Faced with criticism from Western Europe in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup which begins on Sunday, Qatar has raised its voice on the media and diplomatic scene, going so far as to open the door to legal proceedings.
Accused by NGOs of human rights violations, the small Gulf emirate has long been content to repeat that “everyone will be welcome” and to reproach its critics for not going there to find out for sure. .
At the beginning of October, the Qatari press, closely linked to power, began to evoke a “systematic conspiracy” by the European media. But it was a speech by the Emir, delivered less than a month before the opening of the tournament, which marked a turning point, soon followed by the summons of the German ambassador to Doha.
“Initially, we approached this topic in good faith and even considered some of the reviews to be positive and helpful,” said Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on October 25 before the Parliament of Qatar.
“But it soon became clear to us that the campaign persists, expands, there is slander and double standards, reaching a level of relentlessness that has caused many to question, sadly, the real reasons and motivations for this campaign”, protested the emir.
A “discrimination” pointed out
For the Minister of Labour, interviewed by AFP at the beginning of November, these motivations are partly “racists“. “They do not want to allow a small country, an Arab country, a Muslim country, to organize the World Cup,” said Ali ben Samikh Al-Marri.
This is also what the Emir had hinted at the Davos Economic Forum in May, deploring that his country is the victim of “discrimination“because some, he added, “cannot accept that an Arab and Muslim country” organizes a World Cup.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, on tour in Europe, took over in interviews granted to the British television channel Sky News and to the French daily newspapers Le Monde and German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
“There is a lot of hypocrisy in these attacks (…) peddled by a very small number of people, in ten countries at most”, assured Mohammed ben Abderrahmane Al-Thani. “Football belongs to everyone. It is not a club reserved for the elites.”
Again on Sunday, during the naming ceremony of one of the boat-hotels of the World Cup, the powerful leader of Qatar Airways Akbar Al-Baker denounced “all the negative publicity orchestrated in the press” against his country, which received the support of the Arab League in the face of “smear campaigns”.
Judicial response to come?
On the diplomatic scene, Qatar came to the point of reprisals: on October 28, the German ambassador in Doha was summoned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to respond to remarks made by its Minister of the Interior and Sport.
Three days later, she delivered a peaceful speech during a visit to the emirate. Gone is the “it is better that competitions (of this magnitude) are not awarded to such states”. Claiming to have obtained “guarantees on the safety” of the spectators, Nancy Faeser announced her intention to return for Germany’s first match, in order to “support Qatar in its crucial reforms for the future”.
Regularly questioned by the European media, whose criticisms range from the treatment of migrant workers to the supposed ban on holding hands in public, Qatar is also considering a judicial response.
Suspected of spying as part of the organization of the World Cup in an investigation published by the British daily The Sunday Times, the emirate said it was studying “all legal options” against the authors of “baseless allegations”.
Qatari media support
Local media continue to support the response. The press agency QNA cites the articles and interviews favorable to the Qatari World Cup broadcast in Europe.
TV channel AlJazeera devoted a 50-minute report in Arabic to the origins of the criticism against the emirate, “starting with Great Britain, then France and Denmark”.
The Arabic newspaper Al Sharq retorts, he, that such an anti-Qatar campaign “confirms the arrogance of certain Western countries who think that organizing the World Cup must remain their monopoly”.