The World Cup will be played behind the backs of allegations of corruption, labor exploitation, financing of terrorism and sexual discrimination and thanks to the fortune generated by liquefied gas that this small country exports. Who is the powerful woman who operates as their “kindest” ambassador
Qatar's then Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, his wife Sheikha Mozah and FIFA President Sepp Blatter when it was announced that the country would host the 2022 World Cup. (FIFA)
The day a nervous Joseph Blatter opened the envelope to say that Qatar was going to host the 2022 World Cup, he took the stage to celebrate the emir who was at the head of the country at the time and father of the current regent, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and a slim, tall figure of a woman, wearing a burgundy suit and a turban of the same color, smiling discreetly , balancing the prevailing euphoria. She was sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al-Misnad, better known in the world of royalty, glamor and gossip magazines as Sheikha Mozah. The wife of the historic emir and mother of the current monarch, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. The true shadow of the power of this small nation that in the next four weeks will be the epicenter of the hopes and frustrations of a good part of Humanity.
When the Qatari crown has to show its best face and try to disprove the countless accusations of corruption, human rights violations and financial support for terrorist groups, they bring Sheikha Mozah into the ring. We will probably see her at the Al Bayt stadium in Khor, where the World Cup opening ceremony and the first match will take place, despite the fact that football interests her as much as quantum physics.
His great passion is properties. In 2014 she bought herself in the exclusive Cornwall Terrace , overlooking Regent's Park , three mansions that she turned into a 10,000-square-meter palace and is where she has lived regularly since her husband handed over the throne to her favorite son. And it is not only this property, considered the most expensive in London after the royal palaces, but other symbols of that city, which show us the royal power of the Qataris far beyond its small borders. Qatar's billionaire rulers own the Shard tower, Harrods, the Olympic village, the US embassy building in Grosvenor Square, a slice of Camden Market, half of the world's most expensive apartment block at One Hyde Park and Chelsea's training ground, not to mention mention 8% of the London Stock Exchange, a similar part of Barclays and a quarter of the hypermarkets Sainsbury's. About 50,000 million dollars invested there.
The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani during a meeting with the Russian president , Vladimir Putin. Sputnik/Vyacheslav Prokofyev/Pool via REUTERS.
In the Persian Gulf they say they are “the most problematic family in the neighbourhood”, despite having a very small house compared to with some of his neighbors. For centuries Qatar was seen as “a province of Saudi Arabia”, a small peninsula of 11,000 square meters, controlled by the Al-Thani tribe. It has always been a port of commerce for caravans and merchants coming and going from China and India. Your horse and camel breeding centerhe was famous throughout the Middle East. The 13th-century Muslim scholar Yaqut al-Hamawi wrote of the fine woven striped cloaks of the Qataris and their skills in improving and finishing spears. Actually, the big deal of all time was pearls. Qatari fishermen were masters in shellfish farming and fishing. After endless wars between the tribes and even a cannon battle with the East India Company, Qatar was left in the hands of the House of Thani under a British protectorate.
In the 40s of the last century, the first large oil reserves appeared in the Arabian peninsula and that changed the fortunes of the entire Middle East, including Qatar. In 1971, Great Britain withdrew and after a brief period of accession to the United Arab Emirates, the kingdom was independent. His support for the Western-Arab coalition in the 1991 Gulf War put him back on the map. Until, in 1995, a palace coup changed everything. Crown Prince Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani took control of the country while his father, Emir Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani , was visiting Geneva, Switzerland. A counter-coup supported by Egypt, the Saudis and the Emirates failed and the new blood of the Al Thani consolidated control of the kingdom. This is how Sheikha Mozah came to the throne as Khalifa's third wife and in a very short time became his favorite and the Qatari international image.
Starting in 2001, Qatar became a scene of the War on Terrorcampaign launched by the United States after the 9/11 attacks. Dozens of supposedly charitable organizations operated from the peninsula, which ended up financing Al Qaeda. Later, with the start of the Syrian civil war, these and other entities sent money to various groups that were fighting the Bashar al Assad regime -and at the same time the pro-Western forces that had risen up. -, such as the Al Nusra front. Until dozens of connections to ISIS appeared.. The Islamic State had a financial center in Qatar with which it was able to send and receive money for its cause when it created the caliphate in a vast territory between Syria and Iraq. In the United States Congress, people began to talk about Qatar as “the Club Med of terrorism”.
