At first, Saskia Nino de Rivera was excited to travel to Qatar for a World Cup that would be a significant professional event for her partner, a sports agent for Mexican soccer players. She even considered proposing privately there during a game and posting photos once they left the country.
But as the lesbian couple learned more about laws governing same-sex relationships in the conservative Gulf state, the plans didn’t sound like a good idea. Instead, Nino de Rivera proposed at an Amsterdam stadium this summer, opting to skip the World Cup altogether.
“As a lesbian woman, it’s really hard for me to feel and think that we’re going to a country where we don’t know what could happen and how we could be safe,” she said. “It was a really tough decision.”
Nino de Rivera’s concerns are shared by many LGBTQ football fans and their allies worldwide. Some have considered attending the tournament or even watching it on TV.
Qatar’s laws against gay sex and the treatment of LGBTQ people are flashpoints ahead of the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East or in an Arab or Muslim country. Qatar has said all are welcome, including LGBTQ fans, but visitors should respect the country’s culture, which frowns on public displays of love by anyone.
As his country has come under fire over several issues, Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, recently argued that it has been “subjected to an unprecedented campaign” that no host country has faced before.
However, in an interview with the German public broadcaster ZDF, an ambassador for the World Cup in Qatar described homosexuality as “damage to the mind”. Comments by former Qatar international Khalid Salman, aired this week, underscored concerns about the conservative country’s treatment of gays and lesbians.
Some LGBTQ rights activists are taking the moment to draw attention to the conditions facing LGBTQ citizens and residents in Qatar with an increased sense of urgency. They want to raise concerns about how these people might be treated once the tournament is over and the international spotlight is gone.
German supporter says junk homosexuality penalties
Dario Minden, who hails from Germany, said he is passionate about football but will not watch a single minute of the tournament as a show of solidarity with LGBTQ people in Qatar. He recently jumped at the opportunity to advocate for change.
At a human rights congress of the German Football Association in Frankfurt, Minden called on the Qatari ambassador to Germany that Qatar should abolish its penalties for homosexuality.
“I happen to be a gay football fan and thought this would be a great opportunity to speak in front of such a senior official, to put a face to the subject,” Minden said in an interview.
Rasha Younes, senior researcher on LGBTQ rights in the Middle East and North Africa at Human Rights Watch, said while Qatari officials have given LGBTQ fans some reassurances, the possibility of stigma and discrimination in housing, access to health care and the community remains safe reporting of potential sexual activity consists of violence.
At the same time, she argued, “suggestions that Qatar should make an exception for outsiders are implicit reminders that the Qatari authorities do not believe their LGBT residents deserve or exist fundamental rights,” adding that her organization is concerned about the Conditions for local LGBTQ people. even after the tournament.
Qatari law provides for a prison sentence of one to three years for anyone who “incites” or “seduces” a man to “commit sodomy” as well as “induces or seduces a man or woman in any way to commit illegal acts.” or immoral acts.”
In the run-up to the World Cup, Qatari security forces have been accused of ill-treating LGBTQ people. In a statement, the Qatari government has denied these allegations: “Qatar will not tolerate discrimination against anyone and our policies and procedures are underpinned by a commitment to human rights for all.”
dr Nasser Mohamed, an openly gay Qatari activist now based in the United States, is among those who say international attention is disproportionately focused on visitors and not enough on LGBTQ people in Qatar. He has come out publicly and has campaigned to widen the conversation ahead of the World Cup.
“Being in a country that has no LGBT visibility, no conversations about what it’s like to be an LGBT person made me feel like something was wrong with me,” he said in an interview. Given the current intense public debates, “I feel like there’s a moment of urgency … to release something now to actually let people know we’re not doing well.”
Josie Nixon of the You Can Play Project, which campaigns for LGBTQ people in sport, said the group is part of a coalition of LGBTQ rights organizations that have made demands on FIFA and Qatari organizers. These included repealing laws targeting LGBTQ people, providing “express safety guarantees” against harassment, arrest or detention, and working to ensure the long-term safety of LGBTQ people in the region.
Attacks raise questions about motive
“FIFA and Qatar have taken steps to ensure LGBTQ fans are safe, but is this enough to change the way Qatar views LGBTQ citizens?” said Nixon, who lives in Colorado. “My answer is no.”
Even before the tournament began, intense international scrutiny of Qatar’s human rights record, including the treatment of migrant workers, raised questions about the legacy it would leave behind. As the World Cup drew nearer, Qatari officials sounded more frustrated, saying their country’s achievements and progress were being overlooked and that the attacks were raising questions about the motives behind them.
“Qatar strongly believes in the power of sport to bring people together and build bridges of cultural understanding,” the Qatari government said in a statement to The Associated Press in response to questions. “The World Cup can help clear up misconceptions and we want fans to go home with a better understanding of our country, our culture and our region. We believe this tournament can… show that people of different nationalities, religions and backgrounds actually have more in common than they think.”
The added statement Qatar is a country of “warm hospitality” and will continue to ensure the safety of all “regardless of their background”.
FIFA’s top officials have recently urged teams preparing for the World Cup to focus on football and avoid dragging the game into ideological or political battles. Officials did not address a specific issue in their message, which angered some human rights activists.
In soccer-mad Argentina, Juan Pablo Morino, president of the Gays Passionate About Soccer group, said he was dismayed by FIFA’s decision to organize the World Cup in Qatar.
“When choosing a host, basic parameters of coexistence should be met. It cannot be that any country is running,” he said.
In Mexico, Nino de Rivera said she will remotely support her fiancée, who will attend the tournament on business. That makes her sad.
The decision to suspend the World Cup “has to do with staying true to your own values and bringing a lot of money to a country where you’re not welcome because of your sexual orientation,” she said. She was afraid that if they went as a couple, they might be harassed or worse at dinner or on the way back to the hotel.
“The World Cup is usually an event that brings people together, where it doesn’t matter what part of the world you’re from… what religion you’re from; it doesn’t matter what community you belong to,” she said. “We all speak the same language. We all speak football.”
6,000 Cabin Fan Village opened in the desert
Qatar on Wednesday unveiled a 6,000-cabin fan village on a remote property near its airports, an offer for housing at the lower end of what’s available for the upcoming World Cup just days before kick-off.
As journalists toured the shacks, desert winds kicked up sand across the 1.2-square-mile site, which housed a subway station, a bus stop, and a planned temporary restaurant and grocery store. The area could theoretically hold up to 12,000 people if it were at capacity, officials said.
The colorful, thin-walled cabins are designed for one or two people and have two single beds, a bedside table, a small table and a chair, air conditioning, a toilet and a shower inside.
Each costs about $200 a night — $270 with meals — while the tournament goes on. About 60 percent of the cabins are already booked for the tournament, said Omar al-Jaber, the head of accommodation at the Qatar Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy for the tournament.
There are other rooms for $80 a night further out than this page.
Al-Jaber added that fans in Qatar still have several rental options available, from hotels, cruise ship rooms, traditional dhows and tents, the Fan Village, porta cabins and caravans.
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