International

Qatari Minister Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi Welcomes LGBTQ Community To Catch FIFA World Cup But Queer Fans Are Not Buying It

Qatari law prohibits same-sex sexual relations between men, even if consensual. Penalties include lashing, lengthy prison sentences and/or deportation for foreign nationals. There is no law criminalizing same-sex sexual relations between women, but they are persecuted as well.

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People who identify with the LGBTQ community can come to Qatar for the FIFA World Cup, but the West cannot "dictate" what Qataris should believe, Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi, the country's energy minister told Germany's Bild newspaper. Kaabi made this statement after German interior minister Nancy Faeser sported the "OneLove" armband at the national team's match against Japan last week.

"If you want to change me so that I will 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 the Islamic laws in order to satisfy the West—then this is not acceptable," Kaabi added.

Homophoic past and present

Homosexuality in Qatar is illegal and punishable by up to seven years in prison. A report from Human Rights Watch, published last month, documented cases as recently as September of Qatari security forces arbitrarily arresting LGBT people and subjecting them to "ill-treatment in detention."

Qatari law prohibits same-sex sexual relations between men, even if consensual. Penalties include lashing, lengthy prison sentences and/or deportation for foreign nationals. There is no law criminalizing same-sex sexual relations between women, but they are persecuted as well.

The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), which has been responsible for overseeing infrastructure projects and planning for the World Cup, said it was committed to "an inclusive and discriminatory-free" World Cup.

Dr Naser Mohamed, 35, the only Qatari who publicly come out as gay, launched Proud Maroons: an LGBTQ+ supporters club for Qatar’s national team, to highlight abuses against the LGBTQ+ community in his homeland. When he came out as gay in May, his family disowned him, stripped him his inheritance, and he had to claim asylum in the US. Mohamed, through his non-profit Alwan Foundation, says that security operatives infiltrate gay communities in order to torture and coerce members to inform on others. 

He claimed the state conducts cyber-surveillance, tries to shut down hangout spots and infiltrates groups of LGBTQ people to arrest them, according to the Human Rights Watch report. LGBTQ people are taken into custody by the Preventive Security Department, a law enforcement agency, Mohamed says, and remain jailed for weeks to months, sometimes without a charge. There they are verbally and physically abused, tortured and sexually harassed, the Human Rights Watch reports. 

A transgender woman told Human Rights Watch that she was arrested on the street in Doha, and accused of “imitating women”. Once inside a police vehicle, authorities beat her, bloodying her lips and nose, and kicking her in the stomach. While the Qatari government claimed the allegations were “unequivocally false”, the woman was quoted saying, “I was detained for three weeks without charge, and officers repeatedly sexually harassed me,” she said. “Part of the release requirement was attending sessions with a psychologist who ‘would make me a man again.’” A second transgender woman said she was arrested for wearing makeup. Authorities shaved her hair, and asked her to sign a vow that she would never wear makeup again as a condition of her release, she said. 

Fingers pointing at Beckham

David Beckham’s “gay icon” status is set to be decimated as the former England captain and Manchester United star continues in his role as a Qatar World Cup ambassador but is staying mum. In a viral tweet, Lycett, a queer British comedian said he would donate £10,000 ($11,000) to charities supporting “queer people in football” or put the money through the shredder along with “Beckham’s reputation as a gay icon” if the former footballer did not cut ties with Qatar. 

Footballers’ stance

The US men’s team are showing support for the LGBTQ community through a rainbow-themed logo at their training facility in Qatar. The design features seven rainbow-coloured vertical stripes below the dark blue letters ‘USA’ and is part of the “Be The Change” initiative the team adopted in 2020 with the goal of inspiring action on social justice issues.

— U.S. Men's National Soccer Team (@USMNT) November 13, 2022

Gareth Bale, once the world's most expensive footballer and Wales captain, wore an OneLove armband for the matches in Qatar in support of a season-long campaign which promotes diversity and inclusion. The former Real Madrid player said: "We can shed a light on the problems that are going on." 
Captains of seven European football teams had planned to wear rainbow-themed "OneLove" armbands as part of a campaign to embrace diversity, but backed down after a threat of disciplinary action from FIFA. Captain of France, Hugo Lloris, another team participating in the OneLove campaign, said he had to "show respect" to Qatar's culture and did not wear the rainbow-colored armband.

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