The Middle East

The World Cup Kicks Off in Qatar Amid Scrutiny

By: Hannah Gavin

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Senior Associate Member

LUSAIL, Qatar – Kicking off on November 20th, the FIFA World Cup began in Lusail, Qatar. The World Cup, while typically a joyous occasion, has been shrouded in questions about the civil rights status of many living within Qatar. Primarily these concerns which have garnered international attention, include issues with LGBTQIA+ people and migrant workers. Although some hope was given that there would be some mitigation of these issues prior to the start of the game, no such hope remains. 

Construction work in Doha, Qatar ahead of the 2022 World Cup. Photo courtesy of Tasneem Alsultan for The New York Times

Qatar is a small, oil-rich shore country on the Persian Gulf. The nation is a traditionally conservative Muslim nation which adheres to a strict interpretation of Islam. Many in the International community feared that the nation was not open enough to Western ideals to accommodate such a multicultural event. One concession Qatar made was to allow alcohol to be consumed within the stadiums. However, just two days before the first match, the country reneged on this promise and made the stadiums go dry.

One of the most prominent issues in the nation is its treatment of LGBTQIA+ people. It is illegal to be gay in Qatar. Any act that is considered “immoral” can lead to a prison sentence. Fans have feared that it may not be safe for LGBTQIA+ visitors in the nation. Despite reassurances from Qatari leaders, since the commencement of the games, there have been several instances of fans being forced to change out of rainbow dress and players being banned from wearing rainbow armbands. Although, so far, LGBTQIA+ fans within the designated stadium zones have gone unharmed, outside of the designated zones they do not have the same protections.

Another human rights issue in Qatar is the treatment of migrant workers. In the past decade, Qatar has welcomed millions of migrant workers in an attempt to make up for a lack of cheap labor within the country. Over three million migrants currently live in the nation. These workers worked in horrid conditions, getting paid on average less than $300 per month. Although Qatar claims less than 50 workers have been killed in the building of the stadiums, other estimates are in the thousands. Beyond this, many workers have been under the complete control of their employers with almost no autonomy. While many gather in the stadiums built by migrant workers, there are families across mainly southern Asia whose loved ones will never return.

Despite these serious concerns, the World Cup in Qatar will go on. The event is estimated to draw in over $10 billion for the country. Although a massive success even despite the controversy, no attendee can ignore that past the glitz and glam, there are real lives at risk in the small country. Once the matches end and the pitch is cleared, these individuals will have to continue on in a nation in which they are not valued. 


For further information, please see:

Britannica – Qatar: Host of the 2022 World Cup – 2022

Human Rights Watch – Qatar: Security Forces Arrest, Abuse LGBT People – Oct. 24, 2022

NPR – Here are the things World Cup fans are restricted from doing in Qatar – Nov. 19, 2022

NYT – The World Cup’s Forgotten Team – Nov. 16, 2022

Kuwaiti’s Constitutional Court Overturns Anti-Transgender Law in a Historic Decision

By: Matthew Mayers

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

KUWAIT A judgment issued by Kuwaiti’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday February 16, 2022, held that Article 198 of the penal code was unconstitutional. The court reasoned that the law, which criminalized “imitation of the opposite sex”, lacked an objective analysis for identifying the offense. Accordingly, the law violated Article 30 of the Kuwaiti Constitution, which guarantees personal freedom.

Formerly imprisoned Kuwaiti transgender woman, Maha al-Mutairi. Photo courtesy of

The enactment of Article 198 of the Criminal Code in December 10, 2007, criminalized LGTBQ identities and expression. The law provided that “any person committing an indecent act in a public place or imitating the appearance of a member of the opposite sex, shall be subject to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year or a fine not exceeding one thousand dinars” (i.e., $3,500). Legal and human rights advocates have argued that the law was vague and arbitrarily enforced. Consequently, on December 29, 2021, the law was challenged in the Constitutional Court.

