Close-up of the FIFA World Cup trophy against a soccer field background.
Middle East,  Safety

LGBTQ Tourists ‘Welcome’ at FIFA World Cup. Locals? Jailed and Beaten

This Trans Awareness Week, we’re shining a light on the LGBTQ persecution in Qatar that continues to go on while a Western audience roots for its favorite soccer teams.

As part of its preparation to host the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup, Qatar jailed and beat several Qatari citizens presumed to be LGBTQ. Now, they’re turning the LGBTQ Qataris they’ve detained into spies to root out more members of the local LGBTQ community. Meanwhile, Western LGBTQ tourists enjoy state protection during the soccer tournament.

Qatar’s Mistreatment of LGBTQ People

Qatari security forces have been persecuting people based solely on gender expression. Qataris who did not conform to gender norms had their phones searched and were dragged away. As someone who is gender nonconforming, this gives me chills.

LGBTQ detainees were physically abused until they bled, and received insufficient medical care. They were verbally harassed and denied access to attorneys and visits from family members. They were forced to sign confessions.

Four transgender women were among those jailed by Qatari security forces. The trans women detainees were forced into government-sponsored conversion therapy, as Human Rights Watch reports.

While many of those detained were Qataris, some LGBTQ tourists are in custody, too. One of the detainees told Human Rights watch there were “two Moroccan lesbians, four Filipino gay men, and one Nepalese gay man” in detention, too.

While the detainees have been released, their nightmare is not over. LGBTQ identity is criminalized in Qatar by imprisonment and death. Those taken away were not charged with crimes, but detainees fear for their safety.

Given the possibility of being put to death for being gay, most LGBTQ people in Qatar are in the closet. They are only out to a handful of other LGBTQ Qataris.

Meanwhile security forces are using data pulled from detainees’ phones to hunt down other LGBTQ Qataris. And they’re turning detainees into spies, dangling promises of safety to some queer Qataris in exchange for informing on the folks in their network, the Guardian reports.

Is Qatar Safe for LGBTQ Tourists?

Qatar is not safe for LGBTQ people.

But what about LGBTQ tourists? Can LGBTQ tourists visit Qatar safely? More importantly, should they?

Despite its anti-LGBTQ stance, Qatar assured global soccer fans that LGBTQ tourists would in fact be safe and welcome. They could even wave the Pride flag from the sidelines.

Detainee stories indicate a different reality on the ground. Folks from Nepal, Philippines, and Morocco are in detention alongside local people.

I have to wonder if the Qataris are treating white Western LGBTQ tourists with special privileges and hunting down BIPOC LGBTQ people who don’t conform to gender norms, regardless of their nationality.

The persecution of LGBTQ Qataris is just one example of a repressive government looking the other way when it comes to LGBTQ tourist activist (and our pink dollars) and oppressing its LGBTQ people.

Homosexuality isn’t just illegal in Qatar. It’s punishable by imprisonment and even death. When security forces are searching people’s phones and using data recovery illegally to hunt down and harm other queer people, including with forced conversion therapy, we need to look at the price these people are paying for the enjoyment of a crowded stadium of soccer fans to cheer on their favorite team.

We can turn off the television and not give our attention to the gross mistreatment of LGBTQ Qataris. Or we can shine an even brighter spotlight on the injustice and demand better.

Learn more about the experience of LGBTQ Qataris from Dr. Nas Mohammed, the first openly out Qatari. Now an asylee in the United States, Dr. Nas runs LGBTQ+ Rights Qatar to raise awareness of Qatar’s mistreatment of LGBTQ folks and urge the global LGBTQ community to acvitism on the behalf of LGBTQ Qataris.

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