Last week, reports began to come out that two human rights investigators were missing in Qatar. Krishna Upadhyaya and Ghimire Gundev went missing on August 31. Prior to their disappearance they had sent messages to friends and colleagues that they were being harassed and followed by plain clothed police officers. The two British nationals had gone to Qatar to investigate the treatment of migrant workers. After almost a week Qatar has finally confirmed that they had in fact arrested the two men for "violating the laws of the land." There has been concern that the two men could be tortured according to Amnesty International. Britain and Qatar have been in communication in regards to the two men.
Qatar is set to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022, a decision that has been under intense scrutiny since it was announced. The country has been accused of buying votes in order to host the World Cup. Numerous organization have documented the human rights violations of the country. They currently use the Kafala system for migrant labor which basically amounts to slave labor. Employers pay for the migrants to come to the country and then confiscate the workers passports making it impossible for them to leave. The workers live in cramped and often unsanitary dwellings. Sharan Burrow, the general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, is quoted in the ESPN documentary E:60: Trapped in Qatar as saying that at current rates, 4,000 people will die to make the 2022 World Cup a reality. In May, the country announced that it would be making changes to the labor laws.
When it comes to violating the "laws of the land" there is a lot that could encompass. Earlier this year Qatar launched a modest dress campaign aimed at visiting tourists. Wearing clothing considered indecent is illegal and saying "indecent phrases" or doing anything thought obscene in public is punishable with a fine and up to six months in prison. Homosexuality is illegal, as is kissing or physical intimacy. The shady arrests of the human rights investigators is just the start of things to come as the World Cup approaches.
The World Cup may be the largest sporting event in the world but it may see fans staying home rather than risking shady arrests and disappearances. Yes, there will be some people still willing to travel but it's hard to not see attendance taking some sort of a hit. Also likely to take a hit will be what the crowd shots may look like. Short dresses, sleeveless clothing and crop tops are banned for women in Qatar. Men are told not to wear shorts and vest tops revealing their chest as part of the modest clothing campaign. In a country that has seen record highs hit 120F in June it's hard to see people flocking to a country where they aren't allowed to wear tank tops without fear of arrest. And what would happen to a player who removes his jersey after a goal or during the post-game jersey exchange that often takes place? Fans aren't the only one who will be at risk while in Qatar. Players and coaches will also be at risk while in Qatar from the heat and also subject to the laws of the country.
The treatment and outcome of the arrests last week will come up time and again as 2022 grows nearer. The stories that the two investigators will tell when they make it home, assuming that they do at some point make it home, will be ones that any fan, journalist or human being considering going to Qatar will have to seriously listen to. As will any country who is looking at sending their players to participate in the tournament. The arrests will also serve as more fuel for people pushing to have Qatar removed as the host country.