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Qatar World Cup 2022: Players concerned about human rights will be free to protest, says tournament boss | World News

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Players wanting to protest about human rights during the World Cup in Qatar will be free to make their points, according to the chief executive of the tournament.

Speaking to Sky News precisely one year before the World Cup kicks off, Nasser al Khater said they were talking to the English FA and other football associations to encourage them to make informed decisions.

“Anybody who wants to take a position on a topic (it) is their personal right…we have invited them to see things for themselves to look at the progress that has been made over the 10 years,” he said.

“It is their right to have these positions, the important thing is for them to take these positions with full information….it is not to take a position based on the news.”

The Al Thumama Stadium in Doha is one of the venues for the Qatar World Cup next year. Pic: AP
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The Al Thumama Stadium in Doha is one of the venues for the Qatar World Cup next year. Pic: AP

The numbers of fatalities among migrant workers who have helped build the stadiums and facilities are disputed.

While over 6,000 migrant deaths have been recorded in the Gulf state since Qatar was awarded the World Cup, the chief executive of the tournament insisted just three workers have lost their lives during the construction process and significant improvements have been made to working conditions and workers’ rights.

“Unfortunately the numbers that have been published are not accurate and do not reflect the reality for construction workers on World Cup sites,” he said.

“That is a prime example of where we have been unfairly treated…it is publicly available information and the annual worker’s welfare report (shows) there have been three work-related fatalities and 39 non-work-related fatalities in the past 10 years.

“These are lives, human beings with families and we share our deepest sympathies with the families of these workers that have lost their life.”

Workers walk to the Lusail Stadium. Pic: AP
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Workers walk to the Lusail Stadium. Pic: AP

Amnesty and other human rights groups say the reality for migrant workers does not match the official version from tournament organisers.

Amnesty recently said “complacency by the authorities is leaving thousands of workers at continued risk of exploitation”.

Jakob Jensen, from the Denmark FA, told Sky News that their national team would use their position to protest during the World Cup.

The Denmark football team. Pic: AP
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Denmark’s national football team is planning to protest during the tournament. Pic: AP

He said: “We’ve also talked to migrant workers in Qatar and the message they’ve given us is ‘please keep your focus on us, please do not boycott the World Cup’.

“If you want to improve conditions for us, stay at the negotiating table, keep putting a light on the conditions that we are working under. And that’s very important for us to take and utilise this advice that we’ve been given.”

LGBTQ+ fans have also voiced deep concerns about the World Cup given that homosexuality is against the law in Qatar.

Chris Paouros, from Kick It Out, told Sky News she could not face travelling to a tournament: “I think about LGBTQ+ Qataris every time I think about Qatar and how they have to live in secret.

“It pains me that we are taking the world’s biggest football tournament to a country that wants to criminalise us.”

The tournament’s chief executive Nasser al Khater said: “Everyone’s welcome isn’t just a slogan, it is a fact. We are not making differentiation based on race, gender, orientation, religion – everybody is welcome.”

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COVID-19: Second night of violence in The Netherlands as rioters clash with police over new rules | World News

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Seven people have been arrested after rioters clashed with police in The Hague for a second night of violence in the Netherlands, sparked by protests over new COVID-19 restrictions.

The unrest came a day after police opened fire on protesters in Rotterdam amid what the port city’s mayor called “an orgy of violence”, leaving three people seriously injured after they were hit by bullets. Police said investigations are under way to establish if the shots were fired by officers.

In The Hague on Saturday night, young people set fires in the streets and threw fireworks at officers.

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Clashes in Rotterdam on Friday night over COVID rules

Police said in a tweet that seven people were arrested and five officers were injured, while one needed treatment in a hospital following the clashes.

Elsewhere in the Netherlands, two soccer matches in the top professional league had to be briefly halted after fans – banned from matches under a partial lockdown in force in the country for a week – broke into stadiums in the towns of Alkmaar and Almelo.

There was a heavy police presence in several other major towns after social media calls to riot followed the Rotterdam clashes, but any further violence was largely contained, Dutch media reported.

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Thousands protest new lockdown in Austria

Demonstrations have been taking place on the streets of several European cities this weekend, in protest against new lockdown measures.

Tens of thousands have voiced their anger in the Austrian capital after the government announced a nationwide lockdown and said coronavirus vaccinations would become mandatory by law next year, blaming the country’s high infection numbers on those who have failed to take up the jab.

The nationwide lockdown will start on Monday and will initially last for 10 days, before being re-assessed, and will last a maximum of 20 days.

Demonstrators light flares during a demonstration against COVID lockdown measures in Vienna, Austria. Pic: AP
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Demonstrators light flares during a demonstration against COVID lockdown measures in Vienna, Austria. Pic: AP
A demonstrator holds a banner during a protest in Brussels
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A demonstrator holds a banner during a protest in Brussels

Most shops will close and cultural events will be cancelled. People will only be able to leave their homes for certain reasons, including food shopping, going to the doctor, or doing exercise.

Austria’s infection rate is among the highest on the continent, with a seven-day incidence of 971.5 per 100,000 people – and daily cases keep setting records.

Around 65% of Austria’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, one of the lowest rates in western Europe. In the UK it is about 68%.

Protest against COVID-19 measures in Amsterdam
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There was also a protest against COVID-19 measures in Amsterdam on Saturday
Police officers stand guard as demonstrators gather in the Austrian capital
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Police officers stand guard as demonstrators gathered in the Austrian capital

Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg has apologised to all vaccinated people, saying it was not fair they had to suffer under the renewed lockdown restrictions when they had done everything to help contain the virus.

