Anti-LGBTQ+ Qatar really doesn’t like having its existence erased

Activists protest outside the Embassy of Qatar in London on the eve of the World Cup

Qatar is reportedly “reviewing” its investments in London after ads encouraging travel to the World Cup were banned on transport in the capital.

In 2019, mayor Sadiq Khan banned advertising for countries that impose the death penalty for LGBTQ+ people — including Qatar, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — from being displayed on Transport for London (TfL) services.

A spokesperson for Khan said at the time: “TfL adverts are seen by millions of people every year, and given the global role London plays championing LGBT+ rights, the mayor has asked that TfL review how it treats advertising and sponsorship from countries with abhorrent anti-LGBT+ laws.”

A TfL spokesperson admitted this week some ads for Qatar had been shown since 2019, and told AFP adverts “continue to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis”.

The spokesperson said that while ads that encourage people to watch the World Cup on TV were acceptable, “advertising which promotes travel to Qatar, tourism in Qatar, or portrays Qatar as a desirable destination” is not.

“Advertising which promotes ticket sales, encourages people to attend the matches in person, or encourages people to attend other events in Qatar will not be considered acceptable at this time,” they added.

The ban has reportedly prompted the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) to “review” its significant investment in the UK’s capital, which includes the ownership of Harrods, the Shard, and part ownership of Canary Wharf.

Earlier this year, Qatar said it would invest a further £10 billion in the UK over the next five years.

An unnamed source with “knowledge of the review” told Sky News: “The Qataris see this as a contradiction by London’s political leaders.

“At a time when other investors are pulling out of London due to economic instability, the decision has been interpreted as a message from the mayor’s office that Qatari business is not welcome in London.”

The source slammed the TfL ban as “another blatant example of double standards and virtue signalling to score cheap political points”, and said the QIA had “started a review of all their current and future investments in London and considering investment opportunities in other UK cities and home nations instead”. 

Under Qatar’s Penal Code 2004 queer people can be jailed for up to seven years if convicted of having sex, and under Sharia law, homosexuality is punishable with the death penalty.

Despite the assurances of FIFA, fans wearing rainbow colours or displaying Pride flags have been hounded by security at the World Cup in Qatar.

And several European counties abandoned plans to wear the pro-LGBTQ+ OneLove armband during games after FIFA threatened captains could face an instant yellow card.