When Nasser Mohameda doctor from Qatar now living in San Francisco, gave an interview to the BBC in May about LGBTQ rights abuses in his country, he didn’t know he might be the first Qatari to come out as gay.
“I looked a little bit for other people and I couldn’t find them,” Mohamed told News@Northeastern on Friday, two days before the 2022 World Cup kicked off in Qatar. Last night [the BBC] I let go saying to myself, you are really brave. Don’t be discouraged if you have said it and people don’t care, and no one listens.
But it wasn’t like that. All of Qatar heard the interview because it was broadcast on BBC Arabic. Mohamed, 35, who was separated from his family in 2015 after he came out to his mothersays he got a lot of hate, but also connected for the first time with a lot of queer Katrina.
His main goal now is to create as much visibility as possible for LGBTQ issues in Qatar, before the international journalists leave when the World Cup ends.
I hope we have a platform. The road still needs to be navigated, but visibility is the first step, he says.
Mohamed has recently established Alwan Foundationthe first non-profit organization that advocates for LGBTQ communities in the Gulf region and collects evidence-based data on their living conditions and rights violations.
He was also the driving force behind the recently published Human Rights Watch report on LGBTQ abuse people from the Qatari authorities. He helped the international organization gather evidence for the report and contact abuse victims who described the abuses that took place until September.
The illegality of same-sex relationships under Qatari law has been widely discussed in the press and on social media since the country won the bid to host the World Cup in 2010. Both LGBTQ football Fans AND the players have asked if it would be safe for them to go to Qatar for the event.
THESE [LGBTQ rights] are extremely important. They go to the most fundamental aspects of humanity and human expression, and human identity, and just being human and realizing one’s full self, he says. Alexandra Meiseassociate professor at Northeastern Law School.
LGBTQ rights are part of human rights
LGBTQ rights are part of the human rights that are inherent to all human beings without discrimination, according to Universal Declaration of Human Rightswhich is part of the International Bill of Human Rights approved by the United Nations General Assembly.
However, reaching international consensus on LGBTQ rights is a complicated matter, says Meise.
If you look at the last 10 or 15 years, you’ll see an increase in LGBTQ rights around the world, in general, she says. And if you look at just one measure of that at the number of countries that have legalized marriage equality in some form, it’s a significant change in the last two decades.
But such growth is not universal. There is a subset of states that have actively expressed their intention not to see human rights extended to cover sexual orientation or gender identity, says Meise. There are also countries that actively resist efforts to expressly codify in some way protections for LGBTQ people.
Qatar is among 11 countries in the world that have the death penalty as one of the possible penalties for consensual same-sex behavior, according to ILGA WorldInternational Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.
Sexual relations between men of the same sex are illegal, even if they are consensual. Penalties include caning, long prison terms and/or deportation for foreign nationals, according to the US Department of State.
There is no law criminalizing same-sex sexual relations between women, however, in practice they are also persecuted, says Mohamed.
The state conducts cyber surveillance, attempts to shut down meeting places, and infiltrates LGBTQ groups to arrest them. LGBTQ people are taken into custody by the Department of Preventive Security, a law enforcement agency, Mohamed says, and remain incarcerated for weeks to months, sometimes without charge. There they are verbally and physically abused, tortured and sexually harassed.
Qatar subjects LGBTQ people to conversion therapy
The state also subjects LGBTQ people in Qatar to conversion therapy. If an LGBTQ person cannot hide their sexuality because of their appearance or gender expression, they risk losing their job and being unemployed.
Mohamed says the treatment experienced by LGBTQ people in Qatar cannot be fully explained by religious beliefs.
I can certainly argue that the kind of persecution that Qatar is subjecting us to is against Islam, he says, because Islam does not support kidnapping and torturing people. And that’s what they do to us.
Mohamed believes that LGBTQ foreign fans visiting Qatar for the World Cup will not face the same risk of persecution as local queer people.
