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Group H: Homophobia, Islamophobia and democratophobia!

By Martin Smith | 17 June 2014

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-image35972799Welcome to the final post in our series, an alternative look at the eight groups that make up the first round of the World Cup. Phobias – the governments of the Group H countries have them all! The most important thing to remember is that trade unionists, civil rights groups and campaigners in those countries oppose their every move.

You can can see our posts on the other groups here: Group A | Group B | Group C | Group D | Group E | Group F

Civil rights information is from Amnesty International, and economic stats from the World Bank unless otherwise stated.

GROUP H

Algeria

FIFA world ranking: 22

World Economic League ranking: 147

Civil rights issues:

“The government failed to address recommendations to abolish laws originating under the state of emergency, in force from 1992 until 2011, to ease restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and assembly, and to recognize the right to truth of families of victims of enforced disappearances during the 1990s.”

Death penalty: YES

Algerian courts issued 153 death sentences in 2012, but no prisoners were executed that year.

Rich and poor

The richest 20% of Algerians own 42.6% of the country’s wealth. The poorest 20% of Algerians own 7% of the country’s wealth, and 23.3% of children in Algeria suffer from malnutrition

Resistance

The day after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned, February 2011, the “Arab Spring” came to Algeria. Thousands marched on the capital’s May First Square but were beaten back by 30,000 riot police.

Battle of Algiers: a still from the classic film by Gillo Pontecorvo

Battle of Algiers: a still from the classic film by Gillo Pontecorvo

The following day protestors called for weekly occupations of the square. Despite a state of emergency being called by the government, tens of thousands marched but were stopped from taking the square.

These protests continued all through March. Even as late as May doctors striking against cuts attempted to take the square.

Player to watch: Al Arbi Hillel Soudani.

Belgium

FIFA world ranking: 11

Place in world economic league table: 24

Civil rights issues:

According to a Belgium refugee NGOs, over 12,000 asylum seekers, including children, were refused access to the official reception system between October 2009 and the end of 2011. They were left without shelter or medical aid, social or legal assistance. There are over 4,000 migrants living on the streets in Belgium.

An image racists around Europe hate.

An image racists around Europe hate. Graffiti by Stik. Pic credit: Martin Smith

Amnesty International reports that Muslims face widespread discrimination in jobs, housing and education.

Death penalty: NO

Rich and poor:

Each year the United Nations ranks the world’s countries in its Human Development Report. Belgium consistently ranks among the top nations in its human development index that measures the quality of life in countries.

The proportion of the country’s wealth owned by richest 10% is 28.1% while the poorest 10% own just 3.4% of the wealth. Unemployment is at 7.4%.

Resistance:

Euronews reported the Belgian trade unions’ day of action against austerity in 2013:

“Around 30,000 people voiced their anger over cuts to the public sector. The Belgian government – like so many in Europe – is desperate to rein in its budget deficit.

“Protesters marching through Brussels called for higher purchasing power as average incomes continue to be squeezed. Unions say despite the cuts, the government can still afford to provide better social conditions for workers.

“This is our action today to say to the government ‘enough is enough’,” said one worker. Another protester added: “The people who are here are asking for proper, honest and well paid jobs. All the workers say is: ‘no to discrimination’.”

“In solidarity with the protesters, Belgium‘s main broadcaster delayed its news programmes this morning. Rallies also took place in other Belgian cities including Liege where workers from the ArcelorMittal steel factory are on strike against cuts to the workforce.”

Player to watch: Vincent Kompany (defender)

Russia

FiIFA world ranking: 19

Place in world economic league table: 8

Civil rights issues:

“The authorities continued to restrict freedom of assembly of critical civil society movements, but some street rallies, banned in previous years, were allowed to go ahead. However, numerous demonstrations were banned and a number of people involved in peaceful political protest were repeatedly detained, some pre-emptively (on their way to the demonstration), and frequently sentenced to administrative arrest.”

“Reports of torture and other ill-treatment remained widespread. Allegations were seldom effectively investigated and documented injuries were often dismissed as resulting from the legitimate use of force.”

“Convicted prisoners frequently reported being subjected to violence, by both prison officials and inmates, shortly after their arrival in prison.”

“Despite ongoing attempts to improve the efficiency and independence of the judiciary, alleged political interference, corruption and the collusion of judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officials continued to result in frequent reports of unfair trials.”

“The security situation in the North Caucasus remained volatile and uneven …Security operations across the region were often accompanied by serious human rights violations. There were reports of witnesses being intimidated and journalists, human rights activists and lawyers being harassed and killed.”

Vladimir Putin, the well known homophobe.

Vladimir Putin, the well known homophobe.

“New legislation (2013) bans ‘propaganda of non-traditional relations’. LGBT parades have been attacked by thugs and the authorities have failed to intervene to protect LGBT people.”

Death penalty: Capital punishment in Russia has been indefinitely suspended.

