The 2022 FIFA World Cup recently kicked off in Qatar, a country ruled by a monarchic authoritarian government. FIFA and Qatar’s government have promoted the event as a celebration, uniting humanity around tolerance, equality, and respect. In reality, this glosses over FIFA’s corruption scandals — allegations that Qatari officials bribed FIFA officials to secure hosting rights — and Doha’s poor human rights record.
Qatar’s government systematically violates fundamental civil and political rights. It imposes significant restrictions on the right to freedom of expression, which routinely leads to wrongful imprisonment, arbitrary travel bans and summary deportation of critics. It also restricts the basic rights of women, who are subject to a sponsorship system requiring their husband or father’s approval to exercise basic rights, and fails to recognize the existence of, and protect the rights of, LGBTQI+ persons.
Qatar’s government has invested hundreds of billions to host the World Cup as part of a decade-long strategy of sportswashing — also common under other wealthy authoritarian Gulf States, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. This strategy exploits the appeal of sports to distract from human rights abuses, promote a favorable image, and increase global influence.
HRF’s latest report, “Qatar’s Human Rights Record in the World’s Spotlight,” highlights the country’s worst human rights abuses, including those against political prisoners, and provides policy recommendations for reform within Qatar and action points for the global community.