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Qatar’s Tainted World Cup Dreams

This year’s tournament has long been plagued by reports of human rights abuses and bribery.

By , a reporter at Foreign Policy.
The official emblem of the 2022 FIFA World Cup is unveiled.
The official emblem of the 2022 FIFA World Cup is unveiled.
The official emblem of the 2022 FIFA World Cup is unveiled in Doha, Qatar, on Sept. 3, 2019. Christopher Pike/Getty Images for Supreme Committee 2022

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at Qatar’s World Cup preparations, the attack on Imran Khan, and North Korea’s onslaught of missile tests.

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Qatar Makes Final Preparations for World Cup 

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at Qatar’s World Cup preparations, the attack on Imran Khan, and North Korea’s onslaught of missile tests.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Qatar Makes Final Preparations for World Cup 

More than 1 million soccer fans will descend on Qatar this month for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, although Doha’s hosting dreams—and this year’s tournament—have long been tainted by reports of human rights abuses and bribery. 

With just weeks to go before the competition kicks off, authorities are now in the final push to perfect sweeping, yearslong infrastructure projects. The country is believed to have spent anywhere between $220 billion and $300 billion on its construction plans, funneling both vast sums of money and migrant workers into new highways, colossal stadiums, and luxurious hotels.

But from the start, the decision to hold the World Cup in Qatar was controversial—especially after the United States accused Doha and Moscow of buying off FIFA executives. With construction underway, human rights groups have also sounded the alarm over migrant working conditions and other abuses

Ahead of the competition, Qatar appears to have stacked its stadiums with a sympathetic audience, offering soccer fans free tickets, flights, and lodging in exchange for a performance and pledges that they will steer clear of criticism. To ensure compliance, the fans must agree to a contract that requires them to make positive posts and “report any offensive, degrading or abusive comments” on social media.

Authorities have also evicted thousands of workers living in Doha—plausibly to make room for tourists—leaving some to sleep on the streets, Reuters reported. Human Rights Watch has documented how officials have continued to arbitrarily detain, beat, and sexually harass LGBTQ people

Qatar is one of many countries with a poor human rights record to host a popular and high-profile tournament. From Russia to China, countries with histories of abuses have long used international sporting events to attempt to elevate their global profiles. 

Writing in Foreign Policy, Craig L. LaMay argues that Qatar can still rescue its World Cup reputation by liberalizing its media laws. “Media liberalization would allow journalists to report on the country’s labor reforms from within rather than imposing a jaded narrative from without,” he writes. 


What We’re Following Today

Imran Khan is shot. An armed gunman shot and wounded former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in the legs while he was leading a rally on Thursday. Khan was ousted from power in April. His camp has blamed Pakistan’s current leadership for planning the attack. 

North Korea’s intensifying missile tests. North Korea fired six missiles on Thursday, just one day after it launched 23 missiles in an escalating spate of tests that alarmed its neighbors. Japanese authorities warned some people to seek shelter on Thursday. 

The barrage also prompted a sharp warning from Washington. “Any nuclear attack against the United States or its allies and partners, including the use of nonstrategic nuclear weapons, is unacceptable and will result in the end of the Kim regime, said U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.


Keep an Eye On 

Ukraine’s displaced civilians. Approximately 14 million Ukrainians have been displaced by the war in Ukraine, pushing up the total number of globally displaced people and refugees past 103 million, according to the United Nations. U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi called it “the fastest, largest displacement witnessed in decades.”

South Sudan’s food insecurity. The United Nations has warned that two-thirds of people in South Sudan could be in a state of acute food insecurity once the country enters its next lean season. “Humanitarian assistance is needed to save lives and prevent the total collapse of livelihoods in the country,” said Josephine Lagu, South Sudan’s agriculture minister. 


Thursday’s Most Read

6 Wrong Lessons for Taiwan From the War in Ukraine by Franz-Stefan Gady

Meet Iran’s Gen Z: the Driving Force Behind the Protests by Holly Dagres

Zero-COVID Is the Least of Xi’s Economic Problems by Zongyuan Zoe Liu


Odds and Ends 

You may be a geography whiz, but have you heard of Listenbourg? Few people have because it doesn’t exist. The country was invented to ridicule Americans and the U.S. media’s habit of confusing different countries, including one particularly embarrassing mix-up that put Ukraine’s Donbas region inside of Pakistan on a world map. But the joke has taken off on social media across Europe, and the fake nation is now complete with a fake national anthem, satellite map, and flag, Euronews reported. 

Christina Lu is a reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @christinafei

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