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Should We Boycott Qatar 2022?

by Chris Hearn 2 months ago in fifa

Rewarding a human rights abusing nation with a major sports event seems unethical

I remember being in the streets of Doha the day in 2010 when it was announced that Qatar would be hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2022. It seems so long ago now. I was out and about as it was announced over the radio that they had won their bid. It was getting dark. Within minutes of the announcement, the streets were flooded with cars honking and celebrating. Qatari flags sprung up everywhere! People were ecstatic that their nation was going to be hosting one of the biggest sporting events in the world. So much happiness, so much celebration, so much pride.

By this time I had been in Qatar for at least a year, and was already quite disillusioned by the place. I was tired of the blatant human rights abuses that I saw, the mistreatment of immigrant laborers, maids and nannies. It was hard to watch what essentially amounted to slave labor building the country from scratch. People being worked to death, sometimes in 45 degree Celcius or higher heat levels. I was tired of the open racism and classism. The culture was one that I felt very uncomfortable in. It felt oppressive. Freedom of speech was curtailed, although not as bad as in other countries in the region. Internet sites would be blocked because they weren't seen as appropriate for the country. Internet activity was monitored to make sure you weren't saying anything wrong, such as being overly critical of the government. Also, This was not a friendly place to LGBTQ people in the slightest. One could be arrested and put in jail, or, if they are young, sent to a rehab center. And, this is a country that has pushed the UN for world-wide blasphemy laws.

So, given this, my instinct is to say, "WTF? How could you reward this country with the World Cup??" It felt wrong. I knew what would happen. I knew that this would spark a building boom of new football stadiums and infrastructure specifically for the event. And I knew exactly who was going to build them - tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of immigrants workers from places like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal and India. And I know that too many of them would end up dying. Many human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have done their best to highlight the issue. But, in the end, Qatar really doesn't care. The abuse is out in the open, easy to see, Qatar knows it and it does nothing about it. And, even though there have been news stories about the conditions, FIFA doesn't seem to care, NO ONE seems to care. It just doesn't seem to matter.

I love exploring. I would drive the little Tiida that I rented all around the tiny country, and I would end up going through areas that housed the laborers. And, these people lived in hellish, horrible conditions. Large numbers of men crammed into inadequate, unsanitary conditions and zero privacy. When one reads about it, one can't help but say, "That's awful!" But, when you actually see it for yourself, it's a whole lot worse.

And Qatar just doesn't seem to care. For many Qataris, the attitude is that if you don't like it, leave. They seem unaware that for so many of these laborers, they CAN'T leave. They often have their passports taken, are required to pay back high fees for obtaining employment in the country, they have almost zero rights, they can do nothing without their employers permission. They absolutely can't just leave. As the Amnesty report says:

All the workers we spoke to had their passports confiscated by employers. What’s more, if they want to leave Qatar they have to get an “exit permit” approved by their company. But employers often ignore these requests or threaten workers, saying they can’t leave until their contract is up – which could be another two years.

I knew that by supporting the World Cup being in Qatar, it was saying that their laws against LGBTQ people are acceptable to the outside world. Right from day one, LGBTQ groups raised a red flag and said, "Um, you know, if we go to Qatar, we might end up in jail!" And it is a legit concern, even though Qatar has vowed that for the World Cup they will be welcoming to LGBTQ players and fans, as Pink News reports. That's great, but what happens when everyone leaves? Does it just go back to the same-old, same-old of possibly punishing people for being gay?? And, in a country where homosexuality is viewed as being an offense punishable by up to 7 years in jail, or, at the very worst, DEATH, how can someone who is LGBTQ feel,

So, on the surface, I feel great disappointment that the World Cup is going to be held in Qatar. That said, I can also agree with critics of those not wanting to hold the event in Qatar saying that football countries like England, the US, Canada, Spain, and others have a LONG history of blood being on their hands. Some will point to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as examples of the West behaving badly, and therefore being hypocritical when Westerners complain about Qatar's human rights abuses. I mean, we tend to look at ourselves as being the model for the world when it comes to human rights, but we aren't, of course. We have our faults.

But, you know, we also live in a day and age where people like JK Rowling are being absolutely vilified, raked over the coals and cancelled because people were offended by comments she made regarding transgender people. Yet, we are holding one of the world's biggest sporting events in a country that will happily put transgender people in jail!? Seems like there should be far more outrage over this than there has been.

In the end, it just seems like a bad idea to have given Qatar the right to host the World Cup to begin with. The fact that seemingly nothing has changed to address the concerns of so many when it comes to the games, it seems unethical to do anything but boycott the event.


Chris Hearn

I'm a 47 year old writer, amateur photographer and amateur dad living in Winnipeg, MB, Canada.

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