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Qatar to 'welcome' LGBTQ fans for the World Cup despite homosexuality ban

Civil rights campaigners express concern as fans urged not to demonstrate for LGBTQ rights during tournament

By Nour Elshenawy


Note: With the University of Aberdeen operating a campus in Qatar since 2017 (in partnership with AFG College), The Gaudie wanted to explore how Qatar, the host country for the World Cup, treats the LGBTQ+ community and what the University does to protect those students. This is the first article in a two part series on this topic. Tomorrow’s article will focus on the experiences of LGBTQ students at AFG College.

In an effort to allay the anxieties of civil rights campaigners, Qatar's Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, announced that all supporters will be accepted to this year's World Cup "without discrimination." "The Qatari people will welcome football enthusiasts from all walks of life," the Emir said to the assembled international leaders, without naming any one group. Following statements made earlier this year by Qatari authorities, FIFA maintained that rainbow flags will be permitted inside stadiums.

Despite local legislation, the host country has struggled to persuade rights organisations that "everyone would be welcome." The organising committee and government authorities have stated that the World Cup's million-plus attendees should respect local cultural values. "We don't believe in public displays of affection, but we are also ingrained toward welcoming everyone from all backgrounds," organizing committee chief Hassan Al-Thawadi told a New York conference, adding that it is not a sense of not accepting homosexuals to publicly display affection, but rather a general law to everyone in accordance with the country's religion and culture.

Qatar World Cup chief Abdulla Al Nasari also stated that “If you want to express your views on the LGBTQ cause, do so in a society where it will be accepted. Do not come and insult an entire society. We will not change our cultures, religion, and belief systems for the 28 days.” He continued “If a fan raises a rainbow flag in a stadium and it is taken away, it will not be because we want to offend them. If we don’t, another spectator could attack them. If you buy a ticket, it is to attend a football match and not to demonstrate.”

Qatari officials for the past several weeks have stressed the importance of keeping everyone safe in the World Cup, especially since not everyone’s accepting of everything, similar to any other country. When noting a month to go, Fifa President Gianni Infantino echoed the idea. He was a touch more precise than his Qatari counterparts: 'Everyone will be welcomed at the tournament regardless of origin, background, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or nationality.'

Nevertheless, extramartial sex is forbidden for Muslims in Qatar, as it is in most of the Arabic-speaking Middle East. Anyone having intimate same-sex relationships, whether Qatari, Muslim, or not, faces up to seven years in jail. The Sharia legislation in existence in Qatar also criminalizes intercourse between men, which in principle may result in the death penalty, but there is no indication that this has ever been used.

Human rights activist Peter Tatchell was detained by authorities in Qatar while protesting the Gulf state's criminalization of LGBTQ+ individuals. Tatchell's demonstration outside Qatar's National Museum in Doha comes less than a month before the commencement of the Fifa World Cup, which is scheduled to draw 1.2 million tourists from across the world.

According to Reuters, two uniformed police officers and three plainclothes officials appeared at the scene, taking control of Tatchell's placard and photographing his passport and other documents, as well as those of a man accompanying him. According to Reuters, the officers departed after shaking hands with Tatchell, who stayed on the sidewalk.

Tatchell then stated that he was detained for four days then asked to leave the country by Qatari officials. This sparked a heated two sided debate on Twitter with Tatchell stating ‘Qatar police will show restraint during FIFA world cup, but after the tournament is over, the repression of Qataris is set to resume. This is a sordid deal to appease western governments and fans but does nothing for Qataris.’

Qatari influencer, Khalifa Al-Haroon (Also known as ILQ or Mr. Q) fired back stating that “1- people can do peaceful protests, 2-organized gatherings need a permit, 3-people don’t have the right to trespass, and 4-police have the right to question your actions. This is the system in Qatar.” He continued by replying to Tatchell saying that “lying to get attention by the media only discredits your cause.”

With only a few days left for the whistle to blow on the World Cup, our answers will all soon be answered!


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