Middle EastNews

Qatar World Cup: Western Hypocrisy, Racism and Orientalism

The western attitude towards the Qatar World Cup is shameful and reeks of hypocrisy.

The western attitude towards the Qatar World Cup is shameful and reeks of hypocrisy.

On the eve of the kick-off of the most criticised World Cup in history, FIFA President Gianni Infantino slammed the Western double standards in a press conference in Doha on Saturday.

According to the West, Qatar is not legitimate to host the World Cup over its allegations of human rights violations. But does the West have the legitimacy to speak in favour of human rights?

Is Qatar Actually Responsible for Migrant Workers’ Violations?

Qatar is the first Middle Eastern country to host a World Cup. Many argued that the West is unfairly criticising Qatar for its poor human rights record while western nations own countless historical crimes against humanity. 

What we Europeans have been doing for the last 3,000 years, we should be apologising for the next 3,000 years before starting to give moral lessons,”

said Infantino while referring to criticisms of Qatar’s human rights record.

After Brazil and Russia, it is Qatar’s turn to host the biggest football tournament worldwide. Big European companies, including major French groups such as Bouygues, Vinci and Accord, have signed contracts directly or indirectly linked to the world tournament. These companies have particularly been accused of a long history of corruption and human rights violations. They have been pointed out for the forced labour and mistreatment of migrant workers.

Earlier this month, a subsidiary of Vinci, a French construction company, was charged with forced labour in Qatar and alleged human rights violations against migrant workers. Although the company denied the allegations, it was handed preliminary charges. 

Based on a judicial official, Vinci was accused of holding multiple people in servitude through forced labour, submitting workers to conditions and lodging incompatible with human dignity, and obtaining services from people who were vulnerable or in a situation of dependence.

Two French NGOs filed an initial complaint in 2015 denouncing the working conditions at some construction sites conducted by Vinci’s subsidiary. The mistreatment of migrant workers includes working in temperatures over 45C with insufficient water, withholding passports, and lack of access to showers in accommodations.

The human rights groups, Sherpa and the Committee Against Modern Slavery, said workers were forced to work 66 to 77 hours weekly.

Sherpa president Sandra Cossart accused foreign companies like Vinci of “profiting from modern slavery”. In response to the charges, Vinci’s lawyer Pierre Versini-Campinchi declared on France-Info radio that the company seeks to revoke the decision. 

Also, Versini-Campinchi denied that Vinci’s subsidiary was involved in any projects related to the Qatar World Cup. However, the judicial official said the company worked on the Doha metro connecting the airport with the historic city centre and the Lusail light-rail transportation network.

According to Trouw reports, Dutch companies were also involved in construction projects ahead of the Qatar World Cup. Of five companies, Royal HaskoningDHV, Boskalis, Arcadis, UNStudio, and Mijksenaar contributed to the construction of a subway system to transport football fans and a port to supply building materials.

Based on a shocking report published by The Guardian, 6,500 migrant workers have died since the preparations for the Qatar World Cup. The report states that “6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have died in Qatar” since it won the right to host the football tournament.

Experts say The Guardian failed to mention official medical records detailing the reasons for the deaths and whether or not the workers were involved in the World Cup infrastructure projects.

Dr Nawaf Altamimi, a media expert, said to Doha News,

Some Western newspapers publish from time to time, with the aim of discrediting or demonising Qatar. The topic of Qatar hosting the World Cup is often used to spread such lopsided stories, at least in the absence of the Qatari viewpoint.”

Media experts denounced the racist report of the Guardian for deeming South Asians labourers only working for stadium projects. However, they work in all fields across the country. They also condemned the major Western media propaganda campaign against Qatar.

Indeed, statistics published in the report include not only migrant workers but the deaths of nationals from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka who passed away of natural causes, illness or traffic accidents.

Altamimi added,

Such an approach to using numbers and data is one that often tries to amplify the impact of stories by linking what might be true to propaganda purposes, this is clear when you dive deeper into the report.”

