The Netherlands may have qualified for the 2022 football World Cup, but many Dutch citizens, football fans, and journalists won’t cheer the human rights abuse of the host country, Qatar.
Dutch and Belgian sportswriters have released a new book, titled Nooit Meer Qatar (No More Qatar), with a launch event held in Amsterdam’s Olympic Stadium.
The book covers the controversy around FIFA’s decision to award Qatar the World Cup hosting rights, Qatar’s poor human rights record, and the long history of human rights abuses around World Cup tournaments.
Specifically, Nooit Meer Qatar shares the mounting evidence that thousands of migrant workers died building World Cup infrastructure. It details the Qatari government’s horrible history of labor rights abuse, discrimination against LGBT people, lack of press freedom, and violations of women’s rights. This shatters the narrative that the authorities have tried to build using public relations machinery.
Human Rights Watch contributed a chapter to the book, highlighting human rights abuses committed by Qatar since 2010, when it was awarded the World Cup hosting rights. We also warn that other countries may try and cover up dismal human rights records by hosting glitzy sporting events, a move known as "sportswashing."
Sports organizations like FIFA, football’s global governing body, should put human rights first. FIFA specifically should set aside at least US$440 million, equivalent to the World Cup prize money, to compensate families of migrant workers who died to deliver FIFA’s World Cup. And World Cup fans and players can help keep pressure on them to do so.
While many journalists deserve credit for blowing the whistle on abuses and sportswashing attempts, some media organizations deserve a red card for helping Qatar cover up its terrible record on human rights and press freedom. On June 12, the Swiss-based International Sports Press Association will hold an awards ceremony in Doha, Qatar.
“A painful and wrong prize fest in Qatar,” was the comment from NSP, the Netherlands Sports Journalists association. “In recent years, almost all [Western] media have reported frequently about abuses in Qatar.”
As the World Cup approaches, it is vital journalists maintain the focus on display in Nooit Meer Qatar and hold FIFA and Qatari authorities to account for the human rights costs of the tournament.