November 18, 2022 | Flash Brief

The World Cup Spotlights Qatar’s Abuses

November 18, 2022 | Flash Brief

The World Cup Spotlights Qatar’s Abuses

Latest Developments

With the World Cup kicking off this Sunday, Qatar hopes to improve its image by hosting the planet’s largest sporting event. However, the added attention generated by the tournament is raising concerns over Doha’s corruption, abuse of foreign workers, and poor treatment of the LGBT community.

Expert Analysis

“Using the glitz and glamor of sporting events to distract from human rights abuses is a standard move from the autocrat’s playbook. Hosting the World Cup is Doha’s largest soft power maneuver, which aims to present a positive image of the country on an international stage. None of this will erase Qatar’s corrupt practices, abuse of foreign workers, and persecution of the LGBT community.” – David May, FDD Research Manager

Bribery and Corruption

In 2010, soccer’s governing body, FIFA, selected Qatar to host this year’s games. Qatar allegedly bribed at least three African members of the FIFA Congress to win the hosting rights. Leaked documents show that three weeks before FIFA selected the Gulf country, Doha offered the soccer body $400 million. Qatar reportedly offered FIFA another $480 million three years later. U.S. court documents support allegations of Qatari bribery.


In recent years, several other autocratic countries have used international sporting events to rehabilitate their public image. Like Doha, Moscow employed bribery to secure the World Cup it hosted in 2018. Russia also hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics. Earlier this year, China hosted the Winter Olympics, which activists have pejoratively termed the “#GenocideGames” because of Beijing’s imprisonment of over 1 million ethnic minority Uyghurs.

Qatar’s Abuse of Foreign Workers

Foreigners, including 1 million construction workers, comprise approximately 91 percent of Qatar’s workforce. The Guardian found that over 6,500 migrant workers from five countries have died in the Gulf country since FIFA announced Qatar as the host of the 2022 games.

Beyond poor working conditions, laborers face an exploitative sponsorship system that gives employers far-reaching control over their employees. After paying a large sum to work in Qatar, impoverished workers are subject to deportation if they do not meet their employers’ demands. Though Qatar has made legal reforms in recent years, little has changed on the ground.

Qatar’s Repression of the LGBT Community

Individuals engaging in homosexual activity in Qatar could face a seven-year prison sentence. While Qatar assured FIFA it would allow fans to display rainbow flags in solidarity with the LGBT community, a senior Qatari official overseeing the tournament’s security recently claimed that if his personnel seize rainbow flags, it is for the fans’ own protection. Meanwhile, several World Cup captains intend to wear rainbow armbands to draw attention to Qatar’s anti-gay repression.

Related Analysis

The World Cup Won’t Clean Up Qatar’s Image,” by David May

World Cup 2022: What’s In It For Qatar?” by Hussain Abdul-Hussain


Gulf States