Qatar’s treatment of incoming members of the LGBQT community for the World Cup has been a hot topic in recent months.
The foreign secretary of the United Kingdom has encouraged LGBTQ football fans travelling to Qatar for the World Cup to “compromise” and “respect the host nation.”
The official told LBC Radio that he spoke to Qatari authorities in the past about the treatment of gay fans looking to travel for the mega-tournament and was reassured that all fans will be safe and secure.
“They want to make sure that football fans are safe, secure and enjoy themselves, and they know that that means they are going to have to make some compromises in terms of what is an Islamic country with a very different set of cultural norms to our own,” he said.
“One of the things I would say for football fans is, you know, please do be respectful of the host nation. They are trying to ensure that people can be themselves and enjoy the football, and I think with a little bit of flex and compromise at both ends, it can be a safe, secure, and exciting World Cup.”
However, the country’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s office promptly retracted the remarks, and a prominent member of the opposition Labour party referred to them as “shockingly tone deaf.”
Cleverly’s comments came in light of British activist Peter Tatchell being questioned by police by police after staging a one-man protest in front of Qatar’s National Museum.
The activist had falsely claimed that he was arrested and detained by local authorities during his protest.
Doha News personally spoke to Tatchell at the location of the protest, moments after the police walked away, where he continued to stand unharmed and without any officers in the area.
He told Doha News that he stood outside NMoQ for 35 minutes before state security came, followed by police officers. When asked whether he was taken away or handcuffed, he said no.
Tatchell said he was questioned about his nationality and travels to Qatar, and confirmed “the officers were polite and I’m grateful for that.”
His move has been described by regional campaigners as a “public stunt” to draw negative attention to the country, with several Western media rolling out fake news with no fact-checking.
The incident occurred on the same day that the amir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani lamented “unfair” media coverage of the Gulf nation, saying “no other host nation” has faced this level of criticism.
“Since we won the honour of hosting the World Cup, Qatar has faced an unprecedented campaign that no other host nation has received. And we had handled it at first in good faith while considering some of the criticism positive and beneficial,” Sheikh Tamim told the Shura Council on Tuesday.
Assurances from Qatar
Since Qatar was awarded the hosting of the first-ever FIFA World Cup in the region, the topic of how the Gulf state would treat the LGBTQ+ community has been a hot topic Western media.
Despite the ongoing criticism, officials across the board have maintained that everyone is welcome, though urged fans to be respectful of the country’s culture and traditions.
More recently, Nasser Al Khater, World Cup Qatar 2022 CEO, spoke to Sky News about the matter, insisting that no one will face discrimination during the 29-day tournament.
“At the end of the day, as long as you don’t do anything that harms other people, if you’re not destroying public property, as long as you’re behaving in a way that’s not harmful, then everybody’s welcome and you have nothing to worry about,” said Al Khater.
While the Gulf state is maintaining its anti-LGBTQ+ laws, Al Khater assured that gay fans can hold hands.
“This is a sporting tournament that people want to come [to] and enjoy. Turning it into a platform of political statements I don’t think is right for the sport,” said Al Khater.
“All we ask is for people to be respectful of the culture,” he said, adding that “from what he understands” there are discussions on political messages at the tournament.
In May, when asked about the attendance of members of the LGBTQ community at the World Cup, Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani said “everybody is welcome in Doha”.
“We do not stop anybody from coming to Doha with any different backgrounds, any different beliefs, Qatar is a very welcoming country,” the amir told the press during his visit to Berlin.
Sheikh Tamim added that the country already welcomes “millions” of visitors and the World Cup serves as “a great opportunity” for people all over the world to experience the Qatari culture.
“We welcome everybody, but also we expect and we want people to respect our culture,” said the Qatari leader.