Qatar’s foreign minister interview about World Cup controversy


You are reading an excerpt from today’s Worldview newsletter. Sign up to get the rest free, including news from around the world and interesting ideas and thoughts to know, delivered to your inbox every weekday. During the World Cup, we will also feature coverage of the drama on and off the pitch. join us!

Doha, Qatar – By the end of last week, before he left the Qatari capital, Today’s Worldview sat down with the country’s top diplomat.. In the minds of many critics, particularly in the West, Qatar’s World Cup will always remain a tournament shrouded in controversy. Qatar has been accused of labor abuses and poor support for human rights since winning the bid to host the event in 2010. Rights groups and journalists tried to count the dead as millions of migrant workers were recruited into a massive nationwide construction project.

But Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al-Thani wants people to take a different view. He pointed to the jubilant scenes of fans celebrating together in Doha, the buoyant regional vibes boosted by the Middle East World Cup, and the real labor reforms the Qatari government has made over the past decade.

An excerpt from our Thursday evening conversation with the Foreign Minister appears here. It has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Today’s Worldview: The World Cup began amid much criticism and fierce opposition. Now that we’re nearing the final week of the tournament, how do you feel about where things stand?

Al-Thani: We believe that we are subject to something extraordinary. The last few World Cups have been attacked or not particularly praised. But this situation, especially given the long period after the award [of the World Cup bid to Qatar in 2010] And the attitude and behavior of some media towards Qatar was quite negative and disappointing from our point of view. They were trying to judge Qatar based on facts, or not based on coming here and checking the facts.

We believe this is the most inclusive World Cup. There are many people from different countries, from different backgrounds who never got to enjoy the World Cup. If we look at the demographics of the fans, there are Indian fans, Pakistani fans, from Southeast Asia, from the Far East, from the Arab region, from Europe, from Latin America, from Central Asia. All of them, they are here to enjoy football.

Think of the uniqueness of this tournament in a very small country the size of Connecticut. People can go and participate in up to four games in one day. And it made the World Cup affordable for many people who had never even dreamed of getting into football, let alone participating in many matches.

Honestly, the best reward for us in Qatar is the way the fans have enjoyed this tournament. We are seeing, whether on social media or in some media outlets that are trying to report objectively, most tourists are having a very positive experience. I’m sure there might be some negative observations here or there. But most of them are talking about how hospitable this country and its people are. How kind they are. And that’s something we’re proud of. We want to show the world that the Arab countries, the Middle Eastern region, is not only about wars and conflicts. It is also about celebrating and celebrating this beautiful sport.

Also Read :  Lionel Messi quiz: World Cup numbers, GOAT debate, false team-mates and quotes

Of course, the criticism is valid. Surely you recognize the concerns about the rights and abuses of many workers outside Qatar that will likely surround the World Cup?

We never claim that our country is perfect. We have never claimed that the conditions of migrant workers are good. Once these concerns were highlighted, Qatar acknowledged them and took them seriously. All reforms made by Qatar during the last 12 years have been implemented. It is portrayed as Qatar ignoring the fact that there is an issue, which it is not.

In fact, for the last eight years, we brought in a group of independent lawyers to examine our labor situation and identify gaps and loopholes for us, whether in our law or in the system we have here. And we have taken the report very seriously. At that time we had 120 recommendations. Many of these recommendations were to be dealt with in the source countries of migrant workers. And part of it was the responsibility of the government of Qatar.

We have opened our doors to NGOs. There is no country in the region that has adopted an open door policy, as Qatar did. Organizations like Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International, they can come here, they can publish their reports here. They can’t do that in some other places.

We set an example in this field, leading change, leading reform. And unfortunately, despite all this, some NGOs and media outlets were trying to attack Qatar without acknowledging or appreciating all these events. Changing the government system in 10 years is an achievement. Europe has not changed in 10 years. The United States has not changed in 10 years. We have accelerated these changes. And we are also grateful for the World Cup which helped us accelerate such changes.

but [critics] Always pointing to the responsibility of governments and governments. They never point to companies. If there is a situation where migrant workers are exploited in Europe, they blame the company involved, never the government.

Families of migrant workers who died in Qatar are waiting for answers

Part of the scrutiny came from a sense of confusion about the data. As for the death toll of migrant workers, we are given data by the Supreme Committee (the Qatari agency set up to run the World Cup) which does not seem to reflect the full picture in Qatar.

If you look at our statistics, we have the death rate published every year. It is based on nationality. We do not categorize by jobs. But this is the classification we are using. And this is a department that was established only a few years ago. We cannot expect them to specialize and publish everything with all the details. And it is a journey that will require time.

