Members of the The LGBTQ community fears they could be arrested and even imprisoned if they kiss when they attend the World Cup later this month in Qatar, a particularly problematic venue for the typically Bacchanalian sporting event chosen after a massive bribery scandal.
The British are so worried about potential problems that they are sending a team of special “engagement officers” to protect fans from military police in Qatar.
Homosexuality is illegal in the country, and can be punished by death, according to Human Dignity Trust, a global advocacy group for LGBTQ rights.
But public displays of affection are frowned upon even for men who are heterosexual, and women are expected to dress modestly, and be in the company of husbands, not boyfriends. Women who go to the police about sexual violence can be flagged for engaging in illegal sex, according to news reports.
Alcohol consumption is restricted in Qatar, which affects yet another aspect of a typical World Cup fan experience.
Limited drinking will be allowed in some areas during the World Cup. But fans are strictly prohibited from bringing alcohol into the country. “Specific measures” are in place to crack down on anyone trying to smuggle liquor in their luggage, ESPN reported.
A Qatari official recently offered few reassurances for the European LGBTQ community. While “holding hands” may be permitted in public, Qatar’s ambassador to the UK Fahad bin Mohammed al-Attiyah could not guarantee in a Times of London radio interview that anything more would be acceptable.
“I think you have to pay attention to the norms and cultures of Qatari society,” he warned, ironically suggesting that public displays of affection are also illegal in Britain.
Conservative UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly triggered a massive backlash last month after telling soccer fans to “be respectful” of Qatar’s anti-LGBTQ culture if they attend the World Cup. A spokesperson for the new UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak angrily responded that no fan should be expected to “compromise who they are.”
Most involved European officials have tried to persuade Qatari law enforcement to hide their typical fan behavior, including climbing on tables, dropping flags over statues and singing “loud songs in public” without arrests, according to a summary of agreements by The Guardian. .
LGBTQ fans are also supposed to be allowed to wave pride flags in public. But what happens in real practice with several million fans expected remains to be seen.
An official from Qatar’s Government Communications Office told NBC News last month that fans will be “free to express themselves” — but will also be expected to “respect local values and culture.”
The massive culture clash is a major indication of Qatar’s problematic choice to host the World Cup after bribes were paid to officials from soccer’s international governing body FIFA.
The nation had no soccer legacy when it was elected in 2010, no stadiums capable of hosting international matches, and weather so hot during the typical time of the tournament that soccer league schedules around the world had to be amended to accommodate Qatar’s weather. .
The most fundamental concerns involved rewarding a country with severe human rights violations, especially involving migrant workers, who make the nation run. Thousands of migrant workers have died in the past 10 years in Qatar, many of them in construction accidents – or due to heat exhaustion – on projects linked to the World Cup.