Qatar uses threat of torture to turn gay people into ‘agents’, activist says

A stadium worker walks past a large statue of the World Cup in Qatar

Qatar authorities are reportedly turning queer people into “agents” and forcing them to sell out other LGBTQ+ people, a campaigner has claimed.

Qatari doctor and campaigner Dr Nasser Mohamed told The Guardian it’s safer for gay Qataris not to know each other to prevent law enforcement tracking down “their entire network”.

The activist, who lives in the US but keeps in touch with gay Qataris, said some who have been captured were “physically abused then recruited as agents”.

“Now there are agents in the gay community that were promised safety from physical torture in exchange for working for the preventive security department and helping them find groups of LGBTQ+ people,” he said.

It comes ahead of the World Cup beginning in Qatar on Sunday (20 November).

The tournament has brought with it intense global scrutiny of Qatar’s human rights abuses, including the deaths of workers and its persecution of LGBTQ+ people.

In Qatar, same-sex relations are punishable with up to seven years in prison. Queer Muslim men can, under Sharia, be given the death sentence.

Mohamed believed LGBTQ+ football fans travelling to Qatar for the World Cup will avoid being persecuted, but says the reality for locals is very different. 

“What is it like to be an LGBT Qatari? You live in fear, you live in the shadows, you’re actively persecuted. You’re subjected to state-sponsored physical and mental abuse. 

“It’s dangerous to be an LGBT person in Qatar,” he said. 

Between 2019 and 2022 the Human Rights Watch (HRW) documented six cases of severe and repeated beatings and fives cases of sexual harassment in police custody of LGBTQ+ people arrested by the preventative security department. 

Senior researcher with HRW, Rasha Younes, recalled one of the cases: “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. 

“They shaved her 17-inch long hair in detention, severely beat her until she bled, and denied her medical care.”

Another harrowing story news report that a gay man was raped by officials after a sting operation.

HRW said it has attempted to engage with FIFA and other sports organisations and LGBTQ+ activists for years but they haven’t paid attention.

“They have not been at all responsive or listen to the accounts that we have shared. Now that we have all this evidence, it’s really time for Fifa to stop having its fingers in its ears and actually listen,” said Younes.

FIFA has said it’s “confident that all necessary measures will be in place for LGBTIQ+ fans and allies to enjoy the tournament in a welcoming and safe environment, just as for everyone else”.