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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Amnesty urges David Beckham to use Qatar 2022 role to advocate for human rights

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Sources confirmed to Doha News a deal has been made to make the football star an ambassador for the FIFA World Cup 2022. 

Amnesty International has called on former British football star David Beckham to use his role as the ambassador for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar to advocate for human rights off the pitch.

“We urge [David Beckham] to learn about the deeply concerning human rights situation in Qatar and be prepared to speak out about it,” said Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s CEO, on Sunday.

The statement came following reports initially published by British tabloids, including The Sun, which revealed that Beckham will be among a list of ambassadors for the major sporting event in an alleged £150 million figure deal.

However, a source who was involved with the deal and requested anonymity told Doha News that the price tag and alleged “ten-year duration” was merely an attempt by the papers to sensationalise the news.

“As usual, tabloids like The Sun have opted for sensationalism rather than facts in a cheap attempt at clickbait,” said the source, noting an alleged “ten-year deal” would be practically unfeasible considering the World Cup is scheduled for next year.

While the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy [SC] has yet to announce the deal, the news was met with backlash. While locals in the Gulf state took aim at the unreasonable price tag, the west criticised the superstar footballer for signing despite rights concerns in Qatar.

“FIFA has an important role to play in helping to drive change in Qatar – especially in raising labour abuses associated with World Cup preparations. David Beckham should use his unique worldwide profile to keep the world’s focus on the human rights issues surrounding the matches, and not just the play on the pitch,” said Deshmukh.

Confirmed: Beckham to be Qatar 2022 ambassador but sources rubbish reported price tag

Beckham is known to have close ties with Doha and PSG’s president, Qatari national, Nasser-Al Khelaifi. His appointment as an ambassador for Qatar 2022 would see him join a long list of international, regional and local football legends, including Tim Cahill, Cafu, Samuel Eto’o, Xavi Hernández and Mohammed Aboutrika, among others.

Since rumours of the deal first surfaced, Beckham has been hit with a barrage of criticism for a “strange and poor decision” to become the face of Qatar despite concerns over its human rights records.

However, a source told The Sun that he “believes in Qatar’s commitment to progress and that the World Cup – the first to be held in the Arab world – can affect significant positive change.

“He strongly believes in the power of football to bridge differences but, crucially, has seen the progress on issues that matter.”

A spokeswoman for the footballer also said: “David has always talked about the power of football as a force for good on many levels.”

“That’s what the World Cup is all about – giving countries the chance to host the biggest competition in the game. It changes economies, changes people’s lives, changes fan experiences and gives people an opportunity to experience football in places you wouldn’t expect to visit. It’s given Qatar an opportunity to do something that’s so special and, as you see, something unique is really being created here,” Beckham said during a visit to Doha in 2019.

‘Preventable deaths’

In August, Amnesty released a new 56-page report accusing Qatari authorities of failing to investigate the preventable deaths of “thousands of migrant workers” over the past decade, which it said were linked to unsafe and hot working conditions.

Titled “In the Prime of their Lives”, the report said Qatari authorities issued “death certificates for migrant workers without conducting adequate investigations” and attributing them to “natural causes” or “cardiac failures”.

Responding to Amnesty at the time, a spokesperson from the Qatari Government Communications Office [GCO] rejected the report, saying that the injury and mortality statistics published by the Gulf state “are in line with international best practice”.

The GCO said Amnesty had insisted that Qatar should go beyond the international standards in an unjustified manner, describing the report as “flawed”.

“Such accusations are inflammatory and designed to cause sensation in the media. They do nothing to bring about positive changes on the ground,” the GCO added.

Several football federations from countries in the west have also been calling on the international community to boycott the FIFA World Cup 2022 next year, citing concerns over the treatment of migrant workers in the Gulf state.

British media has been particularly active in targeting Qatar, releasing reports that have claimed an alarming number of deaths among migrant workers, insisting that they are linked to the construction of stadiums.

A report published by The Guardian in February headlined, “Revealed: 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar as it gears up for World Cup” linked the “shocking” death rate to the start of the World Cup 2022 journey a decade ago.

However, the report failed to clarify the reasons behind the deaths and was also dismissed by Qatar as “baseless”.

‘Qatar is listening’

The Gulf state has been under global criticism since becoming the first country in the Middle East to win the bid to host the World Cup.

Since then, Doha has introduced major reform over the past years, including the region’s first ever non-discriminatory minimum wage and the dismantling of the controversial “kafala” or sponsorship system.

Qatar also drastically enhanced monitoring across the board to detect violations, enacting swifter penalties and further strengthening the capacity of labour inspectors.

So far, dozens of companies have faced action from authorities for violating the new laws.

In May, Qatar’s Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs [MADLSA] launched its new platform for workers’ complaints, enabling employees to submit public violations of the labour law.

Last month, an official from the European Parliament’s intergroup on sports praised Qatar’s “positive reform” following a visit to the Gulf state, as an independent report that surveyed migrant workers in Qatar noted major improvements to address concerns.

“The process of reform which we have witnessed is positive, not only for Qatar but for the entire region to follow,” Vice Chair of the Delegation for the Relations with the Arab Peninsula and Chair of the Sport Intergroup Marc Tarabella told reporters in late September.

“Qatar is strongly listening” to the suggestions concerning workers’ rights, he added.

Meanwhile, the independent sports think tank Fifa Ethics and Regulation Watch [FERW] found “significant” improvement in workers’ conditions in Qatar since winning the bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The survey conducted by FERW pointed towards Qatari authorities as the main force behind changes made to address workers’ rights in terms of pay and their general treatment, with no evidence of FIFA being responsible for the reforms.

Despite the reforms, Deshmukh said more needs to be done for the World Cup to “leave a positive legacy” and improving the human rights situation in Doha.

This echoed previous statements made by various officials, including senior International Labour Organization [ILO] official Houtan Homayounpour, who also said “Qatari authorities took the World Cup as an opportunity.

“The achievements are the result and proof of a successful outcome,” he said.

Qatar is the only country in the region to host the ILO office, a move that is seen as proof of Doha’s commitment to addressing concerns raised over rights abuses.

“Despite some welcome reforms, migrant workers are still being left unpaid, and the authorities have failed to investigate thousands of deaths in the past decade despite evidence of links between premature deaths and unsafe, searingly-hot working conditions,” said Deshmukh.


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