As we quickly tick into 2022, the Scotland play-off game with the Ukraine gets closer and so does the overall target of getting to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. However, whilst this is a great achievement, now seems like the right time to address the elephant in the room.
Scotland is an amazing country with great history for being inclusive and welcoming. From the freeing of the slave Joseph Knight in 1777 to the saving of the two gentlemen in May in 2021 after a dawn raid in Glasgow.
As a nation Scotland has shown itself to be an inclusive country where everyone is welcome and you are allowed to be the person, you wish to be without judgement or bias.
With Scotland’s amazing on pitch performances, the side are now within a very real shot of getting to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Whilst this, from a sporting performance point of view is a phenomenal achievement given, the challenges faced by Scotland given their poor start to the campaign.
However, with Scotland so close to the finals, now seems the right time to breech the subject of the human rights and worker rights within the host country.
The official death toll is 38 deaths according to Qatar’s World Cup organising committee. This claim though is challenged by multiple news outlets including the BBC, the Guardian, Sports Illustrated, Forbes and RTE. Almost, all of these reports are directly connected to an Amnesty International report which claims that the total death toll is in excess of 6500 people, in the decade leading up to the World Cup. Given that there is still the better part of another year to go until the World Cup kicks off this is a concerning number.
The report is broken down to seven clear points.
- Expensive Recruitment Fees. Workers are expected to pay up to $4000 dollars to get a job on the World Cup sites.
- Appalling Living and Working Conditions. Workers working regularly in temperatures exceeding 40C.
- Lies About Wages. Wages are claimed to be over $300 a month when it’s on average about $190.
- Delayed Wage Payments. Many workers claim their wages are delayed.
- Can’t Leave Stadium or Camp. Many workers claim they have not been given the correct documentation to allow them to leave their working environment.
- Can’t Change Jobs or Leave the Country. Most workers claim to have had their passports removed by the employers and were in effect being held by the companies.
- Threatened. Many workers claim that if they did complain about the conditions they work or are held in. They were threatened by the employers.
This is the report that many of the news outlets have used to back up their reporting. This is because many journalists from a variety of countries have found reporting from Qatar difficult and have had their equipment removed from them and in some cases arrested and deported from the country. This has been happening as lately as November 2021 when two Norwegian Journalists for Norway’s national broadcaster NRK were arrested and held for 36 hours after they were investigating the conditions of migrant workers in Qatar. Whilst this action has been widely condemned, the Qatari government claim that the journalists were stopped because they had been trespassing and filming without a permit.
The Amnesty International report is heavily disputed by both FIFA and Qatar. Who state that the points made by the report are wide of the mark and in some case outright wrong. The counters to the arguments that have been made are that the conditions the workers are kept in are much improved since 2010, also that the recruitment fees are no longer and that the workers are getting the money back. The government of Qatar are very keen to argue that the 6500 deaths is extremely over estimated and claim that only 38 deaths are connected to the World Cup and of that only 3 have happened on site.
The workers that are at the World Cup sites are predominantly from the Indian subcontinent. Data the embassy’s in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka revealed there were 5,927 deaths of migrant workers in Qatar between 2011–2020. Separately, Pakistan’s embassy in Qatar reported a further 824 deaths of Pakistani workers. These numbers are high but, what is scarier is that the total number is believed to be a lot higher, as the migrant workers from both Africa and the Philippines are not recorded.
If we are to take the Amnesty International report 6500 people have died so far for 64 games of football. That would be 101 people who have died per game played.
Whilst, the deaths and conditions of workers is a topic that is hotly disputed between the relevant sides. One thing that is not up for debate is the Qatari Laws on Women and LGBTQ+ rights.
Qatar is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Like all GCC member states, it has a ban on homosexuality with a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment and, even under Sharia law, execution. Public advocacy of LGBTQ+ rights and displays of same-sex affection are illegal and punishable by prison as well. Whilst Qatari women have no legal protection against domestic violence or marital rape. A woman can only marry with the permission of her male guardian and with two male witnesses present. Women also suffer legal discrimination in terms of divorce, inheritance, child custody, nationality and freedom of movement.
With these issues it raises many questions around supporter safety and supporter inclusion. Both FIFA and the Qatari government have been clear around the questions of supporter safety, the restrictions on journalists have made these guarantees look questionable. We in Scotland try to make our country welcoming to everyone. Therefore, can we stand and cheer and help sports wash a country that stands against so many of the values we hold close. Scotland aren’t the only country to face this issue, fans of Germany, Netherlands, Finland, Norway and Austria have made it clear they aren’t comfortable with the World Cup being hosted in Qatar. Whilst the players of Germany, Netherlands and Norway have already held on pitch protests.
The most telling protest so far about the World Cup came from Finland Captain Tim Sparv in the Players Tribune in September 2021 where he spoke in great detail about the moral issues he was facing about leading his team in qualification for 2022, given the well known human rights issues.
For Scotland supporters this should raise questions. As a nation who is proud of its rights and equality should we take this chance to raise these issues or do we take the FIFA pound and just carry on without a word?
I want Scotland to do well. However, as each day passes the plight of the people becomes a more challenging point. If Scotland were to make it to the finals it would have been 24 years since we last appeared at a World Cup but is the death toll of approximately 1 death every 28 hours since Scotland last played at a World Cup, justifiable for the success we are hoping for? We all want success for the country and if Scotland make it, everyone will be proud. However, would you not be prouder if we used our chance on the international stage to show and stand up for the problems of the people of that country are well?
At the end of the day it is a personal choice and down to your own personal moral compass.
Jeff (@JMW1867 on Twitter)