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2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar, and the West: The dance of the hypocrites

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Factual Pursuit of Truth for Progress

By LaBode Obanor

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It was quite a show this past Sunday during the opening ceremony of the 2022 FIFA world cup at Al Bayt stadium in Al Khor, Qatar. The host nation moved heaven and earth to stage a spectacular performance featuring big Hollywood stars like Morgan Freeman. The dancing, color, fanfare, and romancing musicals all reeked of puffery and hype design to paint Qatar as a mythical Eldorado. They tried. It was quite a moment of razzmatazz sparkle and likeability.

The host pulls all punches to show the world how diverse and socially acceptable Qatar is.

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Except that it is not.

First, its Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in his address to a packed stadium, stated: “From Qatar, from the Arab world, I welcome everyone to the World Cup 2022,” he said. “How lovely it is that people can put aside what divides them to celebrate their diversity and what brings them together all at once.”

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At the surface, the Emir’s statement appears moving. Still, when you navigate through the smokescreen of emotive words and phrases, you will quickly find out that much of it masked his disdain for human rights, oppression of the LGBT minority, and abuse of migrants working in his country. Although he attempted to portray Qatar as a country that promotes tolerance, inclusivity, and social acceptability, The fact remains that Qatar has one of the world’s worst human rights records. Its cruel treatment of migrant workers is common knowledge.

According to Human Rights Advocates, Qatar criminalizes homosexuality with a maximum penalty of death by stoning, restrict women’s access to all social-political activities, and subject expatriates and migrant laborers to the harshest of work condition. And these workers are forbidden from unionizing. Through a legal framework prevalent in the Middle East called Kafala System, Qatar exploits and puts the squeeze on laborers who are predominantly from South East Asia. The gouging and abuses range from low wages to poor working conditions, discrimination, and outright racism. Now tagged modern-day slavery.

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In 2020, Amnesty International detailed in its report the harrowing experience of over 100 female household workers who they interviewed, mostly from African nations. Most of them had been subjected to abuses and degrading treatments, from extreme overwork and lack of rest to sexual assaults and molestations. According to the report, the Qatari system was designed to allow workers to treat domestic workers not as human beings but as possessions.

Just before the country played host to soccer fans across the globe, in order to appease critics and placate global condemnation, Qatar moderated its behavior. It recently began instituting some changes, but none has gone far enough to make up for years of mistreatment of foreigners. Nor does anyone believe the reforms will last.

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As for the sanctimonious West flocking its shores in the past weeks, the condemnation was swift. Europe hastily blasted Qatar for its transgressions, and even fans and teams alike were not left out of the criticism. Major cities in France and Germany contemplated not airing the game in public to express their disapproval of Qatar’s labor abuses. Denmark indicated that it would make every effort to minimize its presence in Qatar. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) quickly reminded us that 6500 stadium workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh Sri Lanka had died in Qatar since the country won its bid for the World Cup. Danish players said they would wear “toned down” all-black kits to protest human rights in Qatar. On and on, the rebuke continued.

FIFA, on the other hand, attempted to calm the waters and issued a statement enjoining teams to “focus on football” and not “drag” the game into ideological or political battles or hand out moral lessons.”

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In a fiery speech, FIFA boss Gianni Infantino (a European) issued a scathing defense of Qatar while calling out Europe for its role in perpetuating colonialism and centuries of atrocities. “For what we Europeans have been doing in the last 3,000 years around the world,” he stated, “we should be apologizing for the next 3,000 years before starting to give moral lessons to people.”

Ouch! Infantino did not mince his words here.

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He continued; Qatar deserved credit for opening its doors to migrants while many wealthy Western countries often close their doors. “If you all really care about the destiny of these people, of these young people, Europe could also do as Qatar did, create some channels, legal channels, so that at least a number of these workers could come to Europe…..Give them some work, give them some future, give them some hope.”

The FIFA president is correct in exposing Europe’s phony pietism in the area of immigration. They have created insurmountable barriers to prevent the entry of migrant workers causing many to perish on the high seas as they attempt to cross illegally.

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So this newfound concern and solicitude for migrants is all empty talk.

However, while Infantino’s words appear pious, what is the guarantee that the Qataris are not the ones pulling all the punches and feeding him his talking points?

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After all, there were accusations of bribery before Qatar was awarded the world cup bid, and the man has been living in Qatar for much of this year. And what is the point of deflecting legitimate criticism or accusation by raising corresponding or counter-criticism of the opposite side if not to shield Qatar from its inhumane practices?

Either way, the finger-pointing and dance have undoubtedly clouded this 2022 FIFA tournament and removed the fun we are used to. It is now overflowing with deception, duplicity, and outright hypocrisy. No matter how FIFA and Qatar would like us to believe otherwise.

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Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @Obanor

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