Since the law’s enactment, it has been used to perpetuate disproportionate arrests and abusive treatment by the Kuwaiti police against the transgender community. In 2012, Human Rights Watch issued a 63-page report documenting the significant discretion Kuwaiti police had over what constituted “imitating the opposite sex”. Transgender women were arrested regardless of if they were wearing gender affirming clothing and were arrested for having a “soft voice” or “smooth skin.” The report also detailed the harms (i.e., rape, sexual assault, and physical assault) that police inflicted among transgender women upon arrest.

The damaging effects of the law has sparked online movements advocating for the release of Kuwait’s LGBTQ persons. Maha al-Mutairi, for example was arrested under Article 198, was fined and sentenced to two years in prison. She used Snapchat, GoFundMe and petition platforms to raise awareness of the abuse she endured from Kuwaiti police officers during her 2019 detention. Her efforts promoted her release and dropped charges on appeal in 2021.

Kuwaiti’s Constitutional Court’s decision is considered a tremendous breakthrough by some. Human rights advocate, Tareq Alkhudari, suggested that since 2020, Kuwait is facing a significant LGBTQ movement with people changing their attitudes and becoming more educated about LGBTQ rights. Lynn Maalouf, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Division, however, says that the rights of LGBTQ persons in Kuwait require additional protections. Maalouf says that Kuwait must repeal Article 198, prohibit enforcement of the law, drop all charges and convictions of persons unjustly arrested from the law, and investigate the allegations of police misconduct pursuant to the law.

For further information please see:

Amnesty International – Kuwait: Overturning law that criminalized ‘imitation of the opposite sex’ a breakthrough for transgender rights – 16 Feb. 2022

Human Rights Watch – Kuwait: End Police Abuses Against Transgender Women – 15 Jan. 2012

Reuters – Kuwait court overturns law criminalising imitation of opposite sex – 16 Feb. 2022

The New York Times – Kuwait Overturns Law Used to Prosecute Transgender People – 16 Feb. 2022


Protests Continue as Students from Prestigious Istanbul University Fight Erdoğan’s Appointment of New Rector

By: Phyllis Duffy

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

ISTANBUL, Turkey – Protests erupt as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appoints Melih Bulu as the new rector at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul. Bulu is a businessman known for his links to President Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP). The decision to appoint Bulu was condemned by university members and construed “as a government attempt to infiltrate one of the country’s last left-leaning institutions.” Bulu is the first rector selected from outside Boğaziçi University’s community since Turkey’s 1980 military coup.

Turkish Police forcefully detaining a demonstrator during protests against President Erdoğan’s rector appointment. Photo Courtesy of Human Rights Watch and Murat Baykara/Sipa via AP Images.

Under AKP rule, Turkish institutions and society are “on a firmly religious and socially conservative path.” President Erdoğan hopes to raise a “pious generation;” however, younger people are snubbing his vision for the future of Turkey. This is due to the overwhelming lack of employment younger people, especially new graduates, are facing.

Can Selçuki, general manager of the consultancy Istanbul Economics Research, addressed why he believes the younger generations are resisting. Selçuki argues that younger people are “independent and articulate, and they know what they want.” With this, he argues that there has been “a shift away from the identity politics that currently define so much of the political sphere.” Today, Turkish people want the government to provide them with assistance and do not care which politician provides these services.

What started as a peaceful protest back in January 2021 — faculty members and students standing silently, socially distanced, and with their backs turned on the rector’s office —quickly turned into arrests and the use of excessive force by the police. 

Since the demonstration started, around 700 protesters have been detained,  many of which have since been released. The majority of those arrested have been students “marking one of the biggest displays of civil unrest in Turkey since the 2013 Gezi Park movement.” Five of these detainees were students who were arrested for carrying LGBTQ flags. On April 1, police violently arrested thirty-five students. Images of the April 1st events depict police grabbing students’ throats and throwing them to the ground. As time progresses, the violence towards the protesters has become increasingly more violent.

Erdoğan said “his government would not allow the Boğaziçi protests to spiral out of control,” referring to demonstrators as “terrorists and LGBT youth.”  He believes that the protesters are working against the government’s “national and spiritual values.”  A fourth-year political science student, Behren Evlice, explained how the students and young people of Turkey are furious because “[t]he state has attacked [them] with the police and violence.” He continued to explain that students simply want their opinions to be taken into consideration when talking about their university.

