LGBT+ people in Qatar arrested and beaten weeks before World Cup kick off, rights group warns

Qatar is hosting the World Cup in November. Credit: AP
  • Words by ITV News Digital Journalist Jocelyn Evans

LGBT+ people in Qatar have been arrested and beaten in police custody as recently as September, a human rights group has warned.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) spoke to six individuals who described being verbally and physically harassed in an underground prison in Doha.

Qatar's penal code punishes same-sex relations with up to seven years in prison.

LGBT+ people have long suffered underneath Qatar's penal code, but it's now come under global scrutiny ahead of the FIFA Men's World Cup in November.

HRW interviewed four trans women, one bisexual woman, and one gay man - all of whom said they were verbally and physically abused at an underground prison in Doha.

All were detained without charge, in one case for two months in solitary confinement. One woman told the human rights group she was beaten until she lost consciousness.

All six said police forced them to sign pledges promising to "cease immoral activity."

"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," LGBT rights researcher at HRW, Rasha Younes, said.

"Qatari authorities need to end impunity for violence against LGBT people. The world is watching."

LGBT rights activists protest in St.Petersburg when Russia held the FIFA Men's World Cup in 2018. Credit: AP

A trans Qatari woman recounted being arrested by police who accused her of "imitating women".

She says she was beaten until her lips and nose were bleeding, and kicked in the stomach.

 "You gays are immoral, so we will be the same to you," one officer told her, 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.’"

Another trans woman says police forced her to shave her hair.

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When Qatar was awarded the tournament, the country told prospective visitors it would welcome LGBT+ fans and allow for the rainbow flag to be flown at games.

HRW says this suggestion just reinforces how Qatari authorities do not believe that its own LGBT citizens and residents deserve basic rights.

The group is calling on the country to end arrests for adult, consensual relations - and repeal laws criminalising it.

"Only weeks ahead of the World Cup, LGBT people are raising the alarm on the abuses they have endured by security forces," Ms 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."

For its part, FIFA says it "recognises its obligation to uphold the inherent dignity and equal rights of everyone affected by its activities." The body says this is "enshrined in article 3 of the FIFA Statutes: 'FIFA is committed to respecting all internationally recognised human rights and shall strive to promote the protection of these rights.'"