Qatar 2022: World Cup fans could bring political tensions


Joseph Krauss –

Qatar is a devoutly apolitical place, with speech and meeting closely restricted and a big inhabitants of international staff who could lose their livelihoods in the event that they trigger a stir.

But that could change subsequent month, when an estimated 1.2 million soccer fans descend on the tiny Gulf Arab nation for the World Cup. Authorities could face requires labour rights, LGBTQ equality and different causes within the glare of a world highlight like no different.

They may additionally should deal with public drunkenness and hooliganism in a conservative, Islamic nation the place such behaviour is deeply taboo and nearly unprecedented.

Qatar has had greater than a decade to organize for the monthlong match, which begins on Nov. 20, and has spared no expense — because of pure gasoline reserves that make it among the many world’s wealthiest nations. It additionally has some latest expertise internet hosting main worldwide sporting occasions.

But there’s nothing fairly like a World Cup.


Qatar, the primary Arab or Muslim nation to host a World Cup, is a rich and politically steady outlier within the unstable Middle East. Citizens get pleasure from beneficiant cradle-to-grave welfare paid for by its gasoline riches. Foreign staff make up greater than two-thirds of the inhabitants of lower than 3 million and account for practically 95 per cent of the labour pressure.

Qatar hosts the pan-Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera and has supported Islamist teams throughout the area, however inside its personal borders politics is almost nonexistent. Power is concentrated within the palms of a hereditary emir, criticism of authorities is closely restricted, and politically oriented teams are banned.

U.S.-based Freedom House, which surveys democratic change and backsliding worldwide, classifies Qatar as “Not free.”

Qatari officers have stated the safety forces will undertake a lightweight contact throughout the World Cup, tolerating minor infractions like public intoxication and intervening in response to solely violence, destruction of property and threats to public security.

“Differing views are inspired and fans shall be free to specific themselves throughout the World Cup, as they’ve achieved throughout different occasions hosted in Qatar,” a Qatari authorities official stated on situation of anonymity consistent with laws.

Kristian Ulrichsen, a Gulf knowledgeable at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, stated he expects Qatar to “tolerate situations of activism throughout the World Cup, particularly if they don’t relate to political or geopolitical points.”

“Qatari police have been coaching alongside worldwide counterparts, together with from the United Kingdom, and specializing in points similar to crowd management and policing in ways in which de-escalate moderately than intensify unstable conditions.”


The World Cup has already shined a lightweight on what rights teams describe as exploitative situations endured by many international labourers, together with the development staff who constructed stadiums and different infrastructure.

Qatar has overhauled its labour legal guidelines in recent times, dismantling a lot of its conventional kafala system, which tied staff to their employers. It has additionally mandated a minimal month-to-month wage of some US$275. But activists say extra must be achieved to make sure that staff are paid on time and shielded from different abuses.

Foreign staff are barred from forming unions and don’t have any political rights. At least 60 staff have been arrested in August for staging a protest over unpaid wages. A Kenyan safety guard who wrote anonymously concerning the plight of international staff was detained for months and fined final yr earlier than leaving the nation.

Several soccer federations are urgent Qatar on labor rights, and the English Football Association stated its gamers would meet with migrant staff who shall be invited to their coaching camp.


Qatari regulation prescribes a penalty of 1-3 years in jail for “main, instigating or seducing a male . . . to commit sodomy.” Separate legal guidelines prescribe as much as seven years for anybody who “copulates” with a person or girl over the age of 16 “with out compulsion, duress or ruse.”

Few anticipate these legal guidelines to be enforced in opposition to visiting soccer fans, but it surely’s unclear how authorities would deal with public shows of affection — taboo even for straight {couples} — or public advocacy for LGBTQ rights.

“Reserve the room collectively, sleep collectively — that is one thing that is not in our concern,” Maj. Gen. Abdulaziz Abdullah Al Ansari, a senior chief overseeing safety preparations, informed The Associated Press in April. But he sparked controversy in the identical interview by saying rainbow flags could be taken from fans to guard them from being attacked.

“Watch the sport. That’s good. But do not actually are available in and insult the entire society due to this,” he stated.

Qatar has already confronted criticism in public boards over its criminalization of homosexuality. Eight of the 13 European soccer groups within the World Cup have requested FIFA for permission for his or her captains to put on rainbow armbands as a part of the “One Love” marketing campaign.


Qatar is extra relaxed than another Gulf nations in the case of alcohol, however its sale is normally restricted to luxurious motels and eating places. Public drunkenness is taboo within the Islamic nation and offenders will be jailed or deported.

During the World Cup, beer may also be offered at stadiums and fan zones, and officers say drunkenness shall be tolerated so long as it would not threaten anybody’s security. But there could be penalties if issues get out of hand or the celebration strikes out of designated venues.

Qatar could face the, usually associated, situation of fan rivalries. Local safety forces have little expertise coping with the hooliganism that has traditionally accompanied high-stakes matches in Europe.

Matches between Honduras and El Salvador famously sparked the so-called “Football War” between the nations in 1969, and a infamous collision between French and West German gamers on the 1982 World Cup precipitated a serious diplomatic incident.

Russia has been banned from worldwide soccer over its invasion of Ukraine, whose nationwide workforce was eradicated within the playoffs. But tensions over that battle — or others — can’t be dominated out.

Qatar’s police will not be alone in coping with any main disturbances.

Turkey, which has extra expertise with political unrest, plans to ship 3,250 cops, together with particular operations forces and explosives consultants, to assist Qatar keep safety. It will present coaching to a whole lot of Qatari safety forces.


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