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World Cup: German minister says Qatar introduced 'very good' human rights laws

Doha and Berlin had engaged in a diplomatic spat last week when interior minister Nancy Faeser made critical remarks against Qatar
A banner reading Boycott Qatar 2022 is seen prior to the start of a Bundesliga football match, on 23 October 2022 (AFP)

Germany's Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said on Monday during her visit to Doha that she acknowledges Qatar's "very good laws" in addressing human rights, in an apparent u-turn from earlier remarks.

Faeser had made critical remarks against Qatar last week, as the Gulf state is preparing to host the FIFA World Cup on 20 November.

In her earlier remarks, which developed into a diplomatic spat between Doha and Berlin, the minister said in a TV interview that "it would be better that tournaments are not awarded to such states" over their human rights record, adding that choosing Qatar to host the World Cup was "very tricky" for the German government. Her remarks drew an objection from Doha and also from former German officials.

On Friday, Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesperson Majed al-Ansari described Faeser's comments “as unacceptable and provocative for the Qatari people”. 

"It was unacceptable for politicians to try and score political points locally at the expense of their relations with other countries," he said.

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This week, Faeser arrived in Doha with a delegation from the German Football Association and several MPs to learn about the "human rights issues that are being discussed around the tournament", including LGBTQ and migrant workers' rights, according to a statement from Germany's interior ministry.

As the World Cup kick-off is getting closer, human rights organisations and LGBTQ groups have increasingly criticised Qatar, while some cities in France and Germany have seen campaigns to boycott the tournament.

Qatari officials have said that since winning the bid to host the 2022 World Cup, their country is facing an unprecedented campaign that has amounted to slander and fabrications of the truth, while their law reforms to protect human rights are being ignored.

'Arrogant' criticism

On Saturday, Sigmar Gabriel, the former German foreign minister, described criticism of Qatar by German officials as "arrogance", saying that it comes at a time when the United Nations and the International Labor Organisation are praising Doha's reforms.

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"How forgetful are we? Homosexuality was a punishable offence in Germany until 1994. My mother still needed her husband's permission to work. We treated 'guest workers' crappy and housed them miserably," Gabriel tweeted.

The veteran diplomat said "it also took us decades to become a liberal country. Progress does not come overnight, but step by step".

Gabriel added that while the UN and International Labor Organisation praise Qatar, "only we Germans insult it every day".

Faeser's remarks criticising Qatar prompted its foreign ministry to summon the German ambassador to Doha, Claudius Fischbach, and hand him an objection memo about her statements.

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