Also Read :  Anger in rural areas fuel protests against Peru government

With the Supreme Committee … they are publishing their data. Considering the number of workers who died at World Cup sites, one death is too many. But for the whole period [of preparation for the World Cup]There were three [deaths]. And this is what has been said and repeated many times.

but [our critics] Don’t want to listen to the other side. This is our problem. … There is consistency only in attacking the country.

You spoke earlier about joining the World Cup. But there are many questions surrounding the eligibility of LGBTQ people and those who support them to participate in Qatar.

We are saying over and over again, “Everyone is welcome.” What we are asking tourists to come here is to enjoy football, to focus on football, to enjoy our culture, to enjoy the country and the country’s hospitality. Just respect the laws, which is what Qataris are expected to do when they are traveling in other countries. Respect our laws and our traditions.

We have been very clear: it is not our business what the background of the people who come is. Whatever our business is … affecting public safety or attempting to offend the public in any way. This is not acceptable. And this applies to an LGBT couple or a man and woman. It is not something that is pointed or directed in one direction or another. We are saying that public display of affection is not allowed in Qatar. And this applies to everyone.

The issue is public display of symbols, not love. Why were people with rainbow flags stopped in the stadium?

Whatever is happening on the pitch, these are FIFA rules, not Qatar’s rules. Whatever is happening outside the pitch, those are our rules.

What should LGBTQ soccer fans expect at the Qatar World Cup? A guide.

What will be the legacy of this World Cup for your country and the region?

The World Cup is just the beginning. This is not the end of the story. First of all, we’ve provided something historic — all these people coming here and experiencing the Middle East. We are 100 percent sure that it will go a long way in changing the perception of many people around the world about the region. Second, as part of our National Vision 2030, all this infrastructure was planned back by Qatar before the bid. And the World Cup helped accelerate the delivery and realization of that. It will continue to serve this vision for economic diversification and for our tourism sector to flourish.

Have you been impressed by the pan-Arab solidarity on display in support of Morocco in Qatar and across the region, in particular, as it makes its historic run?

This is something that makes us very proud that Qatar, this small country, was able to bring back all the Arabs. And that’s the beauty and magic of the game itself, how it brings everyone together, from different backgrounds, Arab and non-Arab, from everywhere. You never see that happening in the West, but you see it happening here because there is a common denominator that brings us all together – we believe that we all belong to each other. What you’ve seen here in Qatar, the way the people and the fans come together, it’s really something interesting that I don’t think we’ve ever seen before. And we may never see it again.

Also Read :  U.S., Japan, S. Korea warn of 'unparalleled' response if N. Korea holds nuclear test

On the sidelines of the tournament, we have seen huge meetings between your Emir and the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Is there a turning point for your country after the World Cup? Long boycotts and blockades Have you experienced this at the hands of some of your neighbors?

Given the crisis we’ve been through, we believe that what should bring us together is far more important than what should tear us apart. We believe in the unity of [Gulf Cooperation Council, a bloc of six Arab monarchies in the region]. This does not mean that we will agree on everything. We have our differences. Let us build on what we have as a common purpose. We cannot restore everything. We know it will take time. But we see a leadership desire to bring that relationship back to where it should be.

We also understand that despite disagreements on some policies, we are connected, that … it is better to rise above our differences and focus on the challenges ahead. We see that the world is polarizing. We see the impact of the Russian war with Ukraine. We see the impact of covid. And we see that all these global crises that are happening around us are affecting us directly or indirectly. And if we are not going to work together to build our integrated systems and integrated resilience, we will never survive such challenges.

There is a perception that part of what fueled the controversy is Qatar’s independent streak in foreign policy and its support over the years for certain actors, particularly political Islamist parties like the Muslim Brotherhood. Is this a fair assumption?

The first half of the assumption is true: we agree on some policies and we disagree on some policies, given our evaluations and evaluations of them. What we’re saying is that whatever we agree on, let’s work together – and whatever we disagree on, let’s agree to disagree. And we respect that disagreement.

But there is this misconception, which is the other half of the question, that Qatar is electing actors in the region to stand for something. This was never the case for Qatar. We are not favoring political Islam or liberal parties versus secular parties. This is not our business. We are a state. We are not a political party.

When the Arab Spring started, maybe we took some steps, some policies [to back elements of pro-democracy uprisings in parts of the Arab world in 2011]. But those steps were not taken until we saw the people of those countries either bombarded or massacred. This is when we worked collectively, maybe not with the GCC, but with other countries.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related Articles

Back to top button