World Cup in Qatar: Amnesty tells England players how they can address human rights issues

World Cup in Qatar: Amnesty tells England players how they can address human rights issues


The tournament, marked by human rights concerns, will begin in 200 days and teams are planning how to protest and raise awareness while questions remain about the safety of the LGBTQ + community.

Harry Kane plans to bring the captains together to discuss what can be done to protest against human rights abuses in Qatar. (Photo by Nicolò Campo / LightRocket via Getty Images)

There are only 200 days left for England to start their 2022 World Cup campaign against Iran at Khalifa International Stadium.

And among the standard speeches to end the long wait, there will be an intense focus on what Gareth Southgate’s team does to raise awareness of the myriad human rights issues that have marred the tournament since it was awarded the Qatar in 2010.

England and many other teams should do something to raise awareness of the brutal conditions migrant workers have faced and intolerance towards the LGBTQ + community, but there are questions about what, where and how.

Captain Harry Kane has already promised to organize discussions with the leaders of other teams – France’s Hugo Lloris and Korea’s Son Heung-min are club mates at Tottenham Hotspur – but in March he admitted that he wasn’t sure what exact gestures. solidarity can be accomplished. “It’s something I’m going to try to do,” Kane said. “I think it will send a bigger and more powerful message. It’s important to talk about these things and not just hide from them. ”

But isn’t it unfair to claim that players are the social and moral conscience of the game when the responsibility falls on the shoulders of FIFA and, to a lesser extent, the football associations that can influence the governing body?

Amnesty International’s approach over the past decade has been to put pressure on the governing bodies, those at the executive level that can bring about change. This will remain true until kick-off on November 21, although there are few tools more powerful than those on the pitch.

“Speaking players, using their platform is an incredible vehicle of influence, but the responsibility falls a lot on FA and FIFA,” Amnesty’s Ella Knight tells Mirror Football.

“We have no expectations of players, but seeing teams and players using their platform is very powerful. When we saw Germany and Norway last year making public statements of support for migrant workers’ rights on the ground, it was incredibly powerful and sent a strong message that it’s not just human rights organizations that worry about these issues. . They are the players, they are the fans. “

The focus will be on how the English players deal with the glaring human rights issues


Getty Images)

So what can players who need to walk a fine line, undoubtedly wary of going further into an area where no one expects them to be experts, do? Some actors spoke directly with workers and human rights organizations to find out about the realities. In the case of England it is difficult to think of a previous group more aware of social issues, exemplified by how they paved the way for kneeling.

Germany and Norway have shown that T-shirts offer amazing photo opportunities, but words and constant reminders during daily media activities will carry even more weight during the tournament.

Amnesty suggests that players ask FIFA and their football associations questions about the treatment of staff at their bases, how workers involved in building the sites were treated, and what is happening with regards to compensation for those who have suffered horrific conditions. during the construction of infrastructure.

“Talking, talking about what they hear is incredibly important,” says Knight. “Asking really tough questions of the FA, FIFA, publicly or privately. They are the bodies with responsibility, so ask them what they are doing to use their influence to bring about change.

“Asking those questions in public would be powerful, but asking them privately is also important.”

Supporters are unlikely to be encouraged to the same extent because the risk of danger is too high. FIFA has previously indicated that rainbow flags may be waved during the tournament, only for a senior security official who said they would be confiscated to “protect” fans in case they were attacked for “insulting society as a whole.” “.

“We are unable to tell individual fans whether they should protest or speak out when they are in the country,” Knight says of Amnesty’s point of view. “It is difficult to know what the situation will be like for the month of the tournament. Qatar has very strict restrictions on freedom of expression, it has cybercrime laws that can be used to crack down on what some might think is a harmless criticism of the labor rights situation or LGBTQ + people. “

Doubts remain about the sale of alcohol and whether there is enough accommodation in the smaller country to host a World Cup. Many fans plan to stay in Dubai and fly only for matches.

This makes sense when reporters who attended last month’s Doha draw were impressed by the amount of work left. There were cranes in every direction, basic infrastructure such as poor sidewalks and unfinished hotels. Migrant workers, most from South Asia, remain under pressure to get it all done and while much attention has been paid to the approximately 6,500 deaths since 2010, the maintenance of the tournament will be done almost entirely by those of the same origins. .

A migrant worker carries a pole to a construction site in the Qatari capital Doha (AFP via Getty Images)

In December, the FA released a statement saying it believed “there is evidence of substantial progress made by Qatar in relation to workers’ rights”, but “acknowledges that there is still a lot to do”. Mark Bullingham, the chief executive, is involved in high-level discussions with UEFA and FIFA, but their level of interest has not been constant, increasing once they reach qualification in November.

“The FA in recent months has begun to take its responsibilities a little more seriously,” says Knight. “There was a real gap where we didn’t hear much from them and we were asking them to speak up and use their influence. It appears that they are now looking into the services that will be used by the team and officials during the tournament, asking questions of the service providers present and how they treat their workers. We really want to see people dig deeper into problems.

“There are many statements saying that there has been great progress, but still concerns. When organizations such as the FA review service providers, what kinds of responses do they get about labor rights? What do they feel when they speak directly with migrant workers? Use the platform, use the influence to push FIFA to take it more seriously. There is such a short window of opportunity now. “

There are also fears about what happens when the jamboree packs their bags and returns home. Will the Western World Forget? Will working conditions further deteriorate when the world’s eyes are no longer on an emirate that received far less attention before the tournament was awarded in December 2010?

“FIFA talks a lot about the legacy and positive legacy this World Cup will leave, but for that to be meaningful, the reforms that have been introduced in recent years need to be properly implemented before the tournament takes place,” says Knight.

“Otherwise there is the risk that they will become words on paper and that legacy, the impact it could have on many workers is not realized. There are questions for all concerned about how to ensure that the abuse that has occurred is remedied, that workers are not left waiting for justice and accountability yet. These are the things we would like to see. FIFA shouldn’t move forward as soon as this World Cup is over. He has a responsibility to the people who have made and will make the tournament possible. “

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