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The shadow of abuse: 39 deaths per goal are the harsh reality of the World Cup

In two months the World Cup will start in Qatar and exploitation, fears of the LGBTIQ+ community and the lack of compensation for migrant workers still prevail. Amazing scenes occur at a DFB congress on human rights – but is the association ready for a real sign?

“I am a man and I love other men.” With these words, Dario Minden, CEO of “Our curve“, as a representative of many nationally organized football fans at the DFB Congress on Human Rights on Monday directly to Abdulla Mohammed al Thani, Qatar’s ambassador to Germany. “I have – please don’t be shocked – sex with other men,” he continues. ” That is normal. Please get used to it, or stay away from football. Because the most important rule in football is: football is for everyone.”

The World Cup will take place in Qatar in two months: the human rights situation in the emirate on the Gulf is still poor and the shadow of abuse weighs heavily on the tournament. While Minden focuses on dangers to the local LGBTIQ+ community, human rights organizations are reiterating calls for significant reparations for workers who died, were injured, exploited or lost their wages in the construction of World Cup infrastructure. The DFB also wants to act – but will it stay with statements or is the association sending a real signal?

As recently as Tuesday, Human Rights Watch warned gay soccer fans not to travel to Qatar. It’s best to leave it alone, said Germany director Wenzel Michalski of the “Schw√§bische Zeitung”. The message from Qatar to guests and tourists to stick to the country’s traditions can be understood as a “charmingly presented warning”, said Michalski, which resonates: “If you live it out like in Berlin-Schoeneberg, then we will think of something.”

“Same-sex love is punishable by death”

Article 285 of Qatar’s penal code states: “Anyone who sleeps with a man over the age of 16 without coercion, coercion or subterfuge shall be punished with imprisonment for up to seven years.” Islamic law even allows flogging and the death penalty.

“I don’t know anyone who is openly part of the LGBTQ community who will be there,” Minden, who categorically rejects a trip to Qatar, told ntv.de. “For those who are still considering, the fact that there is no reliable statement from Qatar that anti-queer laws will be suspended – not even for the weeks of the tournament – certainly speaks against it.” When he is invited to a house party, Minden draws a comparison, and in the living room there is an “anti-gay poster, but everyone says that we’re just celebrating today and aren’t acting anti-gay at all, so I still say goodbye.”

Local homosexuals are even worse off. In Qatar, the LGBTIQ+ community is afraid of violence, surveillance (not just every stadium has cameras) and prosecution after the World Cup is over. At the DFB Congress, the ambassador addressed the fan representative’s speech again in a subsequent discussion that took place behind closed doors. “But in terms of content, I only noticed classic talking points: You should come to the World Cup and make up your own mind, nobody would be discriminated against,” says Minden. It’s not just about the four weeks of the World Cup: “It’s about the fact that you can’t raise a World Cup party like this, means inviting everyone – but same-sex love is punishable by death. Even if the Qataris correctly point out, this “I don’t use it. But that’s not enough. There are enough independent reports showing how crappy the situation is for deviating from the straight norm in Qatar. It’s a huge mess.”

dead, “so that we can cheer together”

Qatar’s ambassador al Thani admitted on Monday that the situation was “not perfect yet”, called for fair treatment of his country as the World Cup host and drew a comparison with Russia as the 2018 tournament organizer. “Classic ‘Whataboutism’,” says Minden. However, “Eurocentrism, pointing fingers and the sometimes disparaging views of the West on the Arabian Peninsula” would not help either. The West is partly to blame for the situation in Qatar because it does not do enough to counter the “global machinery of exploitation” and only then would many of the guest workers from their home countries “enter the insecure and potentially cruel kafala system in Qatar”.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and FairSquare continue to push for workers, or at least their families in Bangladesh, Nepal or the Philippines if they die, to be compensated by FIFA and Qatar for the exploitation. But nothing has happened so far. It can’t be because of the money that both are quarreling. The human rights organizations are now calling on the partners and sponsors of the World Cup to increase the pressure on the world association and the emirate. They reported having written to 14 World Cup sponsors and partners asking them to take action, but only received four pledges of support for such financial compensation.

The Shadow of Abuse. At least 6,500 migrant workers lost their lives building $220 billion worth of World Cup infrastructure (including stadiums, an airport, roads, public transportation and about 100 hotels). Craig Foster, former captain of the Australian national football team, calculates in the “Sydney Morning Herald” based on the 169 goals scored at the World Cup in Russia, that “about 39 lives were lost” for every goal scored. Just “so that we can shout, cheer and celebrate together.” Amnesty International reports 15,000 dead workers since the tournament was awarded to the desert state Reforms in the country are not enough for human rights organizations and come after thousands died.

“Sometimes you have to forego profits”

Do the German national team and the DFB officials think of the families of the deceased when they arrive, when they celebrate a goal, when they might end up lifting the World Cup trophy into the evening sky? Do kickers have a duty to speak out – for families who have suffered so the pros can play football?

For a long time, the association had been reticent about human rights and avoided clear statements, although the DFB was of course also involved in the process of awarding the tournament to Qatar. In the past year, there has finally been a change of heart. DFB President Bernd Neuendorf said at the congress on Monday that “working centers” would have to be set up to which workers could turn in the event of violations by employers. Neuendorf also called for the establishment of a fund for workers who died or were injured in the construction of World Cup stadiums. FIFA is responsible for this.

important words. But will it stay with such statements, with such demands? Because if Minden has his way from “Our Curve”, the DFB should become active itself. “Sometimes it’s difficult with the statements because you have to support them with attitude and actions when the going gets tough,” he says. “You sometimes have to forego profits in order to remain steadfast.” Minden can understand the footballers who want to concentrate on the tournament. But: “They make money from the World Cup, which was created through blatant exploitation. With every euro that comes to you through the tournament, you should think: Is it right to accept this euro under these circumstances – or should it be better benefit the disenfranchised?”

Is there a strong DFB sign?

Even if the World Cup in Qatar starts in two months, even if the shadow of abuse weighs more and more heavily on the tournament, even if it’s quite late: the national team still has the chance to send a strong signal. It’s too late for a boycott, as Joshua Kimmich said on Tuesday. But what a far-reaching symbol, what relief for suffering workers and their families it would be if the Bayern professional and his colleagues from the DFB-Elf announced their World Cup bonuses in a fund set up especially for the suffering to stick.

If that happens in the next two months, the team could concentrate fully on football after this sign at the World Cup. So far, however, the World Cup in Qatar remains “a prime example of ‘sportswashing’,” explains Dario Minden to ntv.de, and football must ask itself “which carts it can be harnessed to and whether the desired image polishing is mandatory got to”.

Dead guest workers, human rights abuses, persecution of the LGBTIQ+ community: At the DFB congress, Minden told the association and the Qatari ambassador that he was ashamed of being a person who loved football. He was ashamed “of the venality of our beloved sport at the top. Whether of the bloody exploitation that is being carried out just to let a football tournament take place.” From Saturday, by the way, Chancellor Olaf Scholz will be on site in Saudi Arabia and Qatar to bag a few energy deals. Let’s see if he also finds such clear words on the human rights situation.

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