Qatar goes from defense to attack to fend off critics of its World Cup

The criticism, which has intensified over two months, includes allegations of corruption over how the wealthy emirate won the right to host the tournament, achievements in human rights in Doha regarding women’s freedoms and rights, LGBT and migrant workers, the traditions of Qatar’s conservative society, the emirate’s hot climate and the stadium’s air conditioning.

By simply responding that “everyone is welcome” at the World Cup and regretting that its critics have not checked what is happening on the ground, instead of “arbitrarily making accusations,” Qatar has now gone on the offensive.

– Emir’s speech –

The speech of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, at the opening of the Shura Council on October 25 marked a turning point in the confrontation with Doha.

“Ever since we had the honour of hosting the World Cup, Qatar has been subjected to unprecedented repression that no host country has ever experienced,” the prince said at the time.

“We initially dealt with this issue in good faith and even considered some of the criticism positive and useful,” he said, “but “the campaign continues and expands to include slander and double standards until it has reached such ferocity that, unfortunately, has done many wonders about the real reasons and motives of this campaign.”

According to Qatar’s Labour Minister Ali bin Smayha al-Marri, these motives are partly “racist”.

In an interview with AFP in early November, al-Marri said: “They don’t want to allow a small country, an Arab country, a Muslim country to host the World Cup. ” They are fully aware of the reforms that have taken place, but they do not recognize them because their motives are racial.”

Perhaps the most notable escalation of Doha’s position occurred on October 28, when Qatar’s foreign ministry announced that it had summoned the German ambassador to Doha to protest the “unacceptable, reprehensible and provocative statements by the Qatari people” made by German Interior Minister Nancy Weisser, who is also in charge of the sports portfolio, and who said: “It is better not to give honor to organize tournaments for such countries.”

But a German minister who visited Doha two days after the diplomatic escalation softened her tone in Qatar, saying she had received “security guarantees” for all fans, including LGBT visitors in the country whose laws criminalize homosexuality.

“It is important to support Qatar in its most important reforms for the future. That’s why I decided to support this path and go there to attend the first match of Germany” on November 23.

– Diplomatic tour for the media –

During a European tour in early November, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani gave an interview with European media in which he responded to accusations against his country.

In interviews with Britain’s Sky News, France’s Le Monde, and Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, he said: “There’s a lot of hypocrisy in these attacks. which is supported by a very small number of people, in a maximum of ten countries,” he said, stressing that “football belongs to everyone, not an exclusive club for the elites.”

Doha also sought to include in the final statement of the Arab summit held in Algiers on the second of this month a paragraph condemning the “campaign of confusion and malicious skepticism” to which Qatar is being subjected and stressing that Arab leaders “support the State of Qatar, which is preparing to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and are fully confident in its ability to organize an outstanding edition of this global event.”

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said on Sunday: “With all the negative press advertising and all the negative advertising paid for against my country, I want to say one thing: my country will already be in the world’s spotlight in the next five weeks when five billion people around the world will be watching it, so all the fake news will show its failure.”

The strategy of attack also applies to the Qatari media. On the seventh of this month, Al Jazeera aired a 50-minute report examining the source of the criticism, “starting with Britain, then France and Denmark.”

Since the beginning of October, the local press has been campaigning against critics of the World Cup.

– Cartoon War –

Al-Sharq newspaper criticized “a systematic conspiracy by the media of many European countries that claim to boycott the World Cup because of the rights and working conditions of workers in Qatar, while these media forget about the deplorable conditions faced by workers in Europe.”

“These pathetic media are fabricating a story every time for every country hosting the tournament from outside the old continent,” she said, referring to the last three tournaments in South Africa in 2010, Brazil in 2014, and Russia in 2018.

A few days ago, the French satirical newspaper Le Canard Anchinet sparked outrage in the Gulf country by publishing a cartoon presenting Qatari national team players as bearded men with machine guns.

The Qataris responded in kind when cartoonist Mohamed Abdellatif published a drawing depicting French players kicking skulls, referring to victims of French colonialism.

In response to a report in Britain’s Sunday Times accusing Doha of spying for the World Cup, Doha threatened legal proceedings.

An official statement said Doha “will not stand idly by in the face of such unfounded accusations, and all legal options available to us are being explored to ensure that those responsible” are brought to justice. (AFP)