The day that a nervous Joseph Blatter opened the envelope to say that Qatar was going to be the headquarters of World Cup 2022went on stage to celebrate the emir who was in charge of the country at that time and father of the current regent, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and a slim, tall figure of a woman, in a burgundy suit and a turban of the same color who smiled discreetly, balancing the prevailing euphoria. She was Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al-Misnadbetter 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’ll probably see her in the Khor Al Bayt Stadiumwhere the World Cup opening ceremony and the first match take place, beyond the football it interests him as much as quantum physics.
His great passion is properties. In 2014 it was bought in the exclusive Cornwall Terraceoverlooking the 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 real power of the qataris far beyond its small borders. Qatar’s billionaire rulers own The Shard Tower, Harrodsthe 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 hypermarkets Sainsbury’s. About 50,000 million dollars invested there.
In the Persian Gulf they say they are “the most problematic family in the neighborhood”, even though they have a very small house compared to some of their 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. Their horse and camel breeding center he 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 business of all time was the pearls. Qatari fishermen were masters of shellfish farming and fishing. After endless wars between the tribes and even a gun battle with the East India Company, Qatar was left in the hands of the House of the Thani under 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, the 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 it became his favorite and the Qatari international image.
Starting in 2001, Qatar began to be a stage for the War on Terror campaign launched by the United States after the 9/11 attacks. Dozens of organizations operated from the peninsula, supposedly charitable, 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 to the pro-Western forces that had risen up-, as the front Al Nusra. Until dozens of connections appeared with the isis. 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 reports from the intelligence agencies of the United States and Europe, he was a refugee in Qatar 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-Thania member of the royal family, delivered a safe house for Abu Musab al-Zarqawithe founder of Al Qaeda in Iraq, the predecessor of ISIS, also got him a Qatari passport and handed him $1 million in cash. The kingdom also maintains a commitment to deliver, at least 400 million dollars a year, to the Hamas group which controls the Gaza Strip. And finance several militias in Libya fighting against the pro-Western government in Tripoli. He also supported the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt and gave shelter to their leaders when they lost power.
This situation broke out on May 27, 2017, when Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Yemen they 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 make their financing transparent and cut their ties with terrorist groups.
Qatar’s great fortune comes from gas What’s under your floor? It has extraordinary reserves of 25 trillion cubic meters. Since 2012 it is the world’s largest exporter of Liquid gas that is compressed and cooled to 160 degrees below zero to be transported by ships around the world. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions on exports of that fluid, they made Qatar even richer with record prices that reached $25 per million thermal units. The small country has a GDP of 180,000 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 amid the bombast of the glass towers that make Dohathe largest city where 80% of the population lives, a disney city.
Perhaps, the best thing that Qatari real money did is Al Jazeera news network, which receives funding from the Qatari government but maintains editorial independence. Contrary to what happens in the country, where all the media suffer prior censorship and the basic rights of minorities are ignored, the news network can function with global free press standards. 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 each raising of the call Arab Springwars and protests from Iran to Afghanistan.
In all this context, the payment of a bribe of 880 million dollars to FIFA to keep the World CupIt’s just a small investment. They did it with payments through television rights and the distribution of, at least, one million dollars for each vote which he received from the representatives of the football federations. In this sense, the documentary Netflix, “FIFA Uncovered”, is brutal and definitive about what happened in Switzerland in 2013.
Although the worst came later, when Qatar had to build all the stadiums and the necessary structure for an event of this type. invested some 220,000 million dollars, the most expensive world cup in history, while exploiting the workers. According to International Amnesty, 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 it they paid commissions up to $4,300 to contractors, and have 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 months late in payments. Workers who want to quit cannot do so because many employers hold passports and residence permits. 12-hour days were recorded, with no rest days for weeks or even months. Some 40 workers died from these mistreatments and another 50 suffered serious injuries. Other reports speak of 36,000 victims.
Faced with all these tragedies, the enormous propaganda apparatus set up by the Qatari government for this event responded and has Sheikha Mozah as its friendliest face. Her job is to embody the “soft power”the photogenic and charming side of a family running a sharia state, in which homosexuality is punishable by death, women have severe restrictions on their freedoms and foreign workers are stripped 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.