I’m not watching the World Cup this year

JAMES FAY/ The Concordian @jamesfaydraws

Qatar’s record of basic human rights violations makes the World Cup a farce

The first games of the 2022 Qatar World Cup are underway and even though I usually follow the World Cup diligently, I can’t bring myself to watch a single match this year, and I know I’m not the only one.

FIFA has rightfully received tons of backlash since it announced Qatar as the host country due to the country’s constant disregard of basic human rights, including workers’ and LGBTQ+ rights. All of those violations were also documented and known even in 2010 when FIFA officials voted to choose Qatar as the host country in 2022.

In fact, in 2012, the non-profit organization Human Rights Watch published a report detailing its concerns that “hundreds of thousands of mostly South Asian migrant construction workers in Qatar risk serious exploitation and abuse, sometimes amounting to forced labor.” The report especially targeted the construction of infrastructures linked to the World Cup.

As for LGBTQ+ rights, simply put, they are non-existent. Homosexuality is strictly forbidden under Islamic Sharia law and punishable by either fines, imprisonment, or lapidation (stoning). Although there are no documented cases of the death penalty being enforced in that context, there is no shortage of testimonies from LGBTQ+ Qataris being severely beaten due to their gender expression or sexual orientation.

Due to Qatar hosting the World Cup amid all these human rights violations, some are accusing the country of sportswashing, which is defined as the practice of restoring one’s reputation by hosting huge sporting competitions, buying sports teams, and/or participating in competitions, all of which Qatar is doing through the World Cup despite not even having a big soccer culture in the first place. 

Earlier this year, the Beijing Winter Olympics was also a “great” example of sportswashing. The Chinese government’s genocide and general abuse of human rights against Uyghurs and other religious minorities, as well as their repression of protests in Hong Kong, hid conveniently behind a grandiose large-scale event and beautiful ceremonies.

The International Olympic Committee refused to acknowledge the situation. “It’s a complex world,” they twice told a journalist from The Guardian.

The World Cup is undoubtedly the biggest international sporting event in the world. Roughly two million tourists are expected to attend the World Cup in Qatar. However, this year, Canadian tourists attending the event are being told by their own government to “dress conservatively and behave discreetly” for their own safety and to steer clear of trouble with authorities. 

Now, it’s one thing to abide by a country’s laws and culture, but it’s hard to support a country that wouldn’t respect me as a woman, a queer person, and a journalist.

It’s worthwhile to mention that this column would have been impossible to write if I were in Qatar. According to Reporters Without Borders, the World Cup host ranked 119 out of 180 countries on the basis of press freedom due to the hardships reporters encounter when covering local political issues. Human Rights Watch even had to publish its Human Rights Guide for Reporters to inform and help out journalists in their endeavours in Qatar.

It’s disappointing to see FIFA making their decision to host the 2022 World Cup in Qatar solely based on profits. International sporting events such as the World Cup and the Olympics could be great opportunities to strengthen diplomatic ties between countries in a world that is constantly shaken by conflict.

I thought it would be common sense, but apparently it’s not.

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