 2022, just when the national leagues were in full zeal.
Ever since 2010, when soccer’s governing body FIFA awarded Russia and Qatar the rights to consecutive World cups, voting-buying allegations have been brought up. Qatar won the bid ballot FIFA beating countries like the US, South Korea, Japan and Australia. The 22 FIFA executive committee, with two other officials, have been alleged to take bribes in return for World cup votes and are now suspended with corruption charges.
FIFA cleared Qatar of bribery several years ago, but many still believe the nation inadvertently paid for the World Cup. Blatter said the vote was partially influenced by the nation’s arms agreement with France. FIFA’s then-chairman stated that it was a mistake to award FIFA to Qatar.
The controversy arose about how Qatar, a tiny country with a population of 3 million with no soccer pedigree, managed to win a confidential vote to become the host. Human Rights researchers have raised concerns about the treatment of Migrant workers in Qatar who were brought to build the stadiums and accommodations for visiting fans. The labour laws in the country need to be better.
Given the large number of individuals seeking to boycott it this year, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is a significant football scandal, particularly for this reason. The tournament's foundations include employee deaths of at least 6,500 migrants, human rights violations, and corruption. Football is a sport that prides itself on being inclusive, but the criticism of this year's tournament in Qatar shows that this is not the reality.
Despite government reforms, migrant workers struggled to change their jobs freely and suffered labour abuses. The restriction of free speech increased in the years leading up to the FIFA World Cup 2022. In both law and practice, prejudice against women and LGBTI persons persisted. It can be said that Qatar failed as a nation as its only aim should be the welfare of citizens, but the focus of Qatar is on generating revenue.