With no end in sight, police have placed a barricade at the university’s entrance, but this has not stopped protesters from moving towards the rector’s office.  In response to these events, more protests are being called for throughout Turkey in support of the students.

For further information, please see:

BBC NEWS – Turkey’s Erdogan denounces LGBT youth as police arrest students – 2 Feb. 2021

Human Rights Watch – Turkey Resumes its Crackdown on Student Protesters – 2 Apr. 2021

Human Rights Watch – Turkey: Student Protesters at Risk of Prosecution – 18 Feb. 2021

Reuters – Turkey detains 50 more people after university protests – 26 Mar. 2021

The Guardian – Student protests grow as Turkey’s young people turn against Erdoğan – 4 Feb. 2021

The NY Times – Prestigious Istanbul University Fights Erdogan’s Reach – 1 Feb. 2021


Education Crisis: Syrian Refugee Students Denied Access to Learning

By: Chiara Carni

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

BRUSSELS, Belgium – A ministerial conference on Supporting Syria and the Region was held on March 30, 2021 in Brussels. Many argued that this conference should focus on the unprecedented education crisis facing Syrian refugee children in Lebanon. Before the COVID-19 school closure, only 42 percent of the 660,000 school-age Syrian children in Lebanon were going to school. There has been a substantial drop since COVID-19, with the number now resting at 190,000 Syrian children while another 25,000 who should have re-enrolled or entered grade 1 have not. Fewer than one percent of Syrian children complete grade 9.

Less than half of the school-aged refugee children in Lebanon are in formal education. Photo Courtesy of Human Rights Watch.

The Education Ministry announced its official shift to distance learning in March 2020. The Ministry announced that it would publish a distance learning strategy in August, but has failed to do so. Additionally, it has not established any clear plans for school re-openings. The cause for this dramatic drop in enrollment stems from many reasons, including restrictions on education. In many cases, refugee children cannot attend school because their families cannot afford transportation or because public schools have refused to enroll them.  Schools have refused to allow Syrian children to take mandatory exams if they fail to prove legal residency in Lebanon, which is required beginning at age 15. Unfortunately, approximately 70 percent of Syrians cannot qualify or afford to provide this proof.

During the summer of 2020, the Education Ministry forced the closure of nine unlicensed private schools. The schools provided education to approximately 5,000 Syrian students, and in return, the Ministry only provided spaces at public schools for 800 students. Two humanitarian groups paid for 3,000 children to enroll at private schools, leaving 1,200 students still unenrolled by the closure. Because of the financial toll COVID-19 has put on Lebanese families, 70 percent of Lebanese children previously enrolled in private schools are now enrolled in public schools. This transfer has left almost 40,000 fewer spaces for Syrian children.

Donors pay Lebanon for each Syrian refugee child enrolled in school and pay school fees for Lebanese children. As of 2020, humanitarian funding has decreased from 1.3 billion dollars to 944 million dollars. This decrease can expect to continue if the participants contributing to the funding refuse their pledges. This decrease, coupled with the Education Ministry’s refusal to run back-to-school campaigns to promote enrollment, has contributed to the education crisis at hand.

An insufficient number of Syrian refugee children have access to the technology necessary for their education. In 2018, donors provided funds to the UN to purchase laptops for public schools. These laptops were never distributed to the students. The import company falsely claimed that 2,335 of the laptops had been destroyed in the Beirut port explosion while, instead, the laptops were sold to private buyers. Unaffordable cost of data, little internet access, and the lack of technology devices have limited Syrian children’s online access.

For further information, please see:

Executive Magazine – Lebanon’s experience with distance learning – 11 June 2020

Human Rights Watch – Lebanon: Action Needed on Syrian Refugee Education Crisis – 26 Mar. 2021

The 961 – A Company Sold Donated Laptops That Were Supposed To Go To Schools In Lebanon – 8 Feb. 2021