Qatar continues to abuse LGBT people ahead of World Cup


Human Rights Watch reports that security police in Qatar have continued to arrest and ill-treat LGBT people ahead of the nation’s hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Victims told the New York-based organisation that this mistreatment took place as recently as September 2022, even as the government has come under intense scrutiny for its treatment of LGBT people.

Human Rights Watch documented six cases of severe and repeated beatings and five cases of sexual harassment in police custody between 2019 and 2022.

Qatar Preventive Security Department forces arrested people in public places based solely on their gender expression and unlawfully searched their phones.

As a requirement for their release, security forces mandated that transgender women detainees attend conversion therapy sessions at a government-sponsored “behavioural healthcare” centre.

“While Qatar prepares to host the World Cup, security forces are detaining and abusing LGBT people simply for who they are, apparently confident that the security force abuses will go unreported and unchecked,” said Rasha Younes, LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Qatari authorities need to end impunity for violence against LGBT people. The world is watching.”

All were detained without charge, in one case for two months in solitary confinement

Human Rights Watch interviewed six LGBT Qataris, including four transgender women, one bisexual woman, and one gay man. Doctor Nasser Mohamed, an openly gay Qatari activist, helped connect Human Rights Watch to five of those interviewed.

All said that Preventive Security Department officers detained the victims in an underground prison in Al Dafneh, Doha, where they verbally harassed and subjected detainees to physical abuse, ranging from slapping to kicking and punching until they bled. One woman said she lost consciousness.

Security officers also inflicted verbal abuse, extracted forced confessions, and denied detainees access to legal counsel, family, and medical care. All six said that police forced them to sign pledges indicating that they would “cease immoral activity.”

All were detained without charge, in one case for two months in solitary confinement, without access to legal counsel. None received any record of having been detained. These acts could constitute arbitrary detention under international human rights law.

A transgender Qatari woman said that after security forces arrested her on the street in Doha, Preventive Security officers accused her of “imitating women” because of her gender expression. In the police car, they beat her until her lips and nose were bleeding and kicked her in the stomach, she recounted. “You gays are immoral, so we will be the same to you,” she said one officer told her.

“I saw many other LGBT people detained there: two Moroccan lesbians, four Filipino gay men, and one Nepalese gay man,” she said. “I was detained for three weeks without charge, and officers repeatedly sexually harassed me. Part of the release requirement was attending sessions with a psychologist who ‘would make me a man again.’”

“I still have nightmares to this day, and I’m terrified of being in public.”

A Qatari bisexual woman said: “[Preventive Security officers] beat me until I lost consciousness several times. An officer took me blindfolded by car to another place that felt like a private home from the inside and forced me to watch restrained people getting beaten as an intimidation tactic.”

A Qatari transgender woman, arrested by Preventive Security in public in Doha, said: “I suffered from depression because of my detention. I still have nightmares to this day, and I’m terrified of being in public.”

In all cases, Preventive Security forces forced the victims to unlock their phones and took screenshots of private pictures and chats from their devices, as well as the contact information of other LGBT people.

A Qatari gay man who has experienced government repression, including arbitrary arrest, said security forces surveilled and arrested him based on his online activity.

Qatar’s Penal Code punishes extramarital sex, including same-sex relations, with up to seven years in prison. None of those interviewed said they faced charges, and it appears their arbitrary arrest and detention was based on a law that allows for detention without charge or trial for up to six months, if “there exist well-founded reasons to believe that the defendant may have committed a crime,” including “violating public morality.”

In 2020, Qatar assured prospective visitors that it would welcome LGBT visitors and that fans would be free to fly the rainbow flag at the World Cup football games. Suggestions by officials that Qatar would make an exception to its abusive laws and practices for outsiders are implicit reminders that Qatari authorities do not believe that its LGBT citizens and residents deserve basic rights, Human Rights Watch said.

FIFA, the football governing body, which awarded Qatar the World Cup in 2010, adopted in 2016 the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which require it to “avoid infringing on the human rights of others and address adverse human rights impacts.” It requires FIFA to take adequate measures for the “prevention, mitigation, and remediation” of human rights impacts.

“Only weeks ahead of the World Cup, LGBT people are raising the alarm on the abuses they have endured by security forces,” Younes said. “The Qatari government should call an immediate halt to this abuse and FIFA should push the Qatari government to ensure long-term reform that protects LGBT people from discrimination and violence.”

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