When Nasser Mohammeda Qatari doctor who now lives in San Francisco, gave an interview told the BBC in May about LGBTQ rights abuses in his home country, little did he know he might be the first person from Qatar to come out publicly as gay.
“I looked around a bit for other people and I couldn’t find them,” Mohamed told [email protected] on Friday, two days before the 2022 World Cup began in Qatar. “The previous night [the BBC] I let out, I said to myself: ‘You are very brave. He doesn’t get discouraged if he has already said it and people don’t care, and no one listens to him. ”
But that was not the case. The whole of Qatar heard the interview because it was broadcast in Arabic from the BBC. Mohamed, 35, who was separated from his family in 2015 after he went out to his motherShe says she received a lot of hateful responses, but she also connected with a lot of queer Qataris for the first time.
His main goal now is to generate as much visibility as possible for LGBTQ issues in Qatar before international journalists leave when the World Cup ends.
“I hope we have a platform. There is still a long way to go, but visibility is the first step,” she says.
Mohamed has recently established the alwan foundationthe first non-profit organization to advocate for LGBTQ communities in the Persian Gulf region and collect evidence-based data on their living conditions and rights violations.
He was also the main force behind the recently released Human Rights Watch. report on LGBTQ abuse persons by the Qatari authorities. He helped the international organization collect evidence for the report and connect with victims of abuse who described the ill-treatment that took place in September.
The illegality of same-sex relationships under Qatari law has been widely discussed in the press and on social media since the country won the bid to host the World Cup in 2010. Both LGBTQ soccer fans Y players they have been questioning whether it would be safe for them to go to Qatar for the event.
“These [LGBTQ rights] These are extremely important rights. They go to the most fundamental aspects of humanity and human expression, and human identity, and just being human and fully realizing yourself,” he says. Alexandra Meisteaching associate professor at Northeastern Law School.
LGBTQ rights are part of human rights
LGBTQ rights are part of the human rights inherent to all human beings without discrimination, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rightswhich is part of the International Bill of Human Rights adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations.
However, the extent of the international consensus on LGBTQ rights is a tricky question, says Meise.
“If you look at the last 10 or 15 years, you’ll see a growth in recognition of LGBTQ rights around the world, broadly speaking,” he says. “And if you look at just one measure of that, the number of countries that have legalized same-sex marriage in some form, that’s a significant change in the last two decades.”
But such growth is not universal. There is a subset of states that have actively expressed their intention that human rights not be extended to cover sexual orientation or gender identity, Meise says. There are also countries that actively resist efforts to expressly codify protections for LGBTQ people in some way.
Qatar is among 11 countries in the world that have the death penalty as one of the possible punishments for consensual homosexual behavior, according to ILGA Worldthe International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.
Same-sex sexual relations between men are illegal, even if they are consensual. Penalties include lashing, lengthy prison sentences and/or deportation for foreign nationals, according to the US Department of State..
There is no law that penalizes sexual relations between women of the same sex, however, in practice they are also persecuted, says Mohamed.
The state conducts cyber surveillance, tries to shut down venues, and infiltrates LGBTQ groups to arrest them, according to Human Rights Watch. report. LGBTQ people are detained by the Department of Preventive Security, a law enforcement agency, Mohamed says, and are jailed for weeks or months, sometimes without charge. There they are verbally and physically abused, tortured and sexually harassed, the Human Rights Watch reports.
Qatar subjects LGBTQ people to conversion therapy
The state also subjects LGBTQ people in Qatar to conversion therapy, according to Human Rights Watch.
Mohamed says the treatment LGBTQ people experience in Qatar cannot be fully explained by religious beliefs.
“I can definitely argue that the kind of persecution Qatar is subjecting us to is against Islam,” he says, “because Islam does not support kidnapping and torturing people. And that’s what they do to us.”
Mohamed believes that foreign LGBTQ fans visiting Qatar for the World Cup will not face the same risk of persecution as local queer people.
