Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on Monday hit out at what he called unprecedented attacks on Qatar becoming the first Arab country to host the World Cup.
With the Gulf state facing questions about the treatment of foreign workers and the rights of women and the LGBTQ community, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani acknowledged that Qatar was “not perfect”.
But he insisted that it had carried out reforms at “lightning speed” since being awarded the World Cup in 2010.
“For decades now, the Middle East has suffered from discrimination,” the ruler of the energy-rich state told the World Economic Forum in Davos, less than six months from the November 21 start of the tournament.
“And I have found, that such discrimination, is largely based on people not knowing us, and in some cases, refusing to get to know us. Even today, there are still people who cannot accept the idea, that an Arab-Muslim country would host a tournament like the World Cup.
“These individuals, including many in positions of influence, have launched attacks, at a pace never seen before,” the Emir said.
Rights groups have led criticism of Qatar’s record while some football stars, including England captain Harry Kane, have also raised questions.
Amnesty International last week demanded that FIFA set up a $440 million fund for “abused” workers in Qatar.
Qatar’s leader said that other countries and regions had already staged major events, “despite the fact that each of those countries, has its own particular problems and challenges.
“Qatar is just like your own country... not perfect, constantly trying to improve, and full of hope, for a brighter future.
“We are so proud of the development, reform, and progress we have made, and we are grateful for the spotlight that the World Cup provided, which inspired us, to make these changes at lightening-speed,” Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani said.
Qatar has spent billions of dollars on stadiums and infrastructure for the 32-nation tournament and Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani vowed that it will be a “special one”.