'Elevate our voices' says first out gay Qatari as FAs scrap rainbow armbands

This article and the above video contains references to and descriptions of violence against LGBT+ people

Dr Nas Mohamed is the first gay Qatari to publicly come out in the history of his country.

Now living in the USA, he's worked with human rights organisations to document the abuses LGBT+ people face in Qatar.

"They were kept in dungeons underground, they were subjected to physical torture, they were verbally abused as well and then subjected to conversion practices.

"The transgender individuals were subjected to forced genital inspections".

This was all done at the hands of Qatari authorities who, Dr Nas says, have permission to operate as "an unhinged mafia" due to the criminalisation of LGBT+ people in Qatar.

"They invade people's homes, they spy on people, they infiltrate dating apps and then they don't arrest - they frankly kidnap people."

The details are upsetting, but not the worst that has happened.

In order to protect the identities of those sharing what happened to them, these are just the experiences of LGBT+ people that are so widespread, it would be impossible to identify an individual from them.

Qatar criminalises same-sex relationships and an official for the World Cup told a German broadcaster that being LGBT+ is "damage to the mind".

Amid a chorus of criticism against this year's FIFA men's World Cup, Dr Nas is asking for that anger be channelled into actionable, meaningful change.

"Elevate our voices, bring visibility to this - I'm putting the problem in front of you, with evidence - use your platform to give us visibility".

He's calling on people to join the Proud Maroons, an LGBT+ supporters' group for Qatar's national team, and the support the Alwan Foundation fighting for the rights of queer people in the Gulf Region.

The Welsh and English FAs have backed down on the show of solidarity. Credit: PA

His words come as footballing associations across Europe backed down on one of the few nods to protest made against Qatar's treatment of LGBT+ people.

The English FA, the Welsh FA and the FAs of four other nations said they would ask their captains not to wear the armband amid a threat from FIFA of yellow cards.

Fan groups and activists have slammed the last-minute decision, saying it has "shown the FIFA's true colours".

Some FAs have made more substantial, concrete commitments.

The Irish Football Association (IFA) has agreed to back calls for a compensation scheme for exploited migrant workers in Qatar, while Australia's footballers made a number of commitments in a video message ahead of the tournament.

It is these types of actions, Amnesty International says, that need to be amplified.

"It is not too late for them to make strong, significant statements," says Sacha Deshmukh, Chief Executive at Amnesty International UK.

"Don't just look for symbols, don't just wear armbands, don't just have some rainbow colours and hope that that's enough".

"Qatar is being absolutely avoidant, dismissing all concerns, not owning up to anything," Dr Nas says. "And FIFA have come out and said 'let's play football'".

He's referring to a letter sent earlier this month from FIFA president Gianni Infantino urging teams to "focus on football" not human rights issues ahead of the tournament.

Qatar overhauled its labour system in 2017, leading to some noticeable improvements for migrant workers. These included a law regulating working conditions for live-in domestic workers, labour tribunals, a fund to support unpaid wages, and a minimum wage.

Amnesty says, however, that many of these changes are not being properly implemented and enforced.

And for its part, FIFA has doubled down on its stance. Mr Infantino delivered a speech the day before the tournament kicked off, saying: "Today I feel gay, today I feel disabled, today I feel a migrant worker".

The FIFA president went on to say he was European and "for what we Europeans have been doing in the last 3,000 years, we should be apologising for the next 3,000 years".

It is, however, possible to both acknowledge and apologise for one's own history while calling out abuses happening right now.

"This World Cup will go down in history as an example of a country that hoped that the glamour of the World Cup would, in totality, sportswash a whole range of human rights abuses," Sacha Deshmukh from Amnesty says.

But thanks to "the brave efforts of a number of human rights campaigners and journalists, particularly in Qatar, who over years have raised the kinds of issues that are being talked about now" - that won't be the case.