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Is the World Cup safe for LGBTQ athletes, fans?

Is the World Cup safe for LGBTQ athletes, fans?


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.

Nasser Mohamed, a Qatari doctor living in San Francisco, asked Human Rights Watch to investigate the abuse of LGBTQ people in Qatar ahead of the 2022 World Cup and founded the Alwan Foundation, the first non-profit to advocate for LGBTQ communities in the Gulf region. Photo courtesy of Nasser Mohamed

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.

headshot of Aleksander Meise (left) and Dan Danielsen (right)
Law professor Alexandra (Xander) Meise, left, and Dan Danielsen. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University and Photo Courtesy

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.




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