Qatar’s anti-LGBTQ policies have become a flashpoint in a controversial World Cup tournament; among national teams facing punishment for wearing ‘One Love’ rainbow armbands, international fans have said they cannot wear rainbow shirtsand a Qatari minister anti-LGBTQ comments This week, queer rights in the tiny Gulf emirate are a controversy on and off the court.
In Qatar, where punishments can include up to three years in prison for being LGBTQ, this has resulted in friction with the world over the country’s policies and attitudes towards queer people, and even those who show support for LGBTQ rights, as well as local concern about what happens once the tournament is over and the world’s attention shifts.
Monday the a protester interrupted the match between Uruguay and Portugal, running onto the field waving a rainbow flag with the inscription “PEACE”, the Italian word for peace, and wears a Superman T-shirt with messages of support for Ukraine and women protesting in Iran. Following the stunt, the Qatari Supreme Committee banned the fan from the rest of this year’s matches and revoked his stay permit in the country, the Reported the guardian.
Later in the week, Qatar’s Energy Minister Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi told German newspaper Bild that while LGBTQ people are welcome to visit Qatar, Western countries cannot “enforce” support for LGBTQ rights. Qatari law criminalizes sex outside marriage, including gay sex.
“If you want to change me to say that I believe in LGBTQ, that my family should be LGBTQ, that I accept LGBTQ in my country, that I change my laws and Islamic laws to suit the West, then This is not acceptable, ” Al-Kaabi said.
Perhaps the most visible fight over LGBTQ rights has emerged due to FIFA’s decision to punish players who wear “OneLove” armbands in support of LGBTQ rights. According to the New York Times, seven European teams alerted FIFA of their plans to have captains wear armbands in September. FIFA communicated its decision to give yellow cards to players wearing the armband just hours before England, one of the sides intending to protest, took to the pitch and did not respond to Vox’s request for comment on the matter. decision.
The German players protested this decision, covering their mouths during pre-match team photos.
On its English-language Twitter account, the German team wrote: “It was not about making a political statement: human rights are not negotiable. This should be taken for granted, but it still isn’t. That’s why this message is so important to us. Denying us the band is equivalent to denying us a voice. We stand our ground.”
It was not about making a political statement: human rights are not negotiable. This should be taken for granted, but it still isn’t. That’s why this message is so important to us. Denying us the armband is like denying us a voice. We stand our ground. pic.twitter.com/tiQKuE4XV7
— Germany (@DFB_Team_EN) November 23, 2022
In a joint statement, teams intending to wear the armbands said they were prepared to pay fines for breaching FIFA’s strict uniform codes, but the prospect of starting a match with a penalty already against valuable players was an unfair risk. according to the Associated Press. FIFA offered “no discrimination” bracelets.
During this year’s World Cup, fans as well as journalist Grant Wahl report that they were confronted while wearing rainbow accessories in publicwith some fans being refused entry to early matches despite assurances from Qatar and FIFA that all were welcome.
“I have spoken to the country’s top leadership about this matter,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in a statement. “They have confirmed and I can confirm that everyone is welcome. If anyone says otherwise, well, it’s not the country’s opinion and it’s certainly not FIFA’s opinion.”
Qatar’s anti-LGBTQ policies are draconian
The Qatari government, run by the wealthy Al-Thani family, enforces a conservative Islamic society. In the interpretation of Sharia law follows Qatar, sex outside of marriageincluding homosexuality, is punishable by imprisonment and, as the maximum penalty, death by stoning, although there is no evidence available that such a penalty was ever applied.
It’s difficult to assess what queer life is like in Qatar because LGBTQ expression is extremely limited, Dr. Nasser Mohamed, a gay Qatari living in exile in the United States, explained to Vox. “I came out to have a platform for us,” he said, explaining that none of the queer people he knew in Qatar were out. “In Qatar it is extremely dangerous for us to organize ourselves. When a person is discovered, law enforcement tries to find out everyone they are in contact with. So it’s really hard to build a gay community.”
Mohamed left Qatar in his 20s for medical school “with the intention of never returning” due to the limited life he might have there as a gay man. “There’s a lot of similarity to the Mormon and Amish communities, in terms of their religious practices and cultural practices. You’re in or out, as a Qatari, you really can’t be different in any way,” he said.
While there are small pockets of LGBTQ people in Qatar, there isn’t a gay scene, Mohamed said. According to a report in Reuters, there are a few places where it is possible for queer people to gather safely: at parties at the homes of close friends and in some high-end restaurants and clubs. But this largely depends on social status, as well as one’s country of origin; it is easier to be queer if you are not a citizen of Qatar, but only if you are also rich.
“If you are an expat, you can live your life however you want,” a gay Arab living in Doha told Reuters. “At the same time, I know that I can live like this because I am privileged. I know that homosexuals in the workers’ camps would not be able to live the same way.”
What happens when the world no longer looks at Qatar?
Mohamed is now in contact with hidden queer Qataris, some of whom he has spoken to Human Rights Watch for a recent report detailing the abuses they have suffered at the hands of the state. As recently as September this year, LGBTQ Qataris reported that members of the Preventive Security Department had “detained them in an underground prison in Al Dafneh, Doha, where they verbally harassed and subjected the detainees to physical abuse, ranging from slapping to kicking and punching until they bled.”
Other reported punishments include “verbal abuse, forced confessions extracted” and mandatory and state-sponsored conversion therapy for transgender women as a condition of their release. According to the report, security forces also “denied detainees access to legal aid, family and medical care” and searched their phones, all while detained without charge. They have not received any records of their time in detention, making it difficult to prove the state’s violence against LGBTQ people. A Qatari official has denied information in the report, including accounts of forced conversion therapy.
Mohamed expressed concern that a lack of documentation of state-sponsored abuse of LGBTQ people could prevent asylum seekers from making their cases. “Tolerance [the Qatari government] it’s giving to the world, it doesn’t extend to us and people really need to know about it,” he said. Vox reached out to the US State Department for comment on the plight of Qatar’s queers and protecting asylum claims , but received no response as of press time.
Mohamed’s other concern is the backlash, “What they call ‘Western cleansing’ after the World Cup,” he said. Queer people in Qatar are also concerned about what will happen after the world’s focus on Qatar’s human rights will inevitably change after the tournament concludes.
“What about us, who have lived in Doha for years and made Doha queer?” an Arab man living in Doha e interviewed by Reuters She said. “What happens when the World Cup is over? Does the attention on rights stop?
Photo by Alex Livesey – Danehouse/Getty Images
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