Qatari LGBTs call for fault ahead of 2022 World Cup

As Qatar prepares to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the government has assured potential visitors that it will welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) tourists and that fans will be free to wave the rainbow flag. in the sky during matches. But for LGBT Qatari people like Mohammed, openly expressing their sexuality as gay is not an option. To do so, he fears, would bring him back in prison.

Mohammed was arrested in 2014 for suspected homosexual behavior, punishable by imprisonment for up to seven years under article 285 of the Qatar Penal Code. While in detention, officers searched his phone, identified a man he had texted with, and attempted to contact that person to target him as well. Mohammed was detained for weeks, suffering verbal abuse and sexual harassment from the police. The officers even shaved his head.

Seven years later, Mohammed has resigned himself to a life of discretion: he dresses in a masculine style, refrains from posting about his sexuality online and no longer meets men on dating apps.

Mohammed’s isolation is not by choice, but by necessity. People told Human Rights Watch that the Qatari government monitors and arrests LGBT people for their online activity. Authorities also censor traditional media related to sexual orientation and gender identity, including people who support LGBT people. They have effectively excluded LGBT content from the public sphere.

“There is no freedom [to post anything related to sexuality online]”Mohammed said.

As Qatar develops its surveillance capabilities, including inside football stadiums, the possibility of LGBT Qataris being persecuted for publicly supporting LGBT rights will remain long after international fans have left.

Surveillance-free physical and virtual spaces are disappearing in Qatar, as data protection law allows broad exceptions that infringe the right to privacy. When digital surveillance is combined with laws that target individuals on the basis of consensual sexual behavior outside of marriage, there is nowhere to hide.

The Qatari government should repeal Article 285 and all other laws that criminalize consensual sex outside of marriage and leave people like Mohammed living in fear in the shadows. Freedom of expression and non-discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity should be guaranteed for all Qataris, not just spectators and tourists who flock to Qatar for the World Cup.

About Larry Struck

Larry Struck

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