Qatar accused of arresting and abusing LGBTQ+ people simply for existing: ‘They shaved my hair’
The LGBTQ+ community in Qatar is still being persecuted in the run-up to the World Cup despite assurances the event would be safe to attend for queer fans.
A shocking report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) found that LGBTQ+ people in Qatar, where it is illegal to be gay, have been arrested and subjected to verbal and physical abuse as recently as last month.
The organisation interviewed four trans women, one bisexual woman and a gay man from Qatar for its report, with all six of the interviewees reporting that they had been detained without charge by the country’s Preventive Security Department (PSD) between 2019 and 2022.
HRW reported that in the case of the four trans women, security forces ordered them to attend conversion therapy sessions as a requirement of their release.
The report comes as The Football Association (FA) has repeatedly assured LGBTQ+ fans they will not face arrest for holding hands or kissing at the World Cup.
Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, and queer people could face up to three years in prison plus a fine if convicted. Sharia law may also be applied to some Muslims, which imposes the death penalty for homosexuality.
‘They shaved my hair’
One trans woman claimed officers accused her of “imitating women” due to her gender expression, and beat her until her lips and nose were bleeding.
“I saw many other LGBT people detained there: two Moroccan lesbians, four Filipino gay men, and one Nepalese gay man… I was detained for three weeks without charge, and officers repeatedly sexually harassed me,” she told HRW.
“Part of the release requirement was attending sessions with a psychologist who ‘would make me a man again’.”
Another Qatari trans woman said she was arrested because she was wearing makeup, with the PSD making her sign a pledge that she would not wear makeup again as a condition for her release.
“They gave me hand wipes and made me wipe the makeup off my face… They also shaved my hair,” she said.
The FA has told PinkNews it will “continue to request more details on the assurances” made to LGBTQ+ fans about their safety at the 2022 World Cup.
The bisexual woman interviewed said PSD officers “beat me until I lost consciousness several times”.
“An officer took me blindfolded by car to another place that felt like a private home from the inside and forced me to watch restrained people getting beaten as an intimidation tactic.”
The HRW report explained that while none of the interviewees faced charges, their detention was based on a law that allows for provisional detention without charge or trial for up to six months, if “there exist well-founded reasons to believe that the defendant may have committed a crime”, including “violating public morality”.
FA chief executive Mark Bullingham previously stated: “They [Qatari authorities] have absolutely been briefed to be very tolerant and act in the right way.
“Any time we ask a direct question we tend to get an answer.”
Football fans, however, have shared fears that the assurances aren’t enough, with Joe White, co-chair of Pride in Football, telling PinkNews they had tickets to the World Cup, but ultimately decided not to go, fearing for their safety while in Qatar.
“That [the FA’s statement] doesn’t help if the worst situation happens and someone gets arrested,” they said.
“To a Qatari police officer or to anyone dealing with that, they’re not going to care what the English FA is saying.”
Rasha Younes, LGBTQ+ rights researcher at HRW said: “While Qatar prepares to host the World Cup, security forces are detaining and abusing LGBT people simply for who they are, apparently confident that the security force abuses will go unreported and unchecked.
“Qatari authorities need to end impunity for violence against LGBT people. The world is watching.”
HRW added in a separate statement: “Freedom of expression and non-discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity should be guaranteed, permanently, for all residents of Qatar, not just spectators going to Qatar for the World Cup.”
According to Reuters, A Qatari official said in a statement that HRW’s allegations “contain information that is categorically and unequivocally false”.
The FA said in a statement to PinkNews: “We will continue to request more details on the assurances received from the Local Organising Committee that all fans, including those from LGBTQ+ communities, will be welcome and that the safety and security of every fan is the top priority.
“Regular dialogue continues with local authorities on the ground to ensure this is the case, and more forums will be held for supporter groups to share their concerns and to feel The FA’s support.”