Qatar's emir slams 'unprecedented' criticism of World Cup hosts

Qatar has been hit by an "unprecedented campaign" of criticism over preparations for the football World Cup, its ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani said Tuesday, slamming international scrutiny of the Gulf state's human rights record.

People take photographs in front of a FIFA World Cup sign on Doha's corniche on October 21, 2022.
People take photographs in front of a FIFA World Cup sign on Doha's corniche on October 21, 2022. © Nariman El-Mofty, AP

"Since we won the honour of hosting the World Cup, Qatar has been subjected to an unprecedented campaign that no host country has faced," the emir said in a speech.

FIFA awarded the World Cup to Qatar in 2010 and it has since spent tens of billions of dollars on preparations.

But the energy-rich Gulf state has faced constant scrutiny over its treatment of foreign workers as well as LGBTQ and women's rights.

>> ‘Drowning in bad publicity’: Has Qatar’s World Cup soft power push backfired?

"We initially dealt with the matter in good faith, and even considered that some criticism was positive and useful, helping us to develop aspects that need to be developed," the emir told Qatar's legislative council.

Amnesty International - Qatar FIFA 2022

"But it soon became clear to us that the campaign (...) reached an amount of ferocity that made many wonder, unfortunately, about the real reasons and motives behind this campaign," he said.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has said the Qatar World Cup, the first in an Arab nation, will be the "best ever".

However, concerns about exploitation of migrant workers have featured prominently in the international media in the run-up to the tournament, while environmental activists have slammed the decision to stage the event in air-conditioned stadiums.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch shone a light on mistreatment of people constructing a stadium in a 2016 report titled “Qatar World Cup of Shame”.

The Guardian followed up in 2021 with an investigation finding that at least 6,751 migrant workers died in Qatar from 2010 to 2020.

In this context, several French cities including Paris announced they will boycott the World Cup and will not set up the usual fan zones for people to watch the matches outside on giant screens – even though France are the defending champions.

>> French cities ditch World Cup festivities to protest Qatar’s record on human rights, environment

In Germany, the Berlin council also announced that their popular fan zone next to the Brandenburg gate will not be there this time – further demonstrating a lack of enthusiasm for the tournament.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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