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Saudi Arabia’s repression shouldn’t be rewarded with a World Cup

Author: Minky Worden (HRW), Washington Post, Published on: 17 May 2019

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When FIFA announced that the 2022 World Cup would be held in Qatar, there was an outcry over that country’s human rights record. Now, soccer’s governing body is considering expanding the World Cup to a country with an even more alarming human rights record: Saudi Arabia...

FIFA’s consideration of Saudi Arabia stands in stark contrast to the organization’s claims that human rights are a key part of its values and the rules of the game. Under pressure from fans, activists and sponsors, FIFA has incorporated human rights since 2016 [it has adopted the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, enshrined its responsibility to respect human rights in Article 3 of the FIFA Statutues, set up an indpendent Human Rights Advisory Board, employed human rights stadd, implemented a complaints mechanism for human rights defenders, and adopted a human rights policy].

These are global standards that Saudi Arabia has shown no interest in meeting.

Today a Saudi-led coalition is waging a brutal war in Yemen…In April, the kingdom beheaded 37 Saudi nationals, mostly minority Shiite Muslims, who may not have had fair trials…Same-sex relations are criminalized in Saudi Arabia, and punishments include the death penalty and whipping…The country has no press freedom…Last October, Saudi agents murdered and dismembered Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who had been critical of the Saudi government…Saudi Arabia enforces a repressive “male guardianship” system…have jailed many of the country’s leading women’s rights activists, some of whom were reportedly tortured...

FIFA needs to consult with domestic and international human rights stakeholders... [Qatari] human rights groups have spent years working to improve conditions... Neither of these measures can be replicated in Saudi Arabia, with major human rights activists in prison or silenced by threats...

Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates also remain under consideration. Those countries, too, have alarming human rights records... It’s unclear how any of them could meet FIFA’s human rights standards in just over three years.

FIFA’s corporate partners — including Coca-Cola, Adidas and Visa — should be alarmed that FIFA is even considering expanding the contest at such a late stage to these countries, particularly Saudi Arabia... it would damage FIFA’s human rights policies and reward Saudi Arabia’s escalating repression. It deserves a red card.

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Related companies: adidas Coca-Cola Visa Group