Human rights groups are also concerned about women’s safety during the event. Human Rights Watch researcher Rothna Begum told The Athletic that “risk of sexual violence increases greatly” during sport events. Women who may face incidents of sexual assault during the event may then charged for extramarital sex, which is illegal according to Qatar’s penal code. This could possibly deprive victims of their confidence in pursuing legal intervention.
At least one notable case, in which a woman accused Qatari officials of mishandling her sexual assault case, underlined the concerns for visitors to the nation during the World Cup. Paola Schietekat, a World Cup official from Mexico, moved to Doha, Qatar in 2020. In June 2021, she says she was assaulted by a work colleague, according to Noticias Telemundo. When she reported her case to the Qatari authorities, she says she was interrogated in Arabic, a language she is not proficient in, for hours without a translator. She says she soon found out she was being prosecuted for extramarital affairs. Her assailant, who told authorities the two were in a consensual relationship, was eventually let free, according to her recounting.
Schietekat told the network she provided evidence of her having been beaten, but it didn’t make a difference. If found guilty, Shietekat said she faced seven years in prison and an additional one hundred lashes as punishment because she is Muslim. She claims that as an alternative to this sentence, it was suggested to her that she marry her attacker, according to Fox Sports. Schietekat fled the country and the charges were officially dropped in April 2022; she had been receiving legal representation from the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to El Financiero.
At this point, there’s not much fans can do but implore FIFA to reevaluate the planning of the Cup in the future. In response to the reports of human rights abuses, Paris and other French cities are “questioning the model of the event” and will not organize city-organized fan zones for communal viewings of the games.
Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who was in charge when Qatar was awarded hosting rights, recently called choosing Qatar as a venue for the tournament a “mistake.” In an interview with Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger, Blatter reportedly said Qatar is “too small of a country” and “Football and the World Cup are too big for” Qatar, as translated by CNN. He added that since 2012, the selection of World Cup hosts takes into account “social considerations and human rights.” For many, his remarks have come too late. (Blatter was also recently cleared of fraud by a Swiss court, relating to his tenure at the organization, though prosecutors have said they will appeal the ruling, according to CNN.)
This year, the game will go on, but I wish we could pull out a red card for FIFA.
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