Is the World Cup safe for LGBTQ athletes and fans?

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When Nasser Mohamed, a Qatari doctor now living in San Francisco, gave an interview to the BBC in May about LGBTQ rights abuses in his home country, little did he know he might be the first Qatari to come out publicly as gay. .

“I looked around a bit for other people and I couldn’t find them,” Mohamed told News@Northeastern on Friday, two days before the 2022 World Cup began in Qatar. “The previous night [the BBC] I let out, I said to myself: ‘You are very brave. He doesn’t get discouraged if he has already said it and people don’t care, and no one listens to him. ”

But that was not the case. The whole of Qatar heard the interview because it was broadcast in Arabic from the BBC. Mohamed, 35, who was isolated from his family in 2015 after confessing to his mother, says he received many hateful responses, but also connected with many queer Qataris for the first time.

His main goal now is to generate as much visibility as possible for LGBTQ issues in Qatar before international journalists leave when the World Cup ends.

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

“I hope we have a platform. There is still a long way to go, but visibility is the first step,” she says.

Mohamed has recently established the Alwan Foundation, the first non-profit organization that advocates for LGBTQ communities in the Persian Gulf region and collects evidence-based data on their living conditions and rights violations.

He was also the main force behind the recently released Human Rights Watch report on the abuse of LGBTQ people by the Qatari authorities. She helped the international organization collect evidence for the report and connect with victims of abuse who described the ill-treatment that took place in 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 its bid to host the World Cup in 2010. Both fans and players of Qatar LGBTQ soccer have been questioning whether it would be safe for them. to go to Qatar for the event.

“These [LGBTQ rights] they are extremely important. They go to the most fundamental aspects of humanity and human expression, and human identity, and just being human and fully realizing yourself,” says Alexandra Meise, an adjunct professor of teaching at Northeastern Law School.

LGBTQ rights are part of human rights

LGBTQ rights are part of the human rights inherent to all human beings without discrimination, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is part of the International Bill of Human Rights adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations.

However, the extent of the international consensus on LGBTQ rights is a tricky question, says Meise.

“If you look at the last 10 or 15 years, you’ll see a growth in LGBTQ rights around the world, broadly speaking,” he says. “And if you look at just one measure of that, the number of countries that have legalized same-sex marriage in some form, that’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 that human rights not be extended to cover sexual orientation or gender identity, Meise says. There are also countries that actively resist efforts to expressly codify protections for LGBTQ people in some way.

photo by alexander meise (left) and dan danielsen (right)
Alexandra (Xander) Meise, a law professor, left, and Dan Danielsen. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeast University and courtesy photo

Qatar is among 11 countries in the world that have the death penalty as one of the possible punishments for consensual same-sex conduct, according to ILGA World, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.

Same-sex sexual relations between men are illegal, even if they are consensual. Penalties include lashing, lengthy prison sentences, and/or deportation for foreign nationals, according to the US State Department.

There is no law that penalizes sexual relations between women of the same sex, however, in practice they are also persecuted, says Mohamed.

The state conducts cyber surveillance, tries to shut down venues, and infiltrates LGBTQ groups to arrest them. LGBTQ people are detained by the Department of Preventive Security, a law enforcement agency, Mohamed says, and are jailed for weeks or 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 her sexuality because of her appearance or gender expression, she risks losing her job and being unemployed.

Mohamed says the treatment LGBTQ people experience in Qatar cannot be fully explained by religious beliefs.

“I can definitely argue that the kind of persecution 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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