Opinion | Human Right abuses in Qatar, and the U.S.

U.S. commenters on Qatar during the World Cup should also focus on human rights abuses happening in their own country.

Yasmina Sahir, Opinions Columnist

“Before you point a finger at someone else, figure out if it can be pointed right back at you,” my mother used to say. “If so, don’t go pointing anywhere before you fix yourself.” 

Western organizations and individuals continue to rightfully call out the FIFA World Cup and the Qatari government for human rights abuses stemming from the tournament. 

I wonder when that same disgust and attention will be given to our own practices and policies here in the U.S., which mirror conditions for migrant workers in Qatar.

In Sam Knupp’s article on boycotting the FIFA World Cup due to Qatari government abuses on human rights, he notes the several issues: multiple deaths due to high temperatures and unsafe working conditions; crowded, unsanitary living quarters; exposure to illness; and wage theft for migrant workers helping to make the tournament possible.

While he mentions several appalling instances in Qatar in need of awareness building and advocacy, I question when Americans will start paying attention to the very same things happening here in the U.S.

Another concern was the rate of COVID-19 spread throughout the World Cup migrant workforce and the truthfulness in reporting these numbers.

“It’s very possible these numbers are fabricated, given that the same report claims that only one worker died of COVID-19, while 1,226 workers contracted it,” Knupp wrote.

In Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds isn’t a shining example of COVID-19 safe policies and care for vulnerable groups. The Iowa Board of Medicine continues to recommend mask-wearing in public settings, although I could count the number of masks I see in a week on campus with one hand.

The U.S. does little to help its own migrant workforce, the same people who work for little benefit but largely contribute to the U.S.’s economic and agricultural successes. The U.S. has moved to criminalize and socially alienate migrant groups, especially for anyone living here undocumented. 

In Qatar, the average temperature in this region is high and increasing yearly due to climate change. As one of the leading producers of air pollution, Americans are directly implicated in rising temperatures around the globe, including Qatar.

It is important to note that Qatar is not currently held to international human rights standards for migrant workers as they have yet to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, adopted by the United Nations in 1990. 

The U.S. also continues to decline ratification of any treaties protecting migrant workers.

I stand by Knupp in choosing to boycott the World Cup. I say “yes” over and over to his thoughtful writing and concerns for those abroad. I want to take that sentiment forward to show all people here in the U.S. that their lives, working conditions, and safety matter too. 

If you are a fellow boycotter of the FIFA World Cup, start holding the U.S. accountable for the human rights abuses we all are complicit in because we spend money, give our viewership, and pay tuition dollars to those who perpetrate on others all around the globe and locally.

Wealth hoarding, pollution, lack of protections for vulnerable groups, and an unwillingness to treat all people with respect and dignity goes beyond Qatar and the World Cup. It’s a global issue intricately tied into our societies until we collectively start demanding better treatment for everyone.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.