Rich and poor:

Wealth inequality in Russia is one of the world’s highest. A report by Credit Suisse says 35% of Russian household wealth is controlled by just 110 billionaires.

Eight million Russians live below the poverty line. The government-enforced minimum wage currently stands at 4,611 roubles (£93) per month, despite an estimated minimum real cost of living of around 6,200 roubles (£125) per month.

Resistance

In December 2011, small-scale demonstrations in Russia against electoral fraud, the ruling party United Russia and Putin exploded. Russia saw its biggest protests since the 1990s as tens of thousands took to the streets. Their demands were freedom for political prisoners, annulment of the electoral results, an investigation into voting fraud and rights for opposition parties.

Player to watch: Roman Shirokov (midfield)

South Korea

FIFA world ranking: 57

South Korea squad photo (pic cred 101topgoals.com)

South Korea squad photo. Pic credit: 101topgoals.com)

Place in world economic league table: 15

Civil rights issues:

“The authorities increasingly used the National Security Law (NSL) to target individuals and organizations perceived to oppose the government’s policy on North Korea.”

“Charges were levelled against those who peacefully expressed their opinions or disseminated information on the internet. By 31 October, the police had deleted 67,300 web posts they believed threatened national security by “praising North Korea and denouncing the U.S. and the government”, a sharp rise from 14,430 posts in 2009.”

“There are a number of cases of the state limiting the rights to assembly.”

“Hundreds of migrant workers were arrested and deported, following a crackdown against undocumented migrant workers which began in September.”

Death penalty: YES

South Korea has observed 5,000 days free of executions. But 60 people remain on death row.

Rich and poor:

The richest 10% of the population have 22.5% of the wealth, while the poorest 10% have 2.9%.

Half of South Korea’s elderly people are poor, the highest rate in the industrialised world. Some live in crumbling hillside neighbourhoods that lack running water. Others wait in line at soup kitchens where there is no young face in sight. The worst-off comb through garbage, collecting cardboard and paper and lugging it to rubbish dumps, where they can receive several dollars for a pile.

The percentage of the population living below the poverty line: 16.5% (2011 estimate by Index Mundi).

Resistance:

The newspaper Workers World reported that thousands of South Korean railway workers ended a strike on 30 December 2013 after three weeks of intense struggle against the right-wing, anti-labour regime of president Park Geun-hye. It was the longest strike in the history of Korail, the national rail company.

The Korean Railroad Workers Union began its strike on an 80 percent strike vote on 9 December – the day that Korail fired more than 4,000 workers and announced a plan to hire 660 scabs. The workers and their union saw the government’s restructuring plan as threatening the privatisation of the railways, with the loss of jobs, benefits and services. The strike quickly developed into one of the sharpest worker-government conflicts in the recent past, attracting support from the national union confederation, the KCTU.

Solidarity demonstrations, rallies and other actions were held in Australia, Japan, Indonesia and Brazil – and even one in San Francisco organised by the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee.

Player to watch: Son Heung-min (forward)

>> Read all our alternative World Cup posts



4 comments

  1. Rebecca Bryson said:

    Great series of posts. I have Belgium in the sweepstake at work, only mildly reassured to see they are possibly the best of a very bad bunch in this group!

    17 June 2014 at 6:30pm
  2. Rick Blackman said:

    I am liking what you’re doing. However I see an inherent danger. 🙂 If you compile a sort of league table of the countries with the most atrocious human rights abuses and repressive practices against its citizens, then however disgusting this Tory government may be it is not Columbia or Russia or Brazil. This then worryingly puts England in a favourable position toward the top of an ironic ‘Fair Play Award’. This we don’t want. Conversely if you use the level of fight back against oppressive regimes as a guide, to supporting teams then Ingerland is also in a undesirable position. So I am just going to go for the easy option, irrespective of the repression or resistance to it. Revolutionary Defeatism. The enemy is always at home. Come on anyone but England

    17 June 2014 at 7:54pm
  3. martin said:

    Thanks Rebecca for the kind words and good luck with the sweepstake, Belgium have a good outside chance.

    18 June 2014 at 9:10pm
  4. martin said:

    Hi Rick, thanks for the kind words. I agree with you that the enemy is always at home, but I don’t believe that can be the only thing we can say. I was not trying to construct a league table of oppressive regimes. My main point was behind the Samba and soccer each nation has massive economic inequality and civil rights abuses. It shock me that seven of the countries still have the death penalty. I believe with a stroke of a pen this could be stopped. All FIFA and the Olympic Committee would have to say is that the death penalty is incompatible with the Olympic/world cup ethos!
    Likewise I wasn’t trying to develop a table of struggle. Some of the stories I told in that section were about big mass struggles, others small scale resistance. I just wanted to say that despite all the obstacles people are resisting.
    My last point was at a time of rampant nationalism, its right to put the case for internationalism forward.

    18 June 2014 at 11:10pm

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