The A-Z of World Politics #Q: Qatar

by Jackie_South on March 22, 2014

Flag of Qatar.svgWe have reached the letter Q in our A-Z of world politics. With not many places in the world beginning with Q, are back in the Gulf.

Last night’s Question Time saw Andy Burnham suggesting that the annexation of Crimea should lead to an English boycott of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. But surely there is just as much reason to boycott the following 2022 contest in Qatar as well?

After all, as awful as Russia’s record is on LGBT rights, same sex relations are at least legal there with an equal age of consent (so, better than the UK when I grew up). If we are grown up enough to have any openly gay England footballers in eight years time, their partners won’t be able to share a room with them. In Qatar, gay men face five years in prison and judicial flogging.

Whilst they have stated that alcohol will be legal in designated “fan zones” during the competition, Qatar has form for reversing such designations. Outside designated areas, the penalty for consuming alcohol is flogging. They clearly like their whips in Qatar.

It treats its inhabitants appallingly. Iran is enlightenedly liberal in comparison. Just criticising the government can earn you life imprisonment: poet Mohammed al-Ajami received such a sentence two years ago just for writing a satirical poem.

In theory, Qatar is a constitutional monarchy, but has never held any elections and political parties are banned. It has suggested that elections might take place at some point, but has repeatedly postponed them. Even when they do take place, they will not elect the full parliament. And the parliament won’t get any say on domestic issues. And then the Emir is free to ignore whatever they say.

All this covers the rights of their citizens, but as in Bahrain they are a minority. In fact, only 20% of the emirate’s 2m population are citizens with the remainder being migrant workers: there are far more people from the Indian sub-continent there than there are native Qataris. Like Bahrain, those migrant workers create a massive gender imbalance: men outnumber women three to one. And no gay sex, remember.

Ah, you say. But Russia deserves boycotting for what they do internationally, not what is going on within its borders.

Well, Qatar has hardly kept its nose clean in its international dealings either. In 2010, a leaked State Department cable described Qatar’s counter-terrorism efforts as being the “worst in the region”. It was Mohamed Morsi’s biggest backer as the former Egyptian president threatened to shred the country’s constitution to take unchecked power. It has backed the Muslim Brotherhood across the Middle East. It funds some of the extremer elements in the Syrian opposition, which means that it is indirectly funding the training of UK fundo terrorists who return back to Blighty.

The World Cup preparations themselves have caused outrage, as migrant workers brought in to build the stadiums are denied food and water and die through lax health and safety standards.

And of course, former FIFA Vice-President Jack Warner has alleged that Qatar only got the gig in the first place through bribing members. I’m advised by my learned colleague George East to point out at this stage, for legal reasons, that there is no irrefutable evidence to suggest that Qatar funded any FIFA members on Jordan Belfort style orgies of snorting cocaine off the backside of hookers. None at all.

And then there is the prospect of the World Cup competition itself. The twelve stadia originally promised appear to have been whittled down to eight. Summer temperatures regularly hit 50 degrees C: Ireland visibly melting in the 1994 Orlando sun would be as nothing in comparison. Originally there was talk about how all the stadia would be so fantastically designed with comfort cooling that everything would be fine. When it became clear that this was bollocks, playing in November and December was suggested. That would pretty much wreck the football season of every European nation taking part.

So, I think England should say now that we have no intention of going to this oil-rich, blisteringly-hot, despotic place in 2022. If the official World Cup is going to be held in the winter, why don’t we host a rival competition here that summer – perhaps for all the former World Cup winners?

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