Because Qatar has this double standard for implementing things, he says. There is only a very different treatment for the local community.
Qatar will be on its best behavior while on the world stage, he says.
Dan Danielsenlaw professor and faculty director of the Program on Global Corporation, Law and Society at Northeastern, agrees that it is unlikely that Qatar will focus on LGBTQ international athletes or visitors during the World Cup as it would create an international press frenzy.
The general rule is that people traveling have an obligation to obey the laws of the country they are in, he says, noting that it would be advisable to give careful consideration to their travel to instead of facing draconian penalties for violations. of the laws of Qatar.
Gay visitors are extremely careful and conscientious
Danielsen visited Qatar several times in the 2010s for international law and governance seminars. He was extremely cautious and aware of the fact that he did not know Qatari culture very well, he says. He wouldn’t do anything he thought would be offensive to anyone around, both out of personal safety and out of respect for the context of his visit.
This was one place the whole time I was there I had a separate room from my partner. It was one of the only times in our long relationship that was like that, says Danielsen. I don’t want to overstate the risks, but at the same time, you don’t want to imagine that you’re completely safe everywhere, because it’s just not true.
In Mohamed’s view, there is a larger question mark over whether the Qatari government will be able to protect foreign LGBTQ fans who might decide to defend queer visibility from violent domestic homophobes. Some of the tribal people in Qatar may be very proud of their values, he says, and they may react negatively to any act of solidarity with local LGBTQ people.
If an international LGBTQ fan becomes the victim of a homophobic crime or assault, Danielsen says, their most powerful weapon would be publicity, international press and social media exposure of what happened. US citizens can contact their local US consulate, which will attempt to intervene on their behalf.
Although the consulate is generally unable to justify violations of domestic law, they can try to argue for leniency or can put diplomatic pressure on the state, he says.
LGBTQ people after the World Cup
What scares Mohamed the most are rumors that the government is preparing to carry out a Western purge of local LGBTQ people after the World Cup, he says. He also fears that public relations are misleading everyone is welcome in Qataras the country’s officials have said, it will block the way for LGBTQ Qataris to seek asylum in the West as he did, because there is almost no public evidence of abuse and persecution to prove their cases.
He has also started Proud maroonsthe only National LGBTQ Soccer Supporters Group that cheers for Qatar’s national soccer team, nicknamed the Maroons, but cannot have fans from its own nation because homosexuality is currently illegal in Qatar, says Mohamed.
Human rights and international sports are a complex subject, says Meise. Calls for international sports organizations to consider human rights issues when making their host choices have been raised before, both in the case of the World Cup and the Olympics, as well as in other contexts.
What I would say is that investing and choices about where to spend money are a reflection of values, says Meise. This also extends internationally.
However, during the Cold War, for example, international sporting events were some of the only opportunities to have a coming together of individuals from countries that otherwise would not engage, that otherwise could not have exchanges, that did not reach. talk to each other, she says.
They may have their own political strategies
When foreigners or international organizations want to help local community groups, Danielsen says, they should take instructions from those groups about what they think they want to do, whether they want to shine a spotlight on them and whether they can have the policy of theirs. their strategies or ways of being in society that are making it feel tolerable.
Those can be really important and dangerous questions, he says. She can be [a matter of] life and death.
Mohamed believes that only the economic and foreign policy consequences imposed on Qatar for its record of abuse of LGBTQ rights can make a difference in the situation.
It should be really inappropriate for them to persecute gay people, says Mohamed.
There are various mechanisms within international, diplomatic, geopolitical structures and international organizations that can be used to encourage countries to protect and preserve human rights, says Meise.
In addition to the UN Human Rights Council and other official meetings of members of the international community in multilateral diplomatic settings, there may be bilateral inducements and incentives that can encourage countries to protect and preserve rights, such as economic aid, trade , technical assistance, military exchanges. training that can be negotiated for compliance with specific human rights standards.
Sanctions can be another route to calling out human rights abusers, says Meise.
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