Qatar’s Labour Reforms are Promising for the Future

Although more improvements are needed, Qatar started to implement extensive labour reforms since human rights organisations have publicly denounced the mistreatment of migrant workers.

In 2021, the Qatari government introduced several labour reforms to tackle human rights violations of migrant workers in Qatar, according to Human Rights Watch.

Indeed, the government is set to ditch the Kafala system. Namely, it is a sponsorship system that forbids workers to change job positions without their employers’ consent.

Thus, it will include discarding the ‘No Objection Certificate’ (NOC), allowing workers to change jobs without having to obtain a (NOC) anytime during their contract period.

Western Boycott and Sabotage of the Qatar World Cup

Several French cities, such as Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Reims, Nancy, Lille and Rennes, decided to boycott the World Cup by not broadcasting it on giant screens in public places. This move stirred controversy worldwide. 

Since Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup more than twelve years ago, the country has been the subject of media coverage that bears all the marks of an Orientalist vision. Western media have been targeting Qatar regarding its human rights violations, climate crisis, and corruption allegations. French officials have called the tournament “nonsense regarding human rights, the environment and sport”.

[Our reasons are] firstly because of the environmental and social conditions regarding the event, and this is not the model that we wish to promote for major events in Paris,”

Pierre Rabadan, Paris’ deputy mayor of sport, said last month.

However, critics accused Paris of hypocrisy since a Qatari company owns the PSG football team. Based on a study published by Qadran, the Franco-Qatari economic circle, Qatar has invested more than 25 million euros in France, making it the second-largest European investment destination for Qatar after the UK.

According to the study, Qatar’s imprint in the French economy includes portfolio investments or shareholdings in companies like LVMH (Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton), Balmain, Valentino, Le Printemps, TotalEnergies, Airbus, Accor and beIN Sports. 

In real estate investments and financial activities, Qatar’s stakes amount to 7.1 billion euros, 4.2 billion euros in retail trade accounts, 3.4 billion euros in transport and tourism, and 2.3 billion euros in telecoms and media. In addition to new infrastructure opportunities in preparation for the World Cup, the two countries have also partnered regarding the security of the global football event.

The study added that with Qatar’s investments in France, French GDP increased from 2.13 billion euros in 2014 to 3.07 billion euros in 2019.

On the first day of the World Cup, the BBC and ITV channels decided to boycott the opening ceremony of this international sporting event. Instead, the BBC preferred to broadcast a programme dedicated to “migrant workers in Qatar, corruption within FIFA and the homophobic policy” of this host state of the Football World Cup. 

The BBC has not publicly explained this editorial choice, deemed hypocritical by many. The British channel reports that when the Korean singer and member of the BTS group Jungkook took over the stadium during the opening ceremony of the Football World Cup, BBC viewers were able to watch an interview with Amnesty International condemning the considerable carbon footprint.

Western media’s motives to sabotage the World Cup seem not to end. When Saudi Arabia’s team played against Argentina, ITV’s stream was cut out during the Saudi national anthem. Fans were angered at the footage cutting out, with many questioning if the move was made on purpose.

Last Friday, in a post-match analysis on the BBC, German football manager Jurgen Klinsmann alleged that it was “in the culture” of Iranian players to “work the referee”. The BBC was then slammed for allowing such “xenophobic” and “racist” remarks.

Following the Transport for London (TFL) ‘s decision to ban advertising promoting tourism and travel to Qatar on buses and Tubes, the Gulf country has launched a review of its London investments. Doha condemned the move and deemed it “another blatant example of double standards.”

Indeed, TFL’s move to boycott all adverts from Qatar over its treatment of migrant workers and stance on LGBT+ seems hypocritical. Qatar is one of the most prominent investors in London through its sovereign wealth fund. The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) owns Harrods, the department store, and the Shard skyscraper and is co-owner of Canary Wharf. The Gulf state also owns the Savoy and Grosvenor House hotels, a 20% stake in Heathrow Airport and a 14% stake in Sainsbury’s (SBRY.L), Britain’s second biggest supermarket group, according to Reuters.

It is noteworthy that TFL appears to forget that England’s £115 World Cup jerseys were made by Thai factory workers, who were paid only £1 an hour.

