Qatar’s ruling emir on Tuesday lashed out at criticism of the country over its hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, complaining of an “unprecedented campaign” targeting the first Arab nation to hold the tournament.
Since winning hosting rights for the World Cup over a decade ago, Qatar has faced scrutiny and criticism for its treatment of migrant workers, among other issues.
The alleged abuses affecting a large number of laborers who power Qatar’s economy and built its gleaming World Cup stadiums have become a lightning rod for protest around the world, especially in Europe.
Qatar has repeatedly pushed back on the complaints, insisting that it has improved protections for migrant workers and that the criticism is outdated.
In a televised speech before Qatar’s legislative body on Tuesday, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said Qatar “has been subjected to an unprecedented campaign that no host country has ever faced.”
“The campaign tends to continue and expand to include fabrications and double standards that were so ferocious that it has unfortunately prompted many people to question the real reasons and motives behind this campaign,” he said.
Rights groups have credited Qatar with improving its labor laws, such as by adopting a minimum monthly wage of around $275 a month in 2020, and for dismantling the “kafala” system that had prevented workers from changing jobs or leaving the country without the consent of their employers.
However, activists call for more to be done.
In recent months pressure has also mounted on Qatar over its laws surrounding non-traditional relationships.
In his speech, Sheikh Tamim promised the glaring spotlight of the world’s biggest sporting event would benefit Qatar, too.
“This is a great test for a country the size of Qatar that impresses the whole world with what it has already achieved and is achieving,” he said.
The tournament starts on November 20 and the final is set for December 18.