Only six months to go before the World Cup in Qatar. After years of criticism of the host, the Emir is now using his appearance in Davos to respond to all critics.

Less than six months before the start of the World Cup in Qatar (21 November to 18 December), the emir of the controversial host country has called criticism of the Gulf state an unprecedented smear campaign.

“There are still people who cannot accept the idea of an Arab Muslim country hosting a tournament like the World Cup,” Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani said at the World Economic Forum in Davos: “That’s why people have launched attacks at an unprecedented pace.”

Qatar’s head of state went on the offensive over this in front of a high-level auditorium in the Swiss posh resort on Monday.

“For decades, our region has suffered from such discrimination. I have noticed that this discrimination is largely based on the fact that people and our critics do not know us at all and also refuse to get to know us,” said Al-Thani.

Emir sees his country as open-minded and reform-minded

Yet his country, which human rights organisations have pilloried for many years, especially because of the exploitation of foreign workers or discrimination against homosexuals, is like any other state: “We are not perfect, but we are constantly trying to get better and are full of hope for a bright future.”

The Emir even described Qatar as open-minded and reform-minded, contrary to the perception of the desert state in much of the world. “We are,” said the Qatari leader, “very proud of the developments, reforms and progress we have made. But we are also very grateful for the public spotlight that the World Cup has put us in and inspired us to make such a change at the speed of light.”

International criticism of host since World Cup award

Qatar has come under criticism since it won the World Cup almost twelve years ago, mainly for its inadequate human rights policies. Only last week, Amnesty International, together with international trade unions and fan organisations, demanded that Qatar and FIFA impose a 440 million dollar programme to compensate disenfranchised migrant workers.

Several World Cup participants, such as the German national team, had drawn attention to the problematic situation in Qatar in the course of the World Cup qualifiers with public appeals for the observance of human rights.