Gay flight attendant deported from Qatar ‘for wearing tinted moisturiser’

Qatar Airways Airbus A380-800 double decker airplane landing at Heathrow Airport in London, UK. The aircraft was delivered in April 2018 and is an Airbus A380-800 with registration A7-APJ and for GP7200 engines. Qatar Airways has 10 Airbus A380 in their fleet and connects daily Doha to London. Qatar is a member of Oneworld airline alliance. (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto)

A gay man who was allegedly deported from Qatar – where LGBTQ+ people face persecution, imprisonment and even death – just for wearing tinted moisturiser has recalled the “humiliating” incident.

Gilbert Ignatius, who was celebrating his 32nd birthday at a hotel bar in the capital of Qatar, Doha, in May 2023, told iNews he questioned by the authorities and later deported from the country simply for wearing tinted moisturiser. 

The former Qatar Airways flight attendant, who moved to Qatar from Indonesia in 2016 to take up the role, also claims he lost his job at the airline following the incident.

Qatar, which hosted the men’s football World Cup in 2022, is an increasingly hostile place to be queer with LGBTQ+ activist Dr Nasser Mohamed previously telling PinkNews that police targeted the community with “full blown force” six months after the World Cup. 

In Qatar, LGBTQ+ people are criminalised under the penal code, and consensual same-sex sexual activity is punishable by imprisonment. The country also operates on an interpretation of Sharia law that criminalises same-sex sexual intimacy between men, and men who have sex with men can face the death penalty as a result.

Ignatius said that he and his friends were approached by security officer who told them a Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officer wished to speak with them. 

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The 32-year-old said they were taken by two CID officers to a security room where one took a wet wipe to his and his friends’ faces, without consent. 

He said: “They found mine and my friend’s face was stained with tinted moisturiser.” 

The officers then demanded their phones and ID cards, which Ignatius contested by saying that he wanted to speak to the Indonesian embassy. 

He was told he would be jailed if he didn’t comply. They were swiftly taken to a police station where they were interrogated. 

Ignatius recalls the interrogation as “humiliating” as the officers asked “‘How much do you earn every night? How much if you f*** him and how much if he f*** you? I know what you’re doing.’”

The two men were accused of prostitution – punishable by up to ten years prison in Qatar – with the tinted moisturiser and Hermes bag and belt Ignatius was wearing being cited as “evidence”. 

He claims was told he had no rights in Qatar and was slapped on the cheek after denying he was a prostitute.  

The lengthy interrogation found “more evidence” in the form of a shirtless photo of Ignatius at Bangkok Pride. 

Later, the pair were forced to sign a document they could’t read, as it was written in Arabic, before their fingerprints and pictures were taken and they were eventually sent home. 

Ignatius claims that the following day, his employer, the government-owned Qatar Airways, told him he was grounded and held his passport. 

Weeks later, he says he and his friend were driven by an airline representative to a border post near Saudi Arabia, where their passports were handed over to the police. They were then told, “you are deported.”

PinkNews has contacted Qatar Airways for comment. 

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