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International Relations and Human Rights Observatory


Whether Argentina wins or loses, human rights in Qatar matter

(Clarin) Argentina’s international insensibility represents, in a way, a failure of the ideals of Memory, Truth, and Justice and a general ignorance of Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: «All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.»
By Gabriel C. Salvia

(Clarin) The Argentina National Football Team has hit a losing streak in the Qatar World Cup, not because of its 1-2 defeat to Saudi Arabia, but because of the way it has chosen to comport itself. So many players, along with technical staff, the Argentine Football Association (AFA) itself, political leadership, local human rights organizations, and the Argentine population in general, are demonstrating a total indifference towards the lack of fundamental liberties in the host country.

Now that the blue and white has secured its place in the Round of 16, the general euphoria has left any criticism of Qatar's human rights issues completely forgotten. Seeming to forget the Argentina World Cup in 1978, they now insist that those who criticize Qatar are killjoy sideliners. Argentina's international insensibility represents, in a way, a failure of the ideals of Memory, Truth, and Justice and a general ignorance of Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

For example, the Qatari theocracy is currently being criticized for its homophobia. To show solidarity, the captains of several democratic countries' national teams announced that they would wear a “OneLove” bracelet, to which FIFA responded that any players participating in such an action would be penalized with a yellow card. The Germany National Football Team then covered their mouths in protest of FIFA's censorship during the team photo for their first game. During the same match, the German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser wore the “OneLove'' bracelet while sitting next to FIFA's widely criticized president, Gianni Infantino. Not one Argentine public figure present in Qatar, whether pro- or anti-establishment, made a similar gesture.

In contrast to Argentina, the national teams and football associations from Germany, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, England, and the Netherlands arrived at the World Cup with an acute consciousness of the human rights situation in Qatar. For example, CIVICUS noted that “[this] World Cup [is] tainted by migrant workers’ deaths and numerous other human rights abuses,” in a memo entitled “Qatar 2022: Glory at What Price?” which was distributed the day before the tournament began.

Because the Cup is televised throughout the world, it will come as no surprise that actions have been taken to “call out and shame” the Qatari government’s human rights violations. For example, during the Portugal-Uruguay game, a spectator ran out onto the field carrying a rainbow flag and wearing a T-shirt that called for women’s rights in Iran and support for Ukraine in the wake of the Russian invasion.

However, this type of polemic is almost non-existent in the Latin American countries whose national teams are participating in the Qatar World Cup. Once again, this reflects the region’s lack of commitment to the universality of human rights. Not one Latin American football association present in Qatar has demonstrated its support for a compensation fund that would go to the families of the workers who died during stadium construction, as Santiago Menna of Human Rights Watch pointed out.

Particularly in Argentina, where the shadow of the 1978 World Cup looms large, the lack of criticism highlights once again the limits of our collective Memory. Norma Morandini, journalist, writer, and sister of two young men who disappeared during the last military dictatorship (1976-1983), is one of the few local voices calling attention to the issue. “We cannot allow cries of 'Goal!’ to drown out the cries of the tortured,” she reminds us—a phrase she repeated every half hour during the World Cup in ’78 over Rádio Renascença in Lisbon, where she was living in exile. “Those of us who have been on the receiving end of international solidarity understand the efficacy of such criticism,” added Morandini in a recent article. Unfortunately, it seems that the goal tally takes precedence over human rights for the Argentine public, whose characteristic creativity has yet to be utilized in a gesture of defense for human rights in Qatar.

This shows, once again, Argentina’s lack of interest in integrating itself into a world in which human rights are respected and in the false narrative put forth by a declaimed international leadership. In commitment to international human rights, Argentina will certainly not come out as world champion.

Gabriel C. Salvia
Gabriel C. Salvia
General Director of CADAL
International human rights activist. Since 1992 he has served as director of Civil Society Organizations and is a founding member of CADAL. As a journalist he worked in graphics, radio and TV. Compiled several books, among them "Diplomacy and Human Rights in Cuba" (2011), "Human rights in international relations and foreign policy" (2021) and "75 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Views from Cuba" (2023), and he is the author of "Dancing for a mirage: notes on politics, economics and diplomacy in the governments of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner" (2017). He is also the author of several reports, including " The chairs of the Council: authoritarianism and democracies in the evolution of the integration of the UN Human Rights body" and "Memory closed: The complicity of the Cuban revolution with the Argentine military dictatorship".

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