According to various intelligence agency reports from the United States and Europe, in Qatar he was a refugee for a long time, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the plane attack on the Twin Towers in Manhattan and the Pentagon. One of those who helped him was then president of the Qatar Football Association, which now organizes the World Cup. Abdul Karim al-Thani, a member of the royal family, handed over a safe house for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founder of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, the predecessor of ISIS, also got him a Qatari passport and gave him a million dollars in cash. The kingdom also maintains a commitment to give at least 400 million dollars a year to the Hamas groupwhich controls the Gaza Strip. And it finances several militias in Libya that fight against the pro-Western government in Tripoli. It also supported the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt and sheltered their leaders when they lost power.
This situation erupted on May 27, 2017, when < b>Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Yementhey cut diplomatic ties with Qatar accusing it of destabilizing the Middle East and supporting terrorist groups. Two months later, with the support of the United States and thanks to a multi-million dollar lobby, a process began in which Qatar committed to making its financing transparent and cutting its ties with terrorist groups.
Foreign workers at the construction site of the Lusail Stadium in Doha, Qatar. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach.
Qatar's great fortune comes from the gas under its soil. It has extraordinary reserves of 25 trillion cubic meters. Since 2012 it is the world's largest exporter of liquefied gasthat is compressed and cooled to 160 degrees below zero to be transported by ships around the world. Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent sanctions on exports of this fluid made Qatar even richer with record prices reaching 25 dollars per million thermal units . The small country has a GDP of 180 billion dollars, which equates to more than $60,000 per year for each Qatari. In reality, those born in the kingdom are barely 886,000 people, who enjoy all rights and maintain a very high standard of living. The remaining two million inhabitants are immigrants who escaped extreme poverty in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, etc. Most of these people continue to live miserable lives within the bombast of the glass towers that make Doha, the largest city where 80% of the population lives, a Disney city >.
Perhaps the best thing Qatari royal money has done is the Al Jazeera news network, which receives funding from the Qatari government but maintains editorial independence. Contrary to what happens in the country, where all media suffer prior censorship and the basic rights of minorities are ignored, the news network can function with global press standards free. It was launched in 1996 and has been directed ever since by professional British journalists who have been harshly criticized and censored by most countries in the region, starting with Saudi Arabia where it has a huge audience, and the United States. It was a key information channel in every uprising of the so-called Arab Spring, the wars and protests from Iran to Afghanistan.
In all this context, < b>paying a bribe of 880 million dollars to FIFA to win the World Cup is just a small investment. They did it with payments through television rights and the distribution of at least one million dollars for each of the votes it received from the representatives of the soccer federations. In this sense, the documentary by Netflix's “FIFA Uncovered” is brutal and definitive about what happened in Switzerland in 2013.
Oganizations that raised money for ISIS and other terrorist groups operated from Qatar for years. (DEF File)
Although the worst came later, when Qatar had to build all the stadiums and the necessary structure for an event of this type. It invested some 220,000 million dollars, the most expensive world cup in history, while exploiting the workers. According to Amnesty International, the violations of the human rights of the immigrants who worked and died in those constructions are epic. Most of the migrants came fleeing poverty from countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and India. But to do so, they paid commissions of up to $4,300 to contractors, and they carry difficult-to-pay debts. A high level of overcrowding and precariousness was detected. In their places of origin they were promised higher salaries, but when they arrived in Qatar the contractors paid them less. In addition, there were numerous monthly delays in payments. Workers who want to quit cannot do so because many employers they withhold passports and residence permits. 12-hour days were recorded, with no rest days for weeks or even months. Some 40 workers died from this mistreatment and another 50 suffered serious injuries. Other reports speak of 36,000 victims.
Faced with all these tragedies, the enormous propaganda apparatus that the Qatari government set up for this event and that has the sheikha Mozah as her kinder face. His job is to embody “soft power”, the charming and photogenic side of a family running a sharia state, where homosexuality is punishable by death, women have severe restrictions on their freedoms and foreign workers are deprived of their rights and forced to work in very dangerous conditions. In this sense, Sheikha Mozah is a symbol of the deep ambiguities that make Qatar such a curious and brutal little country.