David Beckham has sparked backlash after appearing in a video promoting tourism in Qatar.
The former footballer described his time in the country as “perfection” after he signed a deal last year to become the “face of Qatar” ahead of the 2022 World Cup, reportedly worth £150 million.
Beckham has been widely criticised for advertising a country with a human rights record that includes discrimination against women and criminalisation of the LGBTQ+ community.
What did David Beckham say about Qatar in tourism video?
In a 30 minute video for Visit Qatar, Beckham can be seen exploring the country, including enjoying himself on a sailing boat and visiting a spice market.
He can be seen nodding along as a falcon trainer says to him: “Kindness is a part of the culture, and it’s important to keep the kindness alive.”
In the clip, Bechkham says: “Qatar really is an incredible place to spend a few days on a stopover.
“The modern and traditional fuse create something really special. It’s one of the best spice markets that I have ever been to.
“This will go down as one of my favourite mornings. This is perfection. I cannot wait to bring my children back here.”
Why has it received backlash?
Beckham has received backlash online for the video for promoting a country with a human rights record that includes things like laws criminalising LGBTQ+ relationships, discrimination against women and its treatment of migrant workers.
Felix Jakens, Amnesty International UK’s head of priority campaigns, said of Beckham’s video: “This is just the latest slick and positive video about Qatar that David Beckham has put his face to, and yet again there’s no mention of the country’s appalling human rights record.
“Beckham’s global fame and status are PR gold for Qatar’s image, but he should be using that same unique profile to call on Fifa and the Qatari authorities to properly remedy the terrible abuses that tens of thousands of migrant workers have faced in building the infrastructure to deliver the world cup.
“Beckham has said he hoped football would prove a force for good for Qatar. At the moment it seems his involvement is good news for Qatar’s tourist industry, not for human rights.”
One person tweeted: “Yes #DavidBeckham, who cares about human rights abuses, lack of rights for women & LGBTQI or those who died in prep for the World Cup when Qatar is willing to pay you to turn a blind eye & sell a fake version of the nation. Money talks more than humanity to you clearly.”
“Becks describes Qatar as ‘perfection’, a country where being gay is illegal, women need permission from men to marry, study, travel, and can’t be primary guardian of their OWN kids. Not forgetting the 6.5k people who’ve died building the stadiums. Yeah, sounds absolutely divine x,” tweeted another.
Another person wrote: “Does #DavidBeckham actually understand the country he is endorsing? And what are its laws are? It’s bad enough that the #WorldCup (which I will not watch) is being held there. It proves to me that all his decisions in life have come down to how much money will I get?!? No morals.”
“£150m for a half hour video promoting a country with such awful human rights… talk about tone deaf. He doesn’t have one person who said it wasn’t a good idea? Or were they too focused on their payday?” tweeted another.
Journalist Dan Wootton also wrote a piece for the Daily Mail about Beckhams, calling out the footballer for the video, despite, on social media, describing himself as “a feminist, a gay rights champion and a humanitarian who cares about those mistreated in the third world”.
Wootton wrote: “Beckham has made his choice and I accept that, but we can now ignore his virtue signalling forever more, knowing that he is a man devoid of values who will always put money before morals.
“He doesn’t give a damn about the rights of women.
“He doesn’t give a damn about equality for gay people.
“He doesn’t give a damn about mistreated immigrant workers.
“Heck, he doesn’t even give a damn about securing his precious knighthood.
“Nope, David Beckham cares about one thing: the size of his bulging wallet.”
What is Qatar’s human rights record like?
Qatar’s human rights record has been the subject of discussion in the run up to the country hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2022.
In February last year, the Guardian released a report that revealed that more than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka had died in Qatar since winning the right to host the World Cup 10 years ago.
The findings, which were compiled from government sources, showed that an average of 12 migrant workers from the previously listed five south Asian nations had died each week since 2010.
The actual total death toll will actually be significantly higher, as the figures uncovered by the Guardian did not include deaths from a variety of other countries that send large numbers of workers to Qatar, including the Philippines and Kenya.
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) also says: “Despite the global scrutiny brought by the FIFA World Cup 2022, migrant workers continue to face wage abuse and exorbitant recruitment fees. Migrant worker deaths are not investigated, and their families are not provided reparations.”
Migrant workers are also banned from protesting, striking or joining trade unions.
Women in Qatar face discrimination in law and practice, with women tied to their male guardians, usually their father, brother, grandfather or uncle, or for married women, their husband. Women need their guardian’s permission for things:
- Studying abroad on government scholarships
- Working in government jobs
- Travelling abroad until certain ages
- Receiving some forms of reproductive healthcare
Family laws also make it difficult for women to divorce, with divorced women unable to be their children’s guardian.
In Qatar, “sodomy” or sex between men has remained an offence under the Penal Code, and is punishabe by up t seven years’ imprisonment.
Article 296 states that “leading, instigating or seducing a male in any way to commit sodomy or dissipation” and “inducing or seducing a male or female in any way to commit illegal or immoral actions” is a crime.