I am not getting into the shameful decision of FIFA’s threat of on-field punishment for players forcing World Cup teams to back down and abandon a plan for their captains to wear armbands seen as a rebuke to host nation Qatar’s human rights record. It is all over the news, it is deeply upsetting, and here just one of the many references, for accuracy and the record. I am no fan of soccer anyway and I am not following the World Cup.
However: Here is a report in the German “Tagesschau”. A German sports journalist, Claudia Neumann, is reporting from Qatar wearing a t-shirt in rainbow colors. Taking a stand. At the same time the report is mentioning that a Danish reporter, Jon Pagh, was preparing a live transmission in front of the Hotel hosting the Danish soccer team, wearing a One Love armband. Pagh is quoted with a Tweet in which he describes being approached by a Police officer ordering him to remove the armband. The report also mentions how a U.S. journalist, Grant Wahl, was held and harassed by security forces for half an hour and requested to take off a t-shirt in rainbow colors.
That’s the point: The symbol points towards a bad human rights record. Police ordering to remove it is an infringement of the basic human right to freely express an opinion. Which is a testament for a bad human rights record.
German Security authorities warn about the use of apps on smartphones which are requested to be installed by everyone who is traveling to Qatar in order to attend the World Cup. There is strong suspicion that these apps are capable to entirely control functions on the phone from reading out storage to listening in into phone conversations.
The way how to dress is regulated (at least no rainbow colors).
What’s next, and why am I making a point here? Because it is important not to get used to stories like these. I am a (now retired) police officer. All my life I also appreciated that there is an inherent mistrust towards police officers, especially amongst young people. Like, I am having such discussion here in Toronto with my teenaged children. For them, cops are carrying a label of enforcing rules of the State, often perceived as an all intrusive State. Of course, they will add, it is different with Dad. And I could leave it with that. Heck no!
Like I have done in other articles, here is the United Nations definition of policing: ” Policing refers to a function of governance responsible for the prevention, detection and investigation of crime; protection of persons and property; and the maintenance of public order and safety. Police and law enforcement officials have the obligation to respect and protect human rights, including the right to life, liberty and security of the person, as guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and reaffirmed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other relevant instruments.“
So, it is not about Dad being different. It is about a universal yardstick, establishing a minimum framework of how we promote human rights in all our affairs. Shrugging shoulders only leads to getting used to the erosion of fundamental human rights, and concepts how to protect them.
The calm voices of the many need to continue making that point. Over and over again. Stopping to remind equals giving more space to those who continue to chip away from fundamental achievements we have been working hard on for many decades.