Rights Mean Nothing
A last minute decision to ban beer at the 2022 World Cup could cost FIFA as much as 65 million dollars (CAD). The ban, coming just two days before the opening match between the host country and Ecuador, was a sudden about-face by Qatar on a deal made to secure the tournament.
The sale of alcohol in the autocratic country is heavily restricted. However, Qatar made concessions in an effort to secure their 2010 bid and, in the process, accepted that the host country is required to permit the sale of alcohol in stadiums.
Addressing Qatar’s U-turn, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said, “FIFA had failed to persuade the Qatar government to stand by the original decision to allow the sales.”
No matter the country, hosting the World Cup comes with international attention and scrutiny. For Qatar, that has meant making the news for more than flip-flopping on beer sales, such as highlighting the nation’s troubling human rights record.
Amnesty.org writes that, since FIFA awarded the tournament to Qatar, “the dire situation for migrant workers in the country has been widely publicized. Migrants and domestic workers continue to face a range of abuses including wage theft, forced labour, and exploitation.”
In late October of this year, one month before the start of the World Cup, Reuters reported that Qatar emptied apartment blocks housing thousands of foreign workers in the same areas where visiting soccer fans will stay.
According to Reuters, “more than a dozen buildings had been evacuated and shut down by authorities, forcing the mainly workers to seek what shelter they could – including bedding down on the pavement outside one of their former homes.”
At one building housing as many as 1,200 people, authorities told residents they had two hours to vacate. That was at 8:00 pm. Officials returned two and a half hours later to force everyone out and lock the doors to the building.
"We don't have anywhere to go," one man told Reuters the next day as he prepared to sleep out for a second night.
Nearby, five men were loading a mattress and a small fridge into the back of a pickup truck. They said they had found a room 40 km north of Doha, Qatar’s capital.
A Qatari government official told Reuters that the evictions are unrelated to the World Cup, and that "all have since been rehoused in safe and appropriate accommodation."
Vani Saraswathi, Director of Projects at Migrant-Rights.org which campaigns for foreign workers in the Middle East, told Reuters that the evictions "keep Qatar's glitzy and wealthy facade in place without publicly acknowledging the cheap labour that makes it possible."
Adds Saraswathi, "This is deliberate ghetto-isation at the best of times. But evictions with barely any notice are inhumane beyond comprehension.” He said labourers who built up the infrastructure for Qatar to host the World Cup were being pushed aside as the tournament approaches.
“The treatment of migrant workers is just one of a range of violations that make up the state’s troubling human rights record,” reports Amnesty.org. “Qatar’s authorities repress freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of association; unfair trials remain concerning; women continue to face discrimination in law and practice; and laws continue to discriminate against LGBT individuals.”