Amnesty International call out RFEF and Xavi Hernandez for Saudi Arabia falsities

The deal to take the Spanish Supercup to Saudi Arabia did not make major waves when it was announced, at least it wasn’t heavily criticised from a human rights perspective. Yet following the World Cup in Qatar, there has been growing dissent about the Royal Spanish Football Federation’s role in sportswashing, and much louder criticism of Xavi Hernandez for the same thing.

RFEF President Luis Rubiales has presented the Supercup as a tool of progress, stating that it is helping to improve conditions for women in Saudi Arabia, and women in football.

Cadena SER interviewed Esteban Beltran, Director of Amnesty International in Spain, who gave a much more balanced analysis of current affairs in Saudi Arabia. He was first asked if the situation had actually improved.

“No, not really. There was limited improvement when women were allowed to drive, as if it was a breakthrough. Now some events, not all, are allowed to have women sharing spaces with men, but we’re really talking about serious setbacks, we’ve gone from 65 people executed in 2021 that we know of to 65. So no, there hasn’t been any big improvement.”

Beltran went on to explain that the Gulf states were pursuing a similar strategy in order to gain clout on the global stage.

“They are the four countries: Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. It is the same tactic of all these countries: their strength is money and it is through sport. If, for example, the World Cup or the Olympic Games are awarded [to them], they are going to have the same system of slavery in Saudi Arabia that they had in Qatar. The ‘Kafala system.’ It is a system whereby any migrant worker who arrives there, the employer takes away his passport and confiscates six months of salary. It is a system of semi-slavery that they used in Qatar.”

Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez had been dismissive of criticism of the Middle East, claiming that at the World Cup people saw that the degree of criticism did not match the reality in Qatar or Saudi Arabia. Beltran was directly asked if Xavi was whitewashing the image of those states.

“Clearly. Xavi has had a long tradition of collaborating with these regimes. I don’t know what ‘it’s not a big deal’ means. There are figures that speak of thousands of immigrants building stadiums in which Spain played. And in terms of the death penalty I don’t know if we should explain to him that where he is playing now we don’t know if executions are taking place, because there are so many… They are not doing human rights, or football, or the image of football, or the image of of Barca any favours. Like others, not only him.”

Tags 2022 World Cup Amnesty International Barcelona Luis Rubiales Qatar RFEF Saudi Arabia Xavi Hernandez

1 Comment

  1. Unfortunately, the west is hypocrite. As thought the right for women to have the same rights as men is more important than murdering opposition figures just because they have Instagram or Twitter accounts especially those who have Islamist views

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