Racism and double standards from European teams have also been pointed out. On Wednesday, Germany’s team was slammed online after covering their mouths in support of the LGBT+ community. Users online have mocked the move by condemning the double standards of the German team.

It is with a heavy heart and after much consideration that because of recent events, I will no longer be playing for Germany at the international level whilst I have this feeling of racism and disrespect. I used to wear the German shirt with such pride and excitement, but now I don’t. I feel unwanted and think that what I have achieved since my international debut in 2009 has been forgotten.”

Former German player of Turkish descent Mesut Özil said in 2018. 

Özil faced heavy criticism for his performances and meeting with Erdoğan, who has been accused of human rights abuses and has been outspoken about German politics. Nevertheless, he did not receive support from his German teammates or the German football federation (DFB). Indeed, ex-teammate Toni Kroos claimed Özil’s retirement over racism “nonsense”.

“For me, having a picture with President Erdoğan wasn’t about politics or elections, it was about me respecting the highest office of my family’s country.”

Özil added on Twitter.

In 2020, Mesut Özil condemned Arsenal’s response to his support on social media about the persecution of Uyghur Muslims in China. Arsenal stated.

The content published is Özil’s personal opinion. As a football club, Arsenal has always adhered to the principle of not involving itself in politics.”

Özil then commented on the English football club’s statement:

They said they don’t get involved in politics, but this isn’t politics, and they have got involved in other issues. In America, we saw George Floyd killed, and the world spoke up to say Black Lives Matter, and that is correct.”

By covering their mouths in protest against FIFA’s clampdown on free speech in the ‘One Love’ armband, German players signed their own death warrant and discredited the credibility of their support for LGBT+.

In April, a German court banned a rally in Berlin to support Palestine. According to Berlin’s officials, the rally was cancelled in fear of repeated alleged anti-Semitic incidents that broke out a week ago. Palestinian civic leaders and organisers have expressed their anger as they declared not to condone anti-Semitic slurs at demonstrations. They insisted on the fact that their mere objective was to raise awareness about the ongoing repression by Israel in occupied Palestine. 

The move has, however, come as no surprise, given Germany has long been an ally of Israel. The European country has never commented on the oppression and discrimination of Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Orientalism in the West’s Press Coverage of the Qatar World Cup

Ever since Qatar was awarded the right to host the World Cup, the gulf country has been the subject of media coverage that bears all the marks of an orientalist vision. It appears that Muslim countries do not hold the legitimacy of organising such events. Often, Gulf countries like Qatar are only known by the West for their vast oil reserves and human rights abuses.

However, we seem to forget the crimes against humanity in Syria and Crimea perpetuated by Russia, which hosted the last World Cup. 

The West also appears to forget that Israel hosted the Eurovision and Miss Universe in 2022 in Israel, which holds a never-ending human rights abuses record carried out against Palestinians for more than 70 years. That includes a systematic genocide of Palestinians, denying Palestinians the right to citizenship in the West Bank and Gaza, an enclave under blockade since 2007. Palestinians in Gaza live in the world’s largest open prison with no access to clean water, toilets and only 8 hours of electricity per day.

In 2022, China hosted the Winter Olympics amid allegations over its persecution, mass detention and forced labour of Uyghur Muslims in occupied Turkestan.

UK Singer Dua Lipa has voiced her refusal not to attend the World Cup in Qatar for its LGBT+ legislation. Lipa, however, performed many times in France, where racial, ethnic and religious discrimination has been at the core of French debate. Muslim women who wear the veil face Islamophobia daily and in every aspect of their life in a country where hijab is banned from school and government buildings. Moreover, migrants and asylum seekers who fled war-torn countries still face discrimination and mistreatment.

In 2026, the United States will be hosting the next World Cup, a country with an unprecedented human rights crime record. America is responsible for the death of more than 1 million Iraqis while others were subjected to torture and rape in US prisons. Based on a report by the Congressional Research Service, the United States has launched 251 military interventions since 1991 in the name of imperialism.

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