In light of Qatar’s atrocious human rights record specifically relating to LGBTQ+ lives, which include arrests going back just weeks in October 2022, this article informs you and empowers you to boycott the 2022 FIFA World Cup in a productive way and where you are able to, in order to support the LGBTQ+ community globally.
The message FIFA is sending to the world appears to be that they don’t think LGBTQ+ people are, or should be, involved in sport - whether that’s as an athlete or a fan. Furthermore, it seems that they don’t think protecting LGBTQ+ people is something they need to be involved with.
Even once these issues were brought to light, FIFA has disregarded queer peoples’ needs or didn’t deem them important, and proceeded with Qatar as the host nation.
As such a huge organisation with massive power and influence, FIFA is in an incredible position to progress LGBTQ+ rights in football and sport, but have completely disregarded LGBTQ+ people - presumably in favour of profits.
Around 1.2 million international visitors are expected throughout November and December in Qatar for the month-long FIFA World Cup. With football becoming more inclusive each year, FIFA World Cup organisers have come under criticism for allowing the tournament to be held in a country with such appalling laws in relation to LGBTQ+ lives and women.
In a letter sent out to the 32 competing football teams, FIFA president Gianni Infantino says the below:
“Please do not allow football to be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists. At FIFA, we try to respect all opinions and beliefs, without handing out moral lessons to the rest of the world… No one people or culture or nation is ‘better’ than any other. Please let’s all remember that and let football take centre stage.”
Qatar officials have said that international fans of all religions, races, sexualities and genders will be welcome to the country for the tournament, but it seems as though local football fans will be held under the same aggressive laws they always are, and there are no plans to change that soon.
Male homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, with a punishment of up to three years in prison and a fine, and the possibility of death penalty for Muslims under sharia law. Female homosexuality is not recognised in law.
Article 296 of the current Penal Code stipulates imprisonment between one and three years for sodomy between men.
Recently, former footballer and current Qatar ambassador, Khalid Salman, said that homosexuality was “damage in the mind” showing that even in the modern world, traditional attitudes persist.
Yes, there have been several instances of Qatar exercising these anti-LGBTQ+ laws against organisations and individuals.
In 1998, an American citizen visiting Qatar was sentenced to six months in prison and 90 lashes for homosexual activity.
In 2016, an influencer was arrested in Qatar for allegedly being homosexual. They spent two months in custody before they were released. The Polish embassy claims they were arrested for extortion.
It seems that even as recently as October 2022 LGBTQ+ people in Qatar are still being arrested despite the global media attention and controversy that’s arisen as the 2022 World Cup edges closer, with Human Rights Watch documenting 11 cases where people were allegedly beaten or sexually harassed in police custody.
Rasha Younes, a senior researcher with HRW, told the Guardian that some cases were more striking than most. “There was one story of a transgender woman who was detained in solitary confinement for two months underground, lost her job as a result of being detained and was not able to give notice to her employer that she was gone,” she said. “They shaved her 17-inch long hair in detention, severely beat her until she bled, and denied her medical care.”
Peter Tatchell, a British LGBTQ+ activist, claimed he was briefly "detained" in Qatar after staging a one-man protest outside a museum in Doha, the capital. The 70-year-old said he was "subjected to interrogation" while detained for 49 minutes, but the Qatari government has said "no arrests were made".
In an interview with The Associated Press, Major General Abdulaziz Abdullah Al Ansari revealed that rainbow flags will be confiscated from any fans who hold them, for their own “protection” to prevent other attendees from attacking them. This comes after FIFA’s Chief Responsibility and Education Officer said that rainbow t-shirts and flags would be welcomed during the course of the tournament.
The UK Government supports the choice to continue the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, despite the potential hazard to the freedom and life of its LGBTQ+ citizens.
The UK Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, recently said in a Sky News interview: "I think it's important, when you're a visitor to a country, that you respect the culture of your host nation" and said that LGBTQ+ fans should avoid public displays of affection. This advice goes against the common values the UK generally holds, particularly around freedom to be and allowing people to thrive in their individuality. Pressed on whether he would advise gay fans to demonstrate while in Qatar during a heated exchange, Mr Cleverly said: "No I wouldn't."
Mr. Cleverly will still be in attendance at the World Cup, stating that as Forgein Secretary it is his job to attend. Leader of the Opposition, Keir Starmer, decisively stated: "My position on Qatar is very clear. I'm not going to go and none of my front bench will go because of the record in relation to the workers that have lost their lives, in the construction of some of the facilities with no trade unions there to represent them, the LGBT issues that arise, and the oppression of women."
Layla Moran, a Lib Dem MP, said the World Cup should be a "celebration", but it is being used by Qatar to "sport-wash'' their atrocious human rights records. Any UK officials who attend should be using their position to highlight human rights abuses, not endorsing the regime," she said.
The survey, conducted between 1st and 3rd November by Public First for More in Common, also asked 2,030 adults whether Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, was right in planning to boycott the tournament over Qatar’s human rights record. 69% of respondents said he was right, with 12% disagreeing.
England captain Harry Kane, as well as other European captains, will wear a ‘One Love’ campaign armband at the World Cup games to protest at the discrimination that minority groups, particularly LGBTQ+ people, face in Qatar.
A YouGov poll shows that most English people (54%) and football fans (62%) support individual players in raising awareness of or making criticisms about Qatar's practices on human rights, women’s rights and LGBT issues during the tournament. Similar numbers (58% and 67%, respectively) say the same of the England side as a whole.
The overwhelming majority of English people and of football fans are in favour of commentators, footballers and others using their platforms over the World Cup coverage to bring attention to human rights issues.
Gary Neville recently hosted Have I Got News For You, and was heavily criticised by the other panel members. The panel took issue with his perspective on “highlighting” the issue after accepting payment from Qatar and flying over there to participate, when he could campaign from the UK. Click here to view the full video.
This week, Joe Lycett created a new website: www.benderslikebeckham.com, which is a direct message to legendary football player David Beckham, who has reportedly received £10 million to be a FIFA ambassador for the World Cup in Qatar.
Lycett says: “I consider you, along with Kim Woodburn and Monty Don, to be a gay icon… If you end your relationship with Qatar I will donate ten grand of my own money (that’s a grand for every million you’re reportedly getting) to charities that support queer people in football. However, if you do not, I will throw the money into a shredder at midday next Sunday, just before the opening ceremony of the World Cup and stream it right here.”
Now, of course, Joe Lycett is making a statement more than an actual threat to shred the money, and Beckham is yet to respond.
Dua Lipa has stated very publicly that she will not be performing at the world Cup in Qatar despite growing rumours that she would be, specifically mentioning their track record and laws in relation to LGBTQ+ rights.
There are even pubs refusing to show the World Cup in their venues to show their solidarity with LGBTQ+ people and women.