FIFA Qatar 2022 World Cup: Australia football team releases video criticising Qatar’s human rights record

Australia has become the first World Cup team to release a collective statement against Qatar’s human rights record

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Australia is the first team to have released a statement in which they have criticised Qatar’s human rights record ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup taking place later this year. The World Cup starts on 20 November 2022 with Qatar playing Ecuador and Australia will play in group D alongside current champions France as well as Denmark and Tunisia.

The video message criticises Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers and LGBTQ+ people. Football Australia also released a statement alongside the video saying the “suffering” felt by workers and their families caused by the tournament “cannot be ignored”

Sixteen players feature in the video and call for “effective remedy” for migrant workers and also call for the decriminalisation of same-sex relationships. These players involved include the Australian captain Mat Ryan, the Sunderland defender Bailey Wright, Hearts’ defender Kye Rowles and the president of the Australian PFA, Alex Wilkinson.

What has been said in the video?

In the video released on 26 October, the players said: “Addressing these issues is not easy, and we do not have all the answers. We stand with FIFPro, the Building and Wood Workers International, and the International Trade Union Confederation, seeking to embed reforms and establish a lasting legacy in Qatar.

Hearts’ defender Kye Rowles also features in video statementHearts’ defender Kye Rowles also features in video statement
Hearts’ defender Kye Rowles also features in video statement

“This must include establishing a migrant resource centre, effective remedy for those who have been denied their rights, and the decriminalisation of all same-sex relationships. These are the basic rights that should be afforded to all and will ensure continued prgoress in Qatar and a legacy that goes well beyond the final whistle of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The statement also added: “As the most multicultural, diverse, and inclusive sport in our country, we believe everyone should be able to feel safe and be their true authentic selves. Whilst we acknowledge the highest levels of assurances given by HH Amir of Qatar and the President of FIFA that LGBTI+ fans will be safely welcomed in Qatar, we hope that this openness can continue beyond the tournament.”

Who else has protested against Qatar’s human rights record?

Australia’s group opponents Denmark will make their own sign of protest against the human right abuses in the middle-east country by wearing a ‘toned down’ jersey. The kit provider, Hummel, designed an all-black kit, to represent the “colour of mourning”. It also said it “does not wish to be visible” in a tournament that it claims “has cost thousands of lives. We support the Danish national team but that isn’t the same as supporting Qatar as a host nation.”

England, along with nine other European countries, will wear ‘One Love’ armbands to protest Qatar’s laws around same-sex relationships.

Why is Australia protesting?

The message Australia sent out references the treatment of migrant workers who were heavily involved in the construction of the stadiums as well as the LGBTQ+ rights in the region. The decision to host the tournament in Qatar has been heavily criticised since it was announced in 2010 with human rights groups complaining about the treatment of foreign labourers in Qatar, and the number who have died there.

In February 2021, the Guardian reported that a total of 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka had died in Qatar since it won the World Cup bid. The number, which was based on figures provided by the countries’ embassies in Qatar, was reported to be misleading according to the Qatari government because not all the deaths were people working on World Cup-related projects.

The government said its records showed between 2014 and 2020 there were only 37 deaths among labourers at World Cup stadium construction sites, and only three of those were “work related”.

Australia’s video message also noted Qatar’s law on LGBTQ+ relationships which state homosexuality can be punishable by death in the Gulf state.

When is the World Cup?

The World Cup begins on Sunday 20 November 2022, with England’s first match taking place on Monday 21 November against Iran and Australia will play their first fixture on 22 November against the world champions, France.