Trans woman forced to cut hair and ‘remove breast tissue’ by Qatari officials

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

A trans woman in Qatar has described how she was forced to cut her hair and had her breast tissue “removed” after being arrested for who she is.

LGBTQ+ rights, or lack thereof, in Qatar have been in the spotlight since the country was announced as host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

While there has been global outrage over Qatar’s criminalisation of gay sex, punishable with jail time or the death penalty, little has been said about the fate of trans Qataris.

In Qatar, trans people can be arrested without charge for “violating public decency”, simply for being trans.

Speaking to the BBC under a pseudonym and through an encrypted messaging service, one trans woman named as “Shahd” said she wanted to speak out about the persecution of trans people in Qatar, telling the publication: “I am very afraid, but I just want people to know that we do exist.”

Shahd said she had been arrested for “impersonating a woman”, and was forced to cut her hair.

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Because she had been taking oestrogen, procured from abroad, authorities demanded that she “remove her breast tissue”, leaving her with wounds across her chest.

Shahd said she has been “arrested and interrogated several times because of my identity”, and is constantly in fear of being detained again.

She added: “I lost my job and my friends… I lost everything.”

A recent report from Human Rights Watch (HRW), showed how Qatar has arrested, abused and harassed LGBTQ+ people as recently as September 2022. HRW documented beatings and sexual assault by police, and heard from trans women who said they were ordered to attend conversion therapy by officials.

Shahd confirmed this to be true, that LGBTQ+ people who are arrested are referred to doctors for “therapy” sessions.

But a government official said that Qatar “categorically rejected” these claims, and told the BBC that at the World Cup, people “from all walks of life come together in Qatar to build bridges of friendship and break down barriers of misunderstanding”.

Despite the country’s horrific human rights record, last month FIFA officials urged players to “focus on the football” rather than “handing out moral lessons” during the World Cup.

A letter from FIFA president Gianni Infantino and secretary general Fatma Samoura, sent to all nations competing in the World Cup, reportedly said: “Please do not allow football to be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists.

“At FIFA, we try to respect all opinions and beliefs, without handing out moral lessons to the rest of the world… No one people or culture or nation is ‘better’ than any other.

“Please let’s all remember that and let football take centre stage.”