Qatar’s amir questions motives behind ‘unprecedented’ World Cup criticism

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

Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has slammed an anti-Qatar campaign that has been levelled at the Gulf state since it won the bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, saying “no other host nation” has faced this level of criticism.

“Since we won the honour of hosting the World Cup, Qatar has faced an unprecedented campaign that no other host nation has received. And we had handled it at first in good faith while considering some of the criticism positive and beneficial,” Sheikh Tamim told the Shura Council on Tuesday.

The Qatari leader made the remarks at the 51st opening session of the Shura Council, the second such occasion since the country held its first ever legislative elections.

The amir touched on various domestic issues along with Qatar’s foreign policy, mainly its role as a strategic partner amid the global energy crisis.

With the World Cup less than a month away, the amir noted that the major event is where Qatar “proves itself” on various fronts, both economically and culturally. The Gulf state is the first Arab nation to host the much-anticipated tournament.

Qatar has received a barrage of criticism for its track record in its treatment of migrant workers, with scrutiny exacerbating in recent weeks as the World Cup looms around the corner.

Western media outlets have also continued to release headlines that have been slammed by experts and officials in Qatar as misleading and “sensationalist”.

Despite this, Doha has introduced major reform to improve the conditions for workers in the country, with officials assuring such progress will continue long after the tournament ends.

The amir added that while the criticism has helped Qatar “develop aspects that needed development”, it has continued to rear its ugly head.

“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.

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.

In October, the CEO of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Nasser Al Khater also addressed a range of issues in an interview with Sky News, expressing multiple times that he believes Qatar is being unfairly targeted.

“We’ve taken the challenge upon ourselves and we’ve risen to that challenge,” he said.

When asked by Sky News if he felt the criticism facing the country was racist, he responded saying “I’m not going to get into what the intentions of other people are, I’m not going to get into the minds and souls of other people.”

“But you know, who knows, possibly.”

At the Shura Council this week, the Qatari leader explained that the World Cup encompasses aspects such as positive change, accepting challenges, and involving it in developing its infrastructure. 

“This is a big test for a country the size of Qatar, that has surprised the entire world with what it has achieved and continues to achieve. We accepted this challenge with faith in our capabilities as Qataris,” said the amir.

The World Cup is scheduled to kick off on 20 November and is set to attract at least 1.5 million visitors to the Gulf state.

The amir said the Gulf nation is welcoming “with open arms” all visitors.

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