Qatar hit by 'unprecedented campaign' over World Cup, says Emir

Qatar hit by 'unprecedented campaign' over World Cup, says Emir
In a rare response toward criticism towards Qatar's handling of the World Cup tournament, Sheikh Tamim Al-Thani said the country is being hit with a stream of 'fabrications'.
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FIFA awarded the World Cup to an Arab country for the first time after a contentious bidding process in 2010 [Getty]

Qatar has hit out at an "unprecedented campaign" of criticism over the football World Cup which it will host next month, its ruler said Tuesday, lashing out at "double standards" over the condemnations.

Doha has spent billions of dollars building infrastructure, such as the new metro system, and stadiums ahead of hosting the first World Cup on Arab soil.

In a rare public airing of frustration of criticism, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani said Qatar was the victim of "fabrications", hinting at hidden motives behind the criticism.

"Since we won the honour of hosting the World Cup, Qatar has been subjected to an unprecedented campaign that no host country has faced," he said in a speech to the country's legislative council, 26 days from the 20 November kick-off.

Many football and political analysts have pointed out that Russia allegedly faced less criticism of its hosting of the World Cup in international media despite its invasion of Crimea, the bombing of Syria, and repression of journalists and activists.

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FIFA awarded the World Cup to an Arab country for the first time in 2010.

Qatar has since faced constant scrutiny over its alleged mistreatment of foreign workers and other issues.

This week, the government angrily rejected a report by the Human Rights Watch group which said police have arbitrarily detained and abused members of the LGBTQ community ahead of the World Cup.

The emir said Qatar had initially accepted negative commentary "in good faith" and "even considered that some criticism was positive and useful, helping us to develop aspects that need to be developed".

He added that much of the criticism now is based on false reports and fabrications.

"But it soon became clear to us that the campaign continues, expands and includes fabrications and double standards, until it reached an amount of ferocity that made many wonder, unfortunately, about the real reasons and motives behind this campaign," he said.

Qatar had been under a blockade by several Gulf states from 2017, who demanded the closure of media sites and drop alleged support for Iran and militant groups, claims Doha strongly denies.

'Great test for Qatar'

The 29-day World Cup is expected to bring more than one million foreign fans to Qatar.

The emir said the event was a chance for Qatar to show "who we are, not only in terms of the strength of our economy and institutions but also in terms of our civilizational identity".

"This is a great test for a country the size of Qatar that impresses the whole world with what it has already achieved."

Conditions on construction sites were long condemned by international unions - ranging from safety standards to hours worked in the searing summer temperatures.

But reforms have been praised by the union leaders who have been critical of the government.

The emir added that Qatar will continue to build on its strength and build its capabilities in areas such as media, higher education, investment and mediation to resolve conflicts between countries, and the hosting of major global events.