Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup despite fierce