Qatar taken on World cup criticism with ‘tremendous success’: UK official

The Gulf state has continued to face global criticism, mainly from the West, for issues concerning conditions for migrant workers.

Qatar has had “tremendous success” in responding to campaigns launched against it as a result of hosting the FIFA World Cup amid increasing criticism, UK officials told local press on Sunday. 

In an interview with Qatar News Agency (QNA), Alon Kearns, President of the Qatar-UK Friendship Association, stated that although any country hosting a global event such as the World Cup will undoubtedly face questions and scrutiny, Qatar has responded to concerns  respectively and introduced needed changes.

Headlines, primarily from Western media, as well as reports from rights groups, have raised concerns about Qatar’s record of human rights violations, particularly with regard to migrant workers.

The Gulf state says it has responded to the concerns by introducing reforms to its legislation, all of which have received global praise by rights groups including the UN’s International Labour Organization, which has set up an office to oversee such changes in Qatar.

Despite this, some of headlines that have been repeatedly slammed by officials as “sensationalist” and “misleading” have continued to emerge across western press.

This was heightened when The Guardian published a controversial piece last year headlined, “Revealed: 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar as it gears up for World Cup”.

The article had linked the “shocking” death rate to the start of Qatar’s World Cup journey.

Kearns stressed that Qatar has responded to this criticism by enforcing safety and security measures for immigrant workers, including the freedom of movement from a company or any other working entity without restrictions, stressing that the critics must also recognise these improvements and Qatar’s response.

He added that everyone should seriously take into consideration the speech of Qatar Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, in which he talked about the unprecedented campaigns targeting country.

“It soon became clear to us that the campaign has continued and expanded, and includes slander and double standards until it has reached such a ferocity that many, unfortunately, wonder about the real reasons and motives behind it,” said Sheikh Tamim at the 51st opening session of the Shura Council last month.

Just last week, French outlet Le Canard Enchaîné was under fire for publishing a caricature depicting Arabs in ‘Qatar’ football kits as terrorists. The image employs the exhausted use of ‘savages’ – ‘long bearded’ angry men with dark hair, angry expressions in possession of guns and knives.

Officials in Qatar have previously described the criticism as a targeted campaign rooted in racism against the first World Cup in the Arab world.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in May this year, Qatar’s amir said discrimination targeting his country is due to people outside of the region refusing to learn about the Middle East.

“Even today, there are still people who cannot accept the idea that an Arab Muslim country would host a tournament, like the World Cup,” he said.

Sheikh Tamim stressed that Qatar is constantly working on improving and developing, noting a wave of progress, including major labour reforms, made in the Gulf state over the years.

“We are so proud of the development, reform, and progress we have made, and we are grateful for the spotlight that the World Cup provided, which inspired us to make these changes at lightning-speed,” said Sheikh Tamim.

Regarding the UK government’s advice to English football fans traveling to Qatar to attend matches to respect local traditions and customs, Kearns said that anyone who travels to a new country is encouraged to rest customs and traditions.

“The tournament is a joyous occasion, therefore, English and Welsh fans should support their national teams enthusiastically, but at the same time they should respect the traditions and customs of Qatar, just like Qatar’s understanding of the traditions of the fans who travel to this country,” he added.

British fans are among the top purchasers of Qatar’s World Cup tickets as thousands of football fanatics begin to flock to the Middle East.

England’s World Cup opening game will take place against Iran on Monday, November 21.

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