Qatar’s emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani says his country has faced an “unprecedented campaign” of criticism in the lead-up to this year’s football World Cup.
World football’s governing body FIFA in 2010 awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, and the host has since spent hundreds of billions of dollars in preparation for the tournament that is due to kick off on November 20.
Throughout, the energy-rich Gulf state has faced constant scrutiny over its treatment of foreign workers, as well as LGBTQ and women’s rights.
“Since we won the honour of hosting the World Cup, Qatar has been subjected to an unprecedented campaign that no host country has ever faced,” Sheikh Tamim said in a speech on Tuesday.
“We initially dealt with the matter in good faith, and even considered that some criticism was positive and useful, helping us to develop aspects of ours that need to be developed,” the emir told Qatar’s legislative council.
“But it soon became clear to us that the campaign continues, expands and includes fabrication and double standards, until it reached a level of ferocity that made many question, unfortunately, about the real reasons and motives behind this campaign.”
FIFA President Gianni Infantino has said the upcoming World Cup, the first to be held in the Middle East, will be the “best ever”.
In August 2020, Qatar announced landmark changes to its labour laws, including scrapping the need for workers to obtain their employer’s permission – in the form of a no-objection certificate – before changing jobs.
Other labour work reforms include the abolishment of the kafala system, the introduction of a minimum wage, and cancelling the requirement for workers to get exit permits from their employers to leave the country.
Earlier this year, Hassan al-Thawadi, head of Qatar’s World Cup organising committee, said the labour reforms achieved by Qatar have been “historical” and the event would leave “truly transformational social, human, economic and environmental legacies”.
In recent years, human rights groups have reported extensively on the abuse suffered by migrant workers building World Cup stadiums.
In May, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, along with eight other organisations, sent a letter to Infantino calling for FIFA and Qatar to compensate families of workers who died in the build-up to the World Cup.