A Qatari whistleblower who was jailed after raising concerns about the mistreatment of migrant workers at World Cup stadium sites was tortured on the eve of the tournament, his family has claimed.
The human rights organisation FairSquare also released a letter from the family of Abdullah Ibhais, a former media manager in Qatar’s Supreme Committee, who accused Fifa of “callous indifference” for ignoring his case.
FairSquare is now calling for the United Nations working group on arbitrary detention to intervene in the hope that Ibhais will be released from his three-year jail sentence.
In the letter Ibhais’s family claims he spent four days “in complete darkness in solitary confinement after being physically assaulted” as punishment for contributing to last month’s ITV documentary Qatar: State of Fear? — with the air conditioning at full blast and used as a torture device. “He was in a cell of two by one metres with a hole in the ground as a bathroom and with temperatures near freezing,” the letter adds. “‘I was already suffering from several bruises after the prison guards’ assault and I was shivering all the time, as the cold air directed to me never stopped. ‘I hardly slept during those four days,’ he told us.”
Ibhais says he was jailed after raising concerns that the Supreme Committee planned to deny that World Cup workers were involved in a strike of between 4,000 and 6,000 people in Doha. He says he found 200 workers in Education City Stadium and Al Bayt Stadium that had no drinking water and had not been paid for four months. However, Qatar’s authorities insist that Ibhais, who was removed from his role in 2019, was sentenced on fraud charges relating to a contract to produce social media content for the World Cup. But that is disputed by Fair Square, which says he was coerced into a confession and denied a fair trial.
Nicholas McGeehan of FairSquare said Ibhais had gone to Fifa before his arrest. “He was messaging directly members of Fifa’s human rights team,” said McGeehan. “At some point, however, they just disappeared. They essentially ghosted him – for want of a better word – and he had no further communication from them after that.”
Ibhais’s family also directly criticises Fifa in its letter. “We the family of Abdullah Ibhais are calling out Fifa and its president Gianni Infantino, who once said ‘the World Cup is the voice of the marginalised’,” it states. “Your deeds haven’t lived up to your words, Fifa is complicit in Abdullah’s imprisonment and Fifa’s silence is tearing apart our family. We refuse Fifa’s callous indifference, we refuse to back down.
Fifa and the Supreme Committee were approached for comment. Both confirmed they were aware of the letter and its contents.