“I’m sorry to take this drastic step,” he said on public broadcaster ORF.

While Austria so far stands alone in the EU in making vaccinations mandatory, more and more governments are clamping down.

From Monday, Slovakia, where just 45.3% of the 5.5 million population is fully vaccinated, is banning people who have not been from all non-essential stores and shopping centres.

They will also not be allowed to attend public events or gatherings and will be required to test twice a week just to go to work.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said: “It is really, absolutely, time to take action.”

A man is detained in Vienna
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A protester is detained by police in Vienna
A demonstrator faces the riot police in Brussels
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A demonstrator faces the riot police in Brussels
People gather at the Bois de la Cambre/Ter Kamerenbos park in defiance of Europe's coronavirus social distancing measures and restrictions in Brussels
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People gather at the Bois de la Cambre/Ter Kamerenbos park in defiance of Europe’s coronavirus social distancing measures and restrictions in Brussels

With a vaccination rate of 67.5%, her nation is now considering mandatory vaccinations for many health professionals.

Greece is also targeting the unvaccinated. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has announced new restrictions for the unjabbed, including stopping them entering venues such as bars, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, museums, and gyms, even if they have tested negative.

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Demonstrations against coronavirus restrictions have also taken place in Switzerland, Croatia and Italy.

And in central Hull, around 200 anti-vaxxers marched through the streets, demanding that carers looking after the elderly and vulnerable should not be forced to have the jab.

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France: Pensioner kills bear with rifle after part of his leg torn off in attack | World News

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A brown bear has been shot dead by a man hunting wild boar after it attacked and tore part of his leg off in southwestern France, according to reports.

The 70-year-old is said to have fired his rifle twice in self-defence – killing the female animal instantly.

He was airlifted to hospital by helicopter and is described as being in a serious condition.

The authorities in France have launched an investigation into the incident happened near Seix, in Ariège, on Saturday afternoon.

A member of the local hunting association told the news website La Depeche said: “I was a little further away, I didn’t see what was happening but I heard the call on the radio.

“The bear attacked him and grabbed his leg, he tore his calf off and injured him in the other leg too.

“One person managed to stop the bleeding until the arrival of help.”

He added: “It doesn’t surprise me, they are coming closer and closer because there is nothing left to eat in the mountains.

“But he shot him only for the sake of himself.”

The attack is set to reignite the debate over the reintroduction of brown bears to the Pyrenees.

The move was controversial among farmers who believe the animals pose a threat to their livestock.

In last year’s census, 64 bears were counted across the Pyrenees.

Critics argue as numbers grow they are increasingly finding it more difficult to get food, bringing them into closer contact with people.

Local media report between January and October of this year, bears killed or are thought to have killed 625 sheep, 16 cattle, 17 horses and a dog.

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Peng Shuai: Images of the tennis star are welcome, but we still don’t know if she is free | World News

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Sunday lunch at Beijing Yibin Guesthouse is noisy and busy, with customers queuing for the restaurant’s signature dishes – fiery Sichuan noodles and pig’s elbow.

It’s a popular spot, and the one chosen to reveal Peng Shuai’s whereabouts to the world.

After three weeks of asking “where is Peng Shuai?” – this is China’s attempt at an answer.

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Peng Shuai dines in restaurant

Videos released by state media showed Peng at the guesthouse. Bizarrely, she and her guests mention the date out loud – five times in the short clip.

That’s not usually what friends on a Saturday night out do – more the sort of thing you would expect from a proof of life video.

On Sunday, when Sky News visits, staff confirm Peng was there. “Yes. She has been here for meal. Yes, it’s our restaurant,” a waitress tells us.

Did she see her personally?

“No, I didn’t. Yesterday I was busy with my work here. I didn’t see her. But she had a meal in our restaurant.”

State media followed up the restaurant video with footage of Peng at a junior tennis tournament the next morning at the National Tennis Centre, in the 2008 Olympics zone.

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Missing Peng Shuai seen at tennis final

When we slip into the stadium in the early afternoon, there’s no sign of her.

A staff member spots us in the stands and escorts us out. But he says she was indeed there: “Yes, I saw her. But you can’t be here, sorry.”

It’s the most we’ve seen of Peng Shuai since she accused Zhang Gaoli, a very senior Communist politician, of pressuring her into sex.

But none of this was published by Peng. Chinese state media, not her, is providing the updates.

National Tennis Centre, Beijing
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The National Tennis Centre in Beijing, where Peng Shuai was pictured at a junior tournament

And her Weibo account, on which she first published the allegations, is still blocked.

That has left many unconvinced, including the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), which has been unflinching in demanding more information from the Chinese authorities.

After the restaurant video emerged, Steve Simon, the CEO of the WTA, wrote: “While it is positive to see her, it remains unclear if she is free and able to make decisions and take actions on her own, without coercion or external interference. This video alone is insufficient.

“As I have stated from the beginning, I remain concerned about Peng Shuai’s health and safety and that the allegation of sexual assault is being censored and swept under the rug.”

National Tennis Centre, Beijing
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A member of staff at the stadium said Peng had been there

The question “where is Peng Shuai” has been a shorthand – a rallying cry from the tennis world.

Her appearance is welcome.

But the bigger, trickier questions – about her allegations, about her whereabouts since she made them, about her freedom now – have not been answered yet.

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