By Dirk Smith, M.Sc, SDL (He/Him)

It is no secret that the 2022 FIFA World Cup was awarded to Qatar based on the vast sums of wealth the oil rich country contains. Wrapping the World Cup and other large scale international sporting events into controversy over accusations of corruption and bribery. The theocratic nation has thus far spent the most money than any other host in the history of the World Cup in organizing the event, namely, to build stadium infrastructure from scratch specifically for the event. Despite soccer being the most popular sport, Qatar Football Association matches only regularly draw out 2,000-10,000 spectators per match and their international team is unremarkable at best.

The theocratic nation, who’s entire government is rooted in religious conservatism, has faced criticism of its treatment of workers, especially regarding the low pay and slave conditions of migrant workers, mistreatment of women, and the violence committed against the LGBTQ+ community. Despite empty promises of things to improve upon, none of which appears to have changed. As the World Cup approaches, human rights activists are calling for a boycott of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar and calling out these vagrant violations in human rights committed by the host. All the while FIFA themselves turns a blind eye to it in the name of sport.

A letter FIFA sent out to the 32 Football Associations who are sending teams to Qatar told the World Cup teams “not to lecture on morality” stating that “We know football does not live in a vacuum and we are equally aware that there are many challenges and difficulties of a political nature all around the world. But please do not allow football to be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists.”

The letter was strongly condemned by several World Cup team countries, including England and Wales as well as human rights activists. Several European nations requested their captains be permitted to wear “one love” multi-colored arm bands during the World Cup in response to Qatar’s criminalization of LGBTQ+ people. Stating that they would defy any ban and continue to wear them.

Despite all this, the president of FIFA, Gianni Infantino insists that “everyone will be welcome in Qatar regardless of origin, background, religion, gender, sexual orientation or nationality”. While on the same note, Qatar World Cup CEO Nasser Al Khater stating that “gay fans would be welcome, while saying the culture meant anti-LGBTQ laws had to remain in place despite deterring some fans from travelling.”

This is taken merely as lip service so much that LGBTQ+ fans are welcome as long as you don’t look, act, or otherwise express any hint of being LGBTQ+ under threat of persecution, imprisonment and even death. As highlighted by British Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly. The Human Rights Watch recently released a report detailing the kinds of treatments LGBTQ+ people will face in the religious conservative country, stemming from discrimination to conversion therapy, abuse in detention and other atrocities.

“While Qatar prepares to host the World Cup, security forces are detaining and abusing LGBT people simply for who they are, apparently confident that the security force abuses will go unreported and unchecked,” said Rasha Younes, LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Qatari authorities need to end impunity for violence against LGBT people. The world is watching.”

It is unfortunate that FIFA chooses to put its World Cup above the basic standard for human rights and condition, although it is not surprising. We hope that, at the very least, this increased awareness into the human rights atrocities that Qatar is so blatantly committing will help to improve conditions for citizens, especially LGBTQ+ Qataris, in the long run.

Photo Credit: Saif Zaman via Wikimedia Commons