“Because Qatar has this double standard to apply things,” he says. “There’s just a very different deal for the local community.”
Qatar will do its best while on the world stage, he says.
danielsenLaw professor and faculty director of the Program on the Corporation, Law and Global Society at Northeastern, agrees that Qatar is unlikely to target international LGBTQ athletes or visitors during the World Cup, as would create a stir in the international press.
“The general rule is that people who travel have an obligation to abide by the laws of the country they are in,” he says, noting that it would be better to consider the trip carefully rather than face draconian sanctions. for violation of the laws of Qatar.
Extremely careful and conscientious gay visitors.
Danielsen visited Qatar several times in the 2010s to attend workshops on governance and international law. He was extremely careful and aware of the fact that he did not know Qatari culture very well, he says. He wasn’t going to do anything he thought would be offensive to anyone, both for personal safety and out of respect for the context of his visit.
“That was a place the whole time I was there I had a separate room from my partner. It was one of the only times in our long relationship that that was the case,” says Danielsen. “I don’t want to exaggerate the risks, but at the same time, you don’t want to imagine that you’re completely safe everywhere, because that’s just not true.”
In Mohamed’s view, there is a bigger question mark over whether the Qatari government will be able to protect foreign LGBTQ fans who might choose to champion queer visibility from violent local homophobes. Some of the tribal people in Qatar may be very proud of their values, he says, and may react negatively to any act of solidarity with local LGBTQ people.
If an international LGBTQ fan becomes the victim of a homophobic crime or assault, Danielsen says, their most powerful weapon would be publicity, international press and posting on social media about what happened. US citizens can contact the local US consulate, which will attempt to intervene on their behalf.
“Although, generally speaking, the consulate cannot excuse violations of local law, it can try to ask for leniency or it can exert diplomatic pressure on the state,” he says.
LGBTQ people after the World Cup
What Mohamed fears most are rumors that the government is preparing to carry out a “Western cleanup” among local LGBTQ people after the World Cup, he says. He also fears that misleading public relations that “everyone is welcome in Qatar”, as officials in the country have been saying, will close the way for LGBTQ Qataris to seek asylum in the West as he did because there is almost no public evidence of abuse and persecution to prove their cases.
has also launched the proud maroons—The only National LGBTQ Soccer Fan Group that cheers for the Qatar national soccer team, nicknamed the Maroons, but can’t have fans from their own nation because homosexuality is currently illegal in Qatar, says Mohamed.
Human rights and international sports are a complex subject, says Meise. Calls for international sports organizations to consider human rights issues when making their host teams have been raised before, both in the case of the World Cup and the Olympic Games and in other contexts.
“What I would say is that the investment and the choices of where to spend the money are a reflection of the values,” says Meise. “That also extends internationally.”
Yet during the Cold War, for example, international sporting events were some of the only opportunities for people from countries who would not otherwise participate, who would not otherwise have exchanges, who would not otherwise get to meet, to come together. talk to each other, she says.
They may have their own political strategies.
When outsiders or international organizations want to help local community groups, Danielsen says, they need to follow the lead of those groups about what they feel they want to do, whether they want the spotlight to shine on them, and whether they can have their own policy. strategies or their own ways of being in society that make it tolerable.
“They can be really important and risky questions,” he says. “Can be [a matter of] life and death.”
Mohamed believes that only the foreign policy and economic repercussions imposed on Qatar by its history of LGBTQ rights abuses can make a difference to the situation.
“It must be very inconvenient for them to persecute homosexuals,” says Mohamed.
There are various mechanisms within international, diplomatic, geopolitical structures and international organizations that can be used to encourage countries to protect and preserve human rights, Meise says.
In addition to the UN Human Rights Council and other formal meetings of members of the international community in multilateral diplomatic settings, there may be bilateral temptations and incentives that may encourage countries to protect and preserve rights, such as economic aid, trade , technical assistance, exchanges in military matters. training that can be negotiated for compliance with specific human rights standards.
Sanctions can be another way to denounce human rights violators, says Meise.