Qatari authorities have failed to assure traveling LGBTQ+ supporters that they will be safe at the World Cup, prompting major organizations to oppose any travel to the tournament.
The Guardian this week presented the Supreme Committee, the body responsible for organizing the World Cup, with a series of direct questions related to LGBTQ+ fans and their concerns, but received no specific answers.
Questions included whether:
LGBTQ+ people would be protected by Qatari authorities if they were threatened because of their sexuality.
Articles of the Qatari penal code, including those that prohibit “inciting, inducing or seducing a man in any way to commit sodomy”, would be suspended during the tournament.
Fans carrying rainbow flags would be allowed to take them into stadiums.
The Supreme Committee would specifically welcome LGBTQ+ people as World Cup visitors.
A general response said: “Everyone will be welcome in Qatar in 2022, regardless of race, origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation or nationality. We are a relatively conservative society – for example, public displays of affection are not part of our culture. We believe in mutual respect and so while everyone is welcome, we expect everyone to respect our culture and traditions in return.
The Guardian approached a representative of the Qatari government’s communications office with the first two of these questions and received no response.
Safety fears have risen among LGBTQ+ supporter groups as dialogue with organizers has stalled. Anne Lieberman, a founding member of the LGBTIQ Human Rights Sports Coalition, said the group had been in talks with Qatari authorities for nearly two years but had yet to receive firm security guarantees.
“This suggests to us quite clearly that LGBTIQ people, regardless of their role, will not be protected from the state and its repressive anti-LGBTIQ legislation, or other potential security risks,” Lieberman said.
Qatari authorities’ reluctance to directly address concerns, or even mention the term LGBTQ+, has led to a situation where groups are effectively recommending a boycott of the tournament.
Lou Englefield, of Football v Homophobia, said: “I don’t know of any European LGBTIQ supporter groups, or individual supporters, who are currently planning to attend this World Cup. The position of the Supreme Committee is simply not in line with the commitments they had to make to Fifa. How can an international sporting event that expects millions of visitors not be open to reassuring a large minority group who have well-founded fears of being safe and welcome? We’ve never seen anything like it.”
Fifa has not publicly commented on these concerns. Information shared with the Guardian, however, showed football’s world governing body believed it had received sufficient assurances from the Qatari authorities regarding fan safety and law enforcement. No specific details were shared.
In a letter to the Human Rights Sports Coalition seen by the Guardian, Fifa’s Joyce Cook, then chief social accountability and education officer and now senior adviser, said the governing body had “carefully assessed the named legal clauses and their implementation in practice, in particular with regard to LGBTIQ+ people”.
She wrote that: “Based on our engagement with the relevant Qatari authorities, and in accordance with existing government safeguards, event-specific legislation, as well as our experience hosting other events in Qatar, Fifa is confident that individuals identifying as LGBTIQ+ will not face any repercussions based on the aforementioned legal provisions.
LGBTQ+ organizations say a lack of clarity and public communication has heightened concerns. Even the question of whether fans will be able to fly rainbow flags in Doha without repercussions remains unresolved.
According to Lieberman: “FIFA has had a responsibility from the beginning to ensure that human rights due diligence has been done, and there remains a positive legacy for all, and now we are less than 150 days fighting for basic security guarantees.”
Last Thursday, Fifa released figures showing that 1.8 million tickets have been sold for the World Cup, which begins on November 21. This is an increase of one million from the previous total and the remaining tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis from Tuesday. “Fans interested in an unforgettable trip to Qatar are urged to act quickly before the coveted seats are taken,” Fifa said.