The Maastricht Journal of Politics & Economics
World Cup 2022: The Big Lost Opportunity to See the Middle-East Uncovered
Updated: Feb 15
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By Siavash Mohades
The World Cup in Qatar just ended, and with it disappeared media's #1 topic for the last few weeks. However, during the Qatari event, the Middle East still lived, and experienced important political episodes, which did not receive their deserved attention. It is, nevertheless crucial that they do, not only for them, but for all continents.
© Los Angeles Times
1. A Disregarded Area
The continuing saga on the corrupted selection process and tragic news regarding labor conditions in Qatar might have dominated the news of the Middle East columns in the past weeks, but the massive death toll of the political corruption and instability, as well as terrorist activities, have remained as high as before the World Cup, yet even less noticed and discussed with all the eyes staring at the football pitches of Qatar.
Even when the media focused on the restrictions imposed by the hosting country with their abuses of the fundamental rights of players and fans regarding their clothing, drinking habits, and even rainbow armbands with the easy excuse of culture [NYTimes], some important societal and political events in the neighboring countries of the World Cup host remained unheard of.
Minorities in the middle east need to be heard – in every possible fashion that saves their lives and future, and we have simply lost the chance to be their voices when our media was busy with the football glamour and its usual gossip. Our values must not remain regional but spread to all the corners of our globe. It will only do the democratic world good if all the countries adore liberal values.
But a natural question might arise; How might hearing others help Europe?
2. Immigration Crisis
The countries that currently battle corruption and dictatorship have experienced low economic growth in the last three decades. Let us look at the example of Iran and Turkey as the most populous countries in the region – both of which facing political turmoil, corruption and dictatorship in different political shapes:
To keep the economic outlook of both countries as brief as possible, the low economic growth has been accompanied by increasing unemployment rates and currency crises. With both countries being in their youth window and providing almost nothing for the future of their respective younger generation, a novel wave of immigrants towards the European borders might seem inevitable: unless the political renaissances in both countries led by the youth receive external support in all levels. The political support needs a good public reflection from the EU nations, and such good reflection and public accompany requires an aware society helped by aware media.
3. Energy Security
With the war in Ukraine and the sanctions on Russia remain existing in the outlook of 2023, there must be a way for the EU economy to benefit from its energy-rich neighbors more effectively. The long-term future might sound optimistic regarding sustainable energy resources, but the short-term outlook is not encouraging. The closure of nuclear plants in Germany and a few other countries in the EU will only worsen the situation, and the need for a politically stable and sound energy supplier from the Middle East is imminent.
4. How Could Football World Cup help all this?
It is a pretty tricky task for a sporting event: Middle east is a region with some of the most stringent contradictions in the world: richest and poorest, safest and most dangerous areas are separated by just a few hundred kilometers. Some hundred meters of dunes separate the sea and tiny forests. With all the regional differences, similarities exist - and coevolve among neighboring countries.
The footballing event could raise awareness about the major social movements in countries like Iran and the social crisis in countries like Yemen of Afghanistan, yet it did not truly succeed in doing so. Football society has usually remained silent about politics – even if indeed so – the western media failed to highlight the true deep crises of the hosting region. We observed how Mario (the infamous pitch invader) had all the eyes staring at him - not only for the 10 seconds he ran through the scene - but for a few days; the headlines mentioned his name. Yet, the messages on his shirt were forgotten quite easily.
5. The Contradictions of the Middle East and the Need for External support
While the reformist Saudi prince invites the likes of Mariah Carey, 50 Cent, Janet Jackson and Sean Paul to accomplish his up-down approach to liberalizing his country, the Iranian women lead a freedom movement on the frontline but with an entirely different grass-rooted approach. All the middle eastern roads may not lead to Rome but to a liberal, progressive (not necessarily in its Western-woke-folk context) future. These movements need to be heard and supported in different means. Otherwise, Middle Eastern life will remain as dark and brutal as it has been.
As explained above, there is an urgent political and societal need to save human rights and lives in the Middle East. Events will be held in these countries - whether we like it or not - and it is better to do our part in assuring the political and societal path towards a liberal, progressive and humane future for the whole region. I promise that under normal living conditions in a transparent democratic society, those governors will not dare to treat labor poorly, execute their protestors daily and change their constitutions to remain in power.
Sources: NYTimes, World Bank, CNN, BBCPersian
Written by Siavash Mohades
The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of MJPE or its Board. The designations employed in this publication and the presentation of material therein do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the MJPE concerning the legal status of any country, area or territory or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers.