Protests in Qatar lack credibility if you don’t talk to us

Protests in Qatar lack credibility if you don’t talk to us

Nasser Al Khater (L) and Gareth Southgate - World Cup Chief Warns Gareth Southgate: Protests in Qatar have no credibility if you don't talk to us - PAUL GROVER / REUTERS

Nasser Al Khater (L) and Gareth Southgate – World Cup Chief Warns Gareth Southgate: Protests in Qatar have no credibility if you don’t talk to us – PAUL GROVER / REUTERS

Qatar’s World Cup boss warned Gareth Southgate that any protest from England would not be credible without visiting the country to learn more about its human rights record.

The England national team and the Football Federation are talking to colleagues from other nations about some sort of public statement in Qatar, but there is frustration in Doha at the prospect of action without hearing another side of the debate and personal invitations have been extended to both Southgate and its captain Harry Kane.

“We contacted federations…prominent clubs…we opened our arms to dialogue,” said Nasser Al Khater, chief executive of Qatar 2022. “Criticize. Raise concerns. But do it right. Come here. Contact us. Let us show you where the progress is. By all means, go and have a look for yourself. Give yourself more credibility.

“You have a responsibility when you are someone recognized internationally. You need to be very careful what you say because what you say matters.

“I made an invitation to [Gareth] south gate. I will be delighted to invite the captain of the national team for an open dialogue. Before adopting a uniform position, take a unified and informed approach that does not rely on entities, whether news agencies or NGOs, that may have an agenda. Is there work that still needs to be done? 100 percent. Has much work been done? 100 percent.”

In an exclusive interview that marks 150 days until the first winter and the Middle East World Cup begins, Al Khater also:

  • He didn’t foresee any of the administrative disorder or chaos that has marked recent European finals;

  • Said alcohol would be available in fan-zones, as well as certain hotels and cruise ships;

  • Warned of Qatar’s zero-tolerance approach to drugs following the wave of cocaine incidents in English football;

  • He welcomed gay fans, but said all public displays of affection went against Qatari culture;

  • Guaranteed affordable accommodation for the World Cup within options that include cruise ship cabins, tent fan villages, caravans and Portakabins, as well as apartments and hotels;

  • He said that Qatar was ready to host the Summer Olympics.

English players watched a 30-minute presentation earlier this year containing information from Amnesty International, among other sources. Vice-captain Jordan Henderson described some of the briefings as “shocking and disappointing”.

Southgate said in March that “the biggest issue… is what happened with the construction of the stadiums and there’s nothing we can do about it unfortunately”. There is ongoing dialogue between FA Chief Executive Mark Bullingham and Qatari officials, with more visits planned between now and November.

More than two million migrant workers have come to Qatar to work on various construction projects since they were awarded the World Cup and Amnesty International has detailed allegations of various human rights abuses.

Al Khater highlighted the legislative reform in Qatar in recent years, including the abolition of the Kafala system, which prevented workers from changing jobs without their employer’s consent, a new minimum wage and various laws related to working hours, particularly during the scorching heat summer months.

“What is really frustrating is that we work with internationally recognized bodies,” said Al Khater. “Legislation being enacted over a period of one or two years is unprecedented in many countries. Qatar has been a pioneer in the region.

“The failure of recognition is what frustrates and is honestly counterproductive because it demoralizes you. It seems that reconnaissance is always behind closed doors, and then in the public sphere there is always an opportunity to attack.”

Norway’s players wore a ‘human rights – on and off the field’ shirt in March, but Al Khater said he respected their position after extensive engagement.

Erling Haaland - World Cup Chief Warns Gareth Southgate of Qatar Protests - GETTY IMAGES

Erling Haaland – World Cup Chief Warns Gareth Southgate of Qatar Protests – GETTY IMAGES

“The Nordic federations reached out, came here… spoke to these unions… the ILO [International Labour Organisation],” he said.

“We work with the ILO, we work with the Institution of Construction and Wood Workers, we work with the International Trade Union Congress. We have audits by these organizations. Speak with them.”

An extraordinary construction project remains in progress. The World Cup’s infrastructure, including the eight air-conditioned stadiums, cost about $6.5 billion and other developments include new hotels, apartments, the Doha Metro, roads, an expanded airport and upgrades to key tourist areas, such as the Port of Doha and the Corniche. Amnesty raised new concerns in April about private contractors in Qatar “still exploiting their workers”, but also acknowledged “progress” in “improved labor standards”.

Why Scrutiny Complaints Are Widespread

By Jason Burt

If there’s one thing that Qatar World Cup boss Nasser al Khater can be sure of, it’s that Gareth Southgate will have done his homework.

There is no way the England manager could have made any comment about Qatar, the World Cup or human rights without being prepared. And there’s no way Al Khater’s grievances will pass now.

World Cup boss warns Gareth Southgate about protests in Qatar - GETTY IMAGES

World Cup boss warns Gareth Southgate about protests in Qatar – GETTY IMAGES

After all, Southgate is someone who prefaces any invitation to criticize – whether it’s about vandalism or racism – with a reminder to the UK that we must first “get our own house in order”.

So what did he say about Qatar? Southgate just pointed out a number of facts – starting with highlighting that the main area of ​​concern was how the stadiums were built and the human cost. “There’s nothing we can do about it right now,” he said. Even Qatar has finally recognized this.

Southgate also qualified all the comments and stated that the region is “culturally” and “religiously different”. Despite being blunt, he could not have chosen his words more carefully or diplomatically, and while Al Khater has invited him to come and speak with migrant workers, who will decide which workers and will they fear reprisals? It would run the risk of becoming a mere public relations exercise.

Southgate has also visited Qatar, albeit briefly, for the World Cup draw in early April. He spoke to workers and activists at the time and will be in Qatar next month for a longer visit when he attends a coaching workshop ahead of the tournament.

Qatar has certainly brought more reforms than its neighboring states and better conditions, which is partly why organizations like Amnesty International don’t want the World Cup to be boycotted. They believe that shedding light on what happened will accelerate these reforms, and that seems like the right strategy.

Amnesty also believes the Football Federation did not go far enough in pointing out violations and was frustrated by its softer approach compared to the Netherlands and Denmark.

Indeed, there was astonishment when FA Chief Executive Mark Bullingham claimed that migrant workers were “totally behind” the World Cup. So the FA or Southgate hardly came out aggressively and attacked Qatar. Far from it.

Al Khater seems to want praise for the improvements made to a situation that was simply dire. He also seems to want praise because conditions in Qatar are now not as bad as in neighboring countries, which seems like a particularly nasty kind of “what for”. Instead, Qatar needs more encouragement and continued pressure.

The truth is that neither Southgate nor Harry Kane need to go on a fact-finding mission to Qatar to find out for themselves what is going on. There’s plenty of evidence from reputable sources to educate you on not just what’s happening now, but – as Southgate rightly points out – what happened in the past when that spotlight wasn’t being as strong in Qatar.

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