Mon. Dec 5th, 2022

Ottawa is warning Canadians visiting Qatar to cheer on the men’s national soccer team during the World Cup to “dress conservatively” and “behave with discretion.”

These are just two pieces of advice in a series of messages released by the federal government ahead of the tournament, which starts on Sunday. Qatar is the first nation in the Arab world to host the prestigious event, but it has been the subject of controversy since FIFA named it host 12 years ago.

Allegations of mistreatment of migrant workers building infrastructure for the World Cup have been made for years, and Qatar’s record on LGBTQ2 rights has recently been called into question.

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On a special travel advice website for World Cup fans, Ottawa has outlined some advice for Canadians heading to Qatar, including information on local laws. The federal government has detailed entry requirements during the tournament and the best modes of transportation.

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He also warned Canadians that the conservative Muslim country has many laws that differ from Canada’s. The penalties for something legal in Canada can be severe in Qatar, where it may not be legal, Ottawa said.

“Revealing clothing is considered inappropriate. To avoid offending local sentiments, dress conservatively, behave discreetly and respect religious and social traditions,” the government said.

“Public displays of affection including holding hands and kissing are not socially accepted. Qatari law criminalizes sexual acts and relationships between persons of the same sex or unmarried persons. However, there are no restrictions on same-sex friends or couples (including 2SLGBTQI+) staying in the same room.”

Click to play video: 'Government diplomats must 'speak out about these abuses' if they attend 2022 FIFA World Cup: Human Rights Watch'

Government diplomats must ‘speak out about these abuses’ if they attend 2022 FIFA World Cup: Human Rights Watch

Photographing Qatari nationals without consent is also prohibited, Ottawa added. Journalists, including independent social media creators, need special visas and permits to use photography and video recording equipment or conduct interviews within Qatar.

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“There is no legal guarantee of freedom of the press or freedom of expression,” the government said.

“Avoid using obscene language or gestures, arguing or insulting others in public and avoid religious proselytizing, criticizing the government of Qatar or the Islamic faith in person or on social media as such activities may lead to arrest and prosecution.”

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Furthermore, laws on the sale and consumption of alcohol in Qatar are strict. Although authorities have relaxed alcohol rules in certain “fan zones”, no official information has yet been released on the policy for the sale and consumption of alcohol during the World Cup, Ottawa said.

Drinking or getting drunk in public is an offense and it is illegal to import alcohol into Qatar, including buying it at the airport duty-free, the government said. The legal drinking age is 21. Qatar also has a zero-tolerance policy on the use, trade, smuggling and possession of drugs.

Canadians in Qatar who need urgent consular assistance can contact the Canadian Embassy in Qatar or Ottawa’s 24-hour emergency centre, the government said.

The World Cup in Qatar has been the subject of controversy since it was named host by FIFA in 2010. The nation has faced skepticism over how it convinced FIFA to vote for the country; 21 of the 24 men on FIFA’s Executive Committee who voted to host the 2010 World Cup were variously convicted in criminal or ethics cases, charged, acquitted at trial or implicated in wrongdoing.

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Construction workers walk past the National Museum of Qatar in Doha, Qatar on October 31.

Simon Holmes/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The reported treatment of migrant workers building World Cup infrastructure in Qatar, many of whom rights groups claimed died on the job, was highlighted ahead of the event. Qatar’s ruling emir called the criticism an “unprecedented campaign” aimed at the first Arab nation to host the tournament. Qatar has repeatedly hit back, insisting it has improved protections for migrant workers and claiming the criticisms are out of date.

Qatar’s stance on LGTBQ2 rights has also come under fire, with some soccer stars raising concerns about the rights of fans traveling to the event. The nation promised that LGTBQ2 fans would not face arrest, but Qatari security forces arbitrarily arrested and abused LGBTQ2 Qataris in September, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on October 24. A Qatari official called HRW’s allegations “categorically and unequivocally false,” in a statement.

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Canadian Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge said in a tweet on Oct. 28 that the safety of Canadians attending the World Cup must be ensured. St-Onge told Global News earlier this month that Ottawa was joining calls for “transparency and strong measures” to protect the migrant workers who built the World Cup infrastructure.

Late last month, Canada Soccer, the sport’s governing body in the country, released a statement saying it “supports the continued pursuit of further progress on labor rights and inclusiveness as Qatar prepares to host the world.”

Ottawa, which has diplomatically boycotted the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics because of China’s poor human rights record, previously told Global News that no plan had yet been made for a federal dignitary to attend the World Cup.

The Canadian men’s national team, playing in its second World Cup and first in 36 years, will play its first game against Belgium on November 23.

– with files from the Associated Press

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