Peter Tatchell staged the first ever public LGBT+ protest in Qatar or any Gulf state on Tuesday
Iconic British LGBT+ activist Peter Tatchell has been arrested after staging a one-man protest in Qatar to condemn that country’s homophobia just 26 days before the start of the football World Cup.
Standing outside the National Museum of Qatar in Doha on Tuesday for around 35 minutes, Tatchell held up a placard stating: “Qatar arrests, jails & subjects LGBTs to ‘conversion’ #QatarAntiGay”. He also wore a t-shirt with the hashtag: #QatarAntiGay.
He was then arrested and interrogated for almost an hour before being released without any charge. Tatchell’s demonstration is believed to have been the first-ever public LGBT+ protest in Qatar or any Gulf state.
“The most important thing in this protest was to shine a light on the abuse of human rights in Qatar,” Tatchell said after his release. “I stand in solidarity with those brave Qatari human rights defenders who cannot express their point of view because they fear arrest, jail, and possibly even torture. I salute them. They are the true heroes.”
Speaking before the protest, Tatchell asserted that “There can be no normal sporting relations with an abnormal regime like Qatar. It is a homophobic, sexist and racist dictatorship.”
“Qatar cannot be allowed to sportswash its reputation. It is using the World Cup to enhance its international image. We must ensure that the tyrant regime in Doha does not score a PR victory,” he said.
“LGBT+ Qataris face police harassment, online entrapment, ‘honour’ killing, arrest, three years jail and potentially the death penalty. Qatar has secret gay conversion centres where LGBT+ people can be detained and subjected to abusive attempts to turn them straight,” continued Tatchell.
This abuse of LGBT+ people in Qatar was also highlighted on Monday by Human Rights Watch which documented six cases of severe and repeated beatings and five cases of sexual harassment in police custody between 2019 and 2022.
Tatchell further noted that women in Qatar must get permission from a male guardian to marry, work in many government jobs and study and travel abroad.
“Over 6,500 migrant workers have died since Qatar was given the right to host the World Cup,” he added. “Many families are still waiting for compensation. Migrant workers complain of unpaid wages, overcrowded slum hostels and being refused permission to change jobs.”
FIFA has been criticised for appointing Qatar as the host of the 2022 World Cup because of its oppressive stance towards homosexuality and other human rights violations.
In 2019, Nasser al-Khater, chief executive of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, promised a tolerant approach towards LGBT+ fans attending the event.
“I would like to assure any fan, of any gender, (sexual) orientation, religion, race to rest assured that Qatar is one of the most safe countries in the world – and they’ll all be welcome here,” he said.
Activists have pointed out that while the country might temporarily relax its oppressive laws for World Cup visitors, LGBT+ Qataris and local human rights defenders will continue to be persecuted.