DOHA, Qatar – Before he left the Qatari capital late last week, Today’s WorldView caught up with the country’s top diplomat.. In the minds of many critics, especially in the West, the World Cup in Qatar will always be a controversial tournament. Since Qatar won the bid to host the event in 2010, there have been complaints of labor abuses and poor human rights. Human rights organizations and journalists have tried to count the dead as hundreds of thousands of migrant workers have been drawn into massive construction projects across the country.
But Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani wants people to take a different view. He highlighted the jubilant scenes of fans celebrating together in Doha, the regional joy from the Middle East’s FIFA World Cup, and the labor reforms implemented by the Qatari government over the past decade.
Here is an excerpt from Thursday night’s interview with the foreign minister. It has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Today’s WorldView: The World Cup kicked off amid much criticism and criticism. As we approach the final week of the tournament, how are things going?
Al-Thani: We believe we are exposed to something unprecedented. Previous World Cups have been attacked or not particularly praised. But this situation, especially considering the long period since the award [of the World Cup bid to Qatar in 2010] Also, the attitude and attitude towards Qatar in some media is quite negative and disappointing from our point of view. They tried to judge Qatar not based on facts, they came here and didn’t even check the facts.
We believe this is the most accessible World Cup. There are many people from different countries and backgrounds who have never been to the World Cup. If you look at the demographics of the fans, there are Indian fans from Pakistan, Southeast Asia, Far East, Arab region, Europe, Latin America and Central Asia. They all come here and play football.
Think about the uniqueness of this tournament in a small country the size of Connecticut. People can visit four matches in one day. This has made the World Cup affordable for many who would never dream of coming to football, let alone attending many matches.
Honestly, the best reward for us in Qatar is that the fans enjoyed the tournament. We see that most of the visitors who try to report fairly on social media or some media have a very positive experience. I’m sure there are some negative observations here or there. But most of them talk about how hospitable this country and its people are. How nice they are. And this is something we are proud of. We want to show the world that the Arab countries and the Middle East region are not only wars and conflicts. And it’s about celebrating and celebrating this beautiful game.
Of course, the criticism is valid. You do realize that many people outside of Qatar are concerned about worker rights and abuses surrounding the World Cup, right?
We never say our country is perfect. We have never said that conditions for migrant workers are perfect. After clarifying these concerns, Qatar acknowledged them and took them seriously. Qatar has implemented all the reforms in the last 12 years. It is portrayed as simply ignoring the fact that Qatar has a problem, which is not the case.
In fact, since the last eight years, we have brought in independent lawyers to study the labor situation and identify loopholes and loopholes in our laws and systems. And we took the report very seriously. At that time we had 120 recommendations. Many of these recommendations had to be addressed in the source countries of migrant workers. Part of it was covered by the Qatari government.
We have opened our doors to non-governmental organizations. There is no country in the region that has an open door policy like Qatar. Organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International can come here and publish their reports here. They can’t do that anywhere else.
We are an example in this region, leading change and leading innovation. Unfortunately, despite all this, some non-governmental organizations and media tried to attack Qatar without acknowledging or appreciating the whole process. It is an achievement that the state system will change after 10 years. Europe hasn’t changed in 10 years. The US hasn’t changed in 10 years. We accelerated these changes. And we are grateful to the World Cup for helping to catalyze such change.
but [critics] The government and the government’s responsibility have always been emphasized. They never target companies. If there was a situation in Europe where migrant workers were exploited, they would blame the company involved, not the government.
Families of migrant workers killed in Qatar are waiting for answers
Part of the challenge comes from a sense of confusion about statistics. The data on migrant worker deaths given to us by the Supreme Committee (the Qatari agency set up to host the World Cup) does not seem to reflect the full picture in Qatar.
If you look at our statistics, the death rate is published annually. It is based on nationality. We do not categorize by job. But that’s the category we’ve been using. This is a department that was established a few years ago. We can’t expect them to be professional and publish everything in detail. And it’s a journey that takes time.
