Ahead of the FIFA World Cup in November, Qatar has called up thousands of civilians for mandatory military service to run security operations at the huge tournament, Reuters reported Tuesday.
The report noted that conscripts did not have a choice in the matter, with one source saying: “Most people are there because they have to be — they don’t want to get in trouble.”
The conscripts include diplomats called back from service overseas, it said. They are being trained for work at security checkpoints and to scan for contraband, while treating visitors with “positive body language, focus and a smile.”
The tiny Gulf state has been preparing for a massive influx of tourists, with a total of 2.45 million tickets sold for this year’s competition.
Qatar has faced ongoing scrutiny over human rights issues in the lead-up to the tournament that launches on November 20. It has been heavily criticized for its record on labor rights at the huge infrastructure projects it has launched in the past decade, and also on LGBTQ rights.
But it says that much of the criticism is unfair and that major reforms have changed conditions for hundreds of thousands of migrant workers.
Human rights groups have urged sponsors of the World Cup to support calls for compensation for migrant workers and their families over alleged abuses.
Qatar has faced accusations of under-reporting deaths and injuries among migrant workers and of not doing enough to alleviate harsh conditions. Unpaid wages have also been frequently raised.
The Qatari government has highlighted major reforms it has introduced, including a minimum wage, dismantling a scheme that gave employers stringent controls over laborers, and imposing stricter rules on working in the summer heat.