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2022 World Cup and human rights: the hypocrisy of Western media

Qatar rejects compensation fund for World Cup migrant workers
(File photo: Jordan News)
Followers of mainstream media in the US and Europe cannot overlook the systematic attacks on Qatar’s human rights record. Considering their intensity and harsh rhetoric over the past few weeks, it is hard to think that these attacks are not orchestrated in some fashion. Still, I doubt that they are. Unfortunately, the mainstream media in the US, Europe, and the rest of world are more occupied with the “topic” of the day, week, or month. So it happens that the taste these days is World Cup, Qatar, and human rights. اضافة اعلان

I stand firmly for human rights, but what bothers me, and many other Arabs and Muslims, is ignoring everything Qatar has done to successfully execute and deliver this important worldwide event.

Leading commentators, reporters, and writers, along with some politicians in the US and Europe, reduced the event to allegations about Qatar’s so-called “unacceptable” human rights record in regard to the treatment of foreign workers, women, and the LGBTQ community. Much like the rest of the world, Qatar can do better in those three areas. However, Qatar is far from the ugly picture these mainstream media outlets made it to be. On the contrary, over the past few days, Qatar has projected a brilliant picture of what an event of this magnitude ought to be.

It is hard to adequately address the human rights issues raised against Qatar, but it is important to call out the hypocrisy of the mainstream media outlets and many politicians in the US and Europe.

It is estimated that Qatar spent close to $250 billion on preparations for the World Cup, most of which was directed to mega infrastructure projects. Most of this money went to engineering design and construction, and project management firms from the US and Europe.

Laborers working on these projects were employed by these firms, not the government of Qatar. Yet, we did not see any significant reporting calling out these firms for bad treatment of their laborers. That aside, probably the work conditions of those workers were better than those of the many “illegal migrant” workers in the US, Europe and the rest of the world, which often violate most basic human rights. Most of these immigrants work in hazardous jobs, are paid less than the minimum wage, and do not benefit from insurance, healthcare coverage, and sick and vacation leave. And, while the work conditions for illegal migrants in the US and Europe continue to deteriorate, the work and living conditions of foreign laborers in Qatar have improved tremendously over the past 10 years.

Over the 25 years I lived in the US, I met many Qataris: young Qatari girls attending undergraduate and graduate STEM programs in prestigious schools across the US; women professors from Qatari Universities working on research and teaching in US universities; young and middle-aged professional women holding leadership and managerial positions in private Qatari businesses, government agencies, and higher education institutions attending conferences and training events in the US.

Unlike their counterparts in the US and Europe, especially minorities, Qatari women often have successful professional careers. Unlike women in the US and Europe, I am not aware of any Qatari woman who is working two minimum-wage jobs to barely support children abandoned by their fathers and governments. Qatari women are well taken care of by their families and government, and their lives at work and outside continue to improve.

Then, the issue of LGBTQ rights. Qatar never banned members of the LGBTQ community from attending the World Cup, as wrongfully claimed by many. On the contrary, for years, Qatar emphasized that all soccer fans are welcome, regardless of background or sexual orientation. All that Qatar and Qataris asked for from everyone is to respect their conservative culture. Is that too much to ask for?

Qatar’s conservative cultural and religious, Islamic or otherwise, beliefs and views relative to homosexuality are shared by many countries worldwide. More than that, most of these beliefs and views are shared by large proportions of conservative populations in Europe and the US. Should we write off over two thirds of the world’s population in these countries, and ban them from hosting and participating in future World Cup events because of their conservative beliefs and views relative to homosexuality?

Unfortunately, when it comes to human rights and the Middle East, for decades mainstream media outlets in the US and Europe have picked minor issues, rather than important ones. That is not surprising, because real journalism reporting has retracted in the face of corporate greed, limiting itself to the opinions of frequent friendly commentators and so-called “subject matter experts”.

I would like to see real reporting in the US and Europe about the human rights of Palestinians held for decades in Israeli prisons, especially women and children. How about attempting to hold to account those who used false pretenses to lead the world to invade Iraq and kill millions of Iraqis in the process? What about the human rights of the people of Gaza living in the largest prison in the world?

Middle East aside, how about the human rights of millions of Americans whose retirement savings were ransacked by Wall Street in 2008? Since then, many of those retirees had to go back to work and those who were about to retire had to postpone their retirement, some indefinitely. Yet, we did not see any of the Wall Street gurus responsible for their economic hardships being held to account.

How about the human rights of millions of hungry children and families facing food insecurity in the US, while the pockets of corporations and politicians are getting fatter? Unfortunately, the list of human rights abuses of large magnitude is too long, yet they continue to be ignored by the mainstream media, which tackle minor issues.

Over the past decade, Qataris have accomplished great feats, presenting us with a world-class World Cup event. Let us thank them for their hard work and unparalleled investments and achievements to make our world a better place, even if it is for a short while.

To those who have been bombarded with false messaging that made them hesitant, it is not too late for them to go visit Qatar, where they will be welcomed with open arms by one of the most hospitable people in the world. Visitors will be surrounded by the most diverse group of soccer fans from all over the globe.

The world should celebrate Qatar’s achievement and our diversity while cheering for some of the finest athletes in the world.  

Ibraheem Tarawneh is CEO of Pi Square Consulting Inc. and former State of Ohio government official.

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