This is an important time of year for football fans, especially those watching the World Cup. I'm sure England will go far and make the nation proud. However, I would like to touch on a more sensitive topic, which is the Qatari Government and how they treat members of the LGBTQ+ Community. This is a far broader issue of human rights as well, but I'd like to take a moment to reflect on the area I am most familiar with.
Unlike in England, being homosexual is illegal in Qatar, with punishment of imprisonment and a fine. The Qatari Government do not recognise same sex marriages or civil partnerships in any legal sense, nor do they allow for the campaign of LGBTQ+ rights in any capacity.
The controversy surrounding the World Cup being held in Qatar has been brewing since 2010, where Qatar was voted in by FIFA’s Congress to hold the 2022 World Cup. Just after the selection of Qatar as the host country for this year’s World Cup, the former FIFA President Sepp Blatted joked after being asked about the political reality for LGBTQ+ people to travel to the country that fans that are part of the community should, to quote, “refrain from any sexual activities” whilst visiting. It was then stated that FIFA did not want any discrimination to fans after the President was heavily criticised for the joke.
In 2013, the head of Qatar’s World Cup bid team, Hassan Al-Thawadi, stated that everyone would be welcome at the event in 2022, but that they would have to refrain from showing any public affection whilst in Qatar as it “is not part of culture and tradition” within the country. Also in 2013, the State of Kuwait in Western Asia proposed a complete ban on LGBTQ+ foreigners from entering any of the Gulf Cooperative Countries, of which Qatar is part of. The Gulf Cooperation Council considered this for a while, before backtracking due to concerns over Qatar’s status as the host for the World Cup in 2022.
In December of 2020, Qatari officials released a statement that it would not in any way restrict the display of pro-LGBTQ+ imagery such as pride flags at matches, inline with the inclusion policy that FIFA has. It was discovered in April of 2022, though, that a senior security official that was overseeing the tournament had plans to confiscate any pride flags from spectators, allegedly in and effort to “protect them from altercations with spectators that are anti-LGBTQ+”. This reasoning was criticised heavily again, where it was argued that actions against the LGBTQ+ community by state officials were more concerning than those of individuals acting under their own intuition. Major General Abdulaziz Abdullah Al Ansari, the Director of Logistics for the Ministry of Interior in Qatar said fans should respect the cultural norms of Qatar, but added "Reserve the room together, sleep together, this is something that’s not in our concern.", assuring the privacy of fans.
In 2021, footballer Josh Cavallo from the Australian national football team, stated he felt he was afraid to enter Qatar to play at the World Cup, being the only openly gay player in the entire league currently. It was made clear that he would be welcomed to the country by the head of the organising committee for the tournament.
There are several incidents that have happened just this year. In May, multiple hotels on the official list of accommodations recommended by FIFA for the World Cup were refusing to take any reservations from same-sex couples, and others stated they would take reservations from same-sex couples if they hid their relationship whilst in public view. FIFA claimed that they would ensure hotels that held these policies welcomed guests in a non-discriminatory manner due to their strict requirements. In September FA assured LGBTQ+ couples again that they would not face arrest for public displays of affection in Qatar, and that any kinds of pride flag would not be confiscated and their person with the flag would not face arrest as long as there was no disrespect local culture by draping these flags on mosques in Qatar.
Qatar's treatment of LGBTQ+ citizens is also a very sickening thing. Recently, in October of this year, the Human Rights Watch released a report that alleged systemic police brutality against LGBTQ+ people in the country, based on different eyewitness reports between 2019 and 2022.
It has also come to my attention that many pubs within the country are refusing to show the games to stand with the LGBTQ+ community. Whilst the University is adamantly against the controversy, we believe as a Student's Union that we should show the games. It is our national team and they are doing everything in their power to stand with the LGBTQ+ community on this issue, and hopefully soon we won't have to have these boycotts of games in different countries due to their stance on marginalised communities.
Join us in watching the games and enjoying a pint or two with your mates if you want. The Lounge and The Venue are inclusive places for everyone.
- Jay Ramsden (he/him), LGBTQ+ Executive Officer