With the Supreme Committee … they are publishing their information. Considering the number of workers who have died on the World Cup pitch, one death is too many. But all the time [of preparation for the World Cup]there were three [deaths]. This is something that has been said and repeated many times.
but [our critics] don’t want to hear the other side. This is our problem. … Only the attack on the state is persistent.
You talked about participating in the World Cup earlier. But many questions have been raised about whether LGBTQ people and their supporters can participate in Qatar.
We have said many times that “everyone is welcome”. All we ask is that our visitors come here to play football, focus on football, enjoy the culture and enjoy the hospitality and hospitality of our country. Just respect the laws, this is what Qataris expect when traveling to other countries. Respect our laws and traditions.
We have made it very clear: The backs of those who come are not our problem. Our business is to try to affect public safety or offend the public, no matter what. This is unacceptable. This applies to LGBT couples or men and women. It is not directed or directed in any particular direction. We were told that public displays of affection are not allowed in Qatar. And this applies to everyone.
The problem is not affection, it’s about public display of symbols. Why were rainbow flag holders detained at the stadium?
Whatever happens on the pitch, it’s FIFA’s rules, not Qatar’s. What happens off the field is our rule.
What should LGBTQ soccer fans expect from the World Cup in Qatar? Guide.
What will be the legacy of this World Cup for your country and region?
The World Cup is just the beginning. This is not the end of the story. First of all, we have all these people coming here and seeing the Middle East, which has led to something historically important. We are 100 percent sure that it will go a long way in changing the way many people around the world perceive the region. Second, Qatar planned all of this infrastructure as part of our 2030 national vision before bidding. The World Cup helped accelerate and implement this. It will continue to serve our vision of economic diversification and continued growth of our tourism industry.
Are you surprised by the pan-Arab solidarity in Qatar and across the region in support of Morocco, especially as it makes history?
It is our pride that this small country, Qatar, has managed to unite all Arabs. That’s the beauty and magic of the game, how it brings together people from different backgrounds, Arab and non-Arab, from everywhere. You would never see this happening in the West, but you see it happening here because we all share a common belief that we belong together. What you saw in Qatar, the intermingling of the people and the fans, is something that I don’t think we’ve ever seen before. Maybe we’ll never see it again.
In addition to the tournament, we saw major meetings between your emir and the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Is the World Cup a turning point for your country? long boycotts and blockades Has it happened at the hands of some of your neighbors?
Given the crisis we’ve been through, we believe that what unites us is more important than what divides us. We believe in unity [Gulf Cooperation Council, a bloc of six Arab monarchies in the region]. That doesn’t mean we agree on everything. We have differences. Let’s build on what we call a common goal. We can’t restore everything. We know it will take time. But we see leadership ready to bring the relationship back to where it should be.
While we may disagree on some policies, we also understand that we are connected, … better to rise above our differences and focus on the challenges ahead. We see the world polarizing. We are seeing the consequences of Russia’s war with Ukraine. We are seeing the impact of covid. We see all these global crises happening around us affecting us directly and indirectly. We will never be able to overcome such challenges unless we work together to build integrated systems and integrated resilience.
Part of the reason for the controversy is the perception that Qatar has acted independently in its foreign policy and has favored certain actors over the years, particularly Islamist political parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood. Is this a fair concept?
The first half of the understanding is true: We agree on some policies and disagree on others. We were saying, let’s work together on what we agree on, and let’s not agree on what we don’t agree on. And we respect that difference of opinion.
But in the second half of the question, there is a misconception that Qatar is co-opting regional actors to stand up for something. This was never the case for Qatar. We are not on the side of secular parties against political Muslims or liberal parties. This is not our job. We are the state. We are not a political party.
When the Arab Spring began, we probably took certain steps and policies [to back elements of pro-democracy uprisings in parts of the Arab world in 2011]. But these steps were not taken until we saw the people of these countries being bombed and massacred. At that time, we worked with other countries, not with the GCC.