LGBTQ+ activist Peter Tatchell ‘arrested’ in Qatar for defiant protest ahead of World Cup

Peter Tatchell holds up a sign protesting against Qatar's anti-LGBTQ+ regime

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has been arrested in Qatar while protesting the country’s criminalisation of LGBTQ+ people ahead of the World Cup. 

Tatchell, who has been a diehard LGBTQ+ and human rights activist for decades, was taken into custody while staging a one-man protest in Qatar on Tuesday (25 October). His current whereabouts are unknown, according to a statement released by the UK-based Peter Tatchell Foundation.

Shortly before his protest, the campaigner denounced Qatar’s “homophobic, sexist and racist dictatorship” and accused the country of trying to “sportswash its reputation” with the upcoming World Cup. 

This was the first-ever public LGBTQ+ protest in Qatar or any Gulf state, according to the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

“There can be no normal sporting relations with an abnormal regime like Qatar,” Tatchell said. “It is a homophobic, sexist and racist dictatorship.”  

He continued: “Qatar cannot be allowed to sportswash its reputation. It is using the World Cup to enhance its international image. 

“We must ensure that the tyrant regime in Doha does not score a PR victory.”

Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, and LGBTQ+ people in the Gulf state face three years in prison and hefty fines for living as their authentic selves. Sharia law may also be applied to some Muslim people, which imposes the death penalty for homosexuality

There have also been reports that queer Qataris experience police brutality, abuse and hateful behaviour in the country

Peter Tatchell, 70, wanted his protest to “shine a light on Qatar’s human rights abuses against LGBT+ people, migrant workers and liberal Qataris”. He said he was supporting others’ “brave battle against tyranny”. 

“LGBT+ Qataris face police harassment, online entrapment, ‘honour’ killing, arrest, three years jail and potentially the death penalty,” Tatchell said.

“Qatar has secret gay conversion centres where LGBT+ people can be detained and subjected to abusive attempts to turn them straight.”

The decision by FIFA to hold the World Cup in Qatar has been surrounded by controversy given the country’s human rights records – particularly the treatment of migrant workers and the LGBTQ+ community.

Tatchell said that FIFA has “failed to secure change in Qatar” despite the international governing body of association football saying that “discrimination will not be tolerated”.

“Despite FIFA saying that discrimination will not be tolerated, if a Qatari footballer came out as gay, he would be more likely to be arrested and jailed than be selected for the national team,” Tatchell said. “That’s discrimination and against FIFA’s rules.”

Peter Tatchell accused FIFA of letting the country “evade many of its pledges when it was granted the right to hold the World Cup” as there have been no legislative reforms on LGBTQ+ or women’s rights. 

He added the improvements in conditions for migrant workers have been “patchy at best”.