Exclusive

'Don’t disrespect Qatar': Sir Tony Blair says it's time to 'move on' from World Cup protests about LGBTQ+ rights

28 November 2022, 12:24 | Updated: 28 November 2022, 13:05

Sir Tony Blair has said he thinks it's time to move on from protesting about Qatar's human rights record
Sir Tony Blair has said he thinks it's time to move on from protesting about Qatar's human rights record. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Former PM Sir Tony Blair has said protests over Qatar's human rights record that take place during the World Cup are in danger of going "over the top."

He said: "It's not sensible of us to disrespect Qatar. This is their biggest event they’ve held.

"It’s a huge event for the country. They are allies of us, they invest huge amounts of money in this country.

"One of the things I can see now is a kind of social revolution going on across the Middle East and I think it will in the end change the role of women and things like gay rights.

"Make your point, but then having made your point you recognise for the country it’s a very important event.

"There is a process of change. Is it happening quick enough? No - you always want it to happen quicker, but there is this process of change happening across the Middle East," he said on The News Agents podcast with Emily Maitlis and Jon Sopel.

He said wearing a OneLove armband would not “determine whether the country moves into a more progressive position or not.”

Read more: Chinese TV edits out live crowd shots from World Cup as 'Zero Covid' backlash grows in China and protests erupt

Read more: BBC journalist beaten and kicked by Chinese police while covering anti-lockdown protest in Shanghai

"It’s important now I think having made the point, we move on."

Since long before the start of the tournament, protesters have highlighted the Gulf state's treatment of migrant workers, the anti-LGBTQ+ stance, and the country's record on environmental issues.

A row erupted at the start of the tournament over players’ plans to wear OneLove armbands to promote inclusivity and LGBTQ+ rights.

Tony Blair addresses criticism around Qatar hosting the World Cup

England along with six other nations were planing to wear the armbands during games in protest at Qatar, which criminalises same-sex relationships.

The FA confirmed the players would not wear the armbands, after FIFA threatened sporting sanctions for anyone wearing it.

Football pundit Gary Neville described FIFA as a “rogue organisation,” adding “at this tournament we've seen them at their worst.

“I don’t think they’re a great face for world football. What’s an armband going to do to harm FIFA?”

FIFA officials threatened anyone wearing the armband with a booking and further ‘disciplinary action.

Listen to the News Agents podcast on Global Player

FIFA said it is an inclusive organisation that wants to put football to the benefit of society by supporting good and legitimate causes, but within the ‘framework’ of the competition’s regulations.

Sir Tony also discussed China's Zero Covid policy.

He described Zero Covid as "a policy that is completely irrational because the damage that you do in trying to enforce a zero covid policy is actually greater than that damage that you’d do if you took a more measured policy."

He said China's president Xi Jinping has "nailed those colours to that mast" and "he now can’t un-nail them."

More protests have erupted across China in recent days in the latest reaction to the country’s Zero Covid policy.

China is facing its largest anti-government demonstrations since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, with protests erupting in at least seven cities over the country's strict Covid rules. 

The latest wave of protests is believed to have erupted after a fire broke out in the city of Urumqi in which 10 people died. Residents claimed lockdown rules hindered their rescue and escape.

During the protests, a BBC journalist was arrested and beaten, with Chinese officials going on to claim he was detained ‘for his own good’ in case he caught Covid-19 from the crowd.

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Breaking
Breaking News

Man arrested after man ‘threatened to blow himself up’ outside Iranian consulate in Paris

The Canary Islands tourism minister has urged British holidaymakers not to cancel their trips.

Canary Islands plead with British holidaymakers not to cancel trips despite surge in anti-tourism protests

Breaking
Nicola Sturgeon speaks to the media (l) after husband Peter Murrell (pictured with her right) charged over SNP finance probe

Nicola Sturgeon breaks silence after husband Peter Murrell charged in SNP finance probe

Women who have been filmed covertly on nights out are being asked to contact police

Women urged to contact police over 'misogynistic' Manchester nightlife videos as clips surface from other cities

Italy G7 Foreign Ministers

Israel ‘gave US last-minute warning about drone attack on Iran’

Pictures of the Week Global Photo Gallery

Iran fires air defence batteries at two sites after drones spotted

Building on fire

Ukraine claims it shot down Russian bomber as Moscow’s missiles kill eight

Signs twinning Bournemouth with Israeli city mysteriously vanish as police probe apparent hate crime

Signs twinning Bournemouth with Israeli city mysteriously vanish as police probe apparent hate crime

Antonio Tajani

G7 foreign ministers warns of new sanctions on Iran and urge de-escalation

Boris Johnson breached rules for former ministers, watchdog rules

Boris Johnson breached government rules by being ‘evasive’ about links to hedge fund

The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology has 31 tracks

The hidden meaning behind tracks on Taylor Swift's new album as superstar blasts exes Joe Alwyn and Matty Healy

Passengers on London's transport network should be thrown off if they play music out loud, Susan Hall says

People who play music out loud on London transport ‘to be thrown off’ says Tory Susan Hall as mayoral race hots up

Google HQ

Japanese doctors demand damages from Google over ‘groundless’ reviews

EU proposes a deal on free movement for young people

Brussels offers the UK a free movement deal that would give young Britons the right to live in the EU

‘Not fair on taxpayers’: PM to unleash ‘sick-note squads’ as he tells Brits ‘you don’t get anything in life without hard work’

PM to unleash ‘sick-note squads’ as he tells Brits ‘you don’t get anything in life without hard work’

Air defences

Russia pummels exhausted Ukrainian forces ahead of springtime advance