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Brussels bar owner joins others in Qatar World Cup boycott over 'ethical' concerns

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By Méabh Mc Mahon
Qatar World Cup
Qatar World Cup   -   Copyright  AP Photo   -  

A number of municipalities and bars in Brussels have decided to snub the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Qatar and will not be showing the games live.

The decision is based on "political, ethical, social and ecological reasons," bar owner Emmanuel Simonis told Euronews.

Simonis owns the trendy drinking spots Cafe Caberdouche and La Maison du Peuple and said his bars normally attract huge crowds during the World Cup and Uefa matches, but that this time it didn't feel right. 

"It was really the accumulation of everything from the way the contract was awarded, the corruption scandals, the stadium construction scandals, the choice of country," he told Euronews.

He added that the energy crisis also played a role in his decision.

"Everyone is wondering how they will pay their energy bill while watching a championship that takes place in air-conditioned stadiums in the middle of the desert," he told Euronews.

After announcing the decision on social media, hundreds of people supported it and agreed to come to the bar on the evenings of the games to join a collective boycott. His staff and regular customers were also on board.

This decision echoes that of major French cities, including Strasbourg, Lille and Marseille, that announced they would not organise fan zones for the World Cup over human rights and environmental concerns.

According to data from Amnesty International, 1.7 million migrant workers are based in Qatar with many abused, exploited and living in appalling conditions.

The European Parliament has passed four resolutions about the World Cup. German Greens MEP Hannah Neumann told Euronews the World Cup should never have been given to Qatar.

"The whole world cup situation with Qatar is a mess. The World Cup should never have been given to Qatar in the first place because of the human rights situation in which the country is, because it is no democracy, it is highly problematic.

"Since then, we have seen some improvements for the rights of migrant workers, but that does not make anyone alive again that was killed in the first years when constructing the stadiums," says Neumann adding that she doesn't feel l like watching the party, even though she really likes soccer.

EU top foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell also won't be watching the games, as he will "be simply too busy to turn on the television," his spokesperson told Euronews.

Josep Borrell has been trying to exert pressure on Qatari authorities by hosting a number of human rights dialogues to discuss migrant workers’ rights, labour reforms, women’s rights and freedom of expression.

According to a report by the EU's foreign service, the EEAS, Qatari women continue to face instances of domestic violence and discrimination in some forms and the LGBTI community risk criminal prosecution under the country's penal code.