Qatar: Is the World Cup neglecting human rights?

If the soccer World Cup is in the news this year, it is not only for the expected matches and the stakes, but rather for human rights reasons.


The 2022 World Cup will be held in Qatar from November 21 to December 18, with a Senegal-Netherlands match as the opening match. But the Cup will surely have some absentees. Indeed, Philipp Lahm, member of the German soccer delegation, indicated in an interview with Kicker, that he would not accompany the German selection in Qatar. The former captain of the 2014 world champions, pleaded political reasons “I prefer to stay home. Human rights should play a more important role in the awarding of competitions.” 


He questioned the criteria for FIFA‘s decisions to award the World Cup to Qatar: “This should not happen again in the future. Human rights, the size of the country … all this seems not to have been taken into account.” He also addresses his counterparts: “As players, you can no longer pretend you don’t know.” he adds.


Stade Lusail © FIFA


First, the country does not recognize the rights of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people and punishes same-sex sexual relations with up to seven years in prison. The International Football Federation Association (FIFA) was aware of this in 2010, when it granted the country the rights to host the Cup. However, FIFA’s statutes, which were already in force at the time, prohibit any discrimination against LGBT people such as those that Qatar has written into its national legislation. In 2020, Qatar has assured that the kingdom will welcome LGBT visitors and that spectators will be allowed to fly the rainbow flag at matches, but is that enough?


Human rights under the radar


Unfortunately, this is not the “only” issue raised. Qatar does not have a very good reputation for human rights, especially those of migrant workers, and imposes severe restrictions on freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly.


According to Amnesty International‘s survey, two million migrant workers live in Qatar, mainly from Asia and Africa. They work on construction sites, but also as cleaning ladies, cab drivers or waiters in restaurants and hotels… but are trapped. Officially, the country has abolished the kafala system: a sponsorship system that required migrant workers to obtain a permit to leave their jobs. But in reality, employers still have the power to prevent migrant workers from leaving the country.


To this day, Qatari employers still have disproportionate powers over migrant workers: they control entry into the country and residence rights of migrant workers and can prosecute them for “absconding”. This leaves them trapped, at the mercy of unscrupulous bosses and exposed to the dangers of forced labor. As for the thousands of deaths of workers on construction sites, almost no investigation has been carried out, depriving the families of any possibility of justice.


Yet the secretary general of the Qatari Supreme Committee, Hassan Al Thawadi, spoke in defense of the 2022 World Cup at a meeting of Commonwealth nations in the United Kingdom, explaining that “The power of this tournament as a force for transformative legacy has always been our guide. For us, this tournament has always been about more than a month of soccer.” All the infrastructure built for the World Cup – the Doha Metro, Hamad International Airport, new roads, hotels and other facilities – is expected to contribute significantly to Qatar’s economic growth well beyond the World Cup. A poor second best for an event that is not very ethical, either in human terms or in terms of human rights.





Featured photo : © FIFA

Passionnée par l’art et la mode, Hélène s’oriente vers une école de stylisme: l’Atelier Chardon-Savard. Elle complète ensuite sa formation par un MBA en Marketing à l’ISG. Elle a écrit pour le magazine Do it in Paris et se spécialise en rédaction d’articles concernant le luxe, l’art et la mode au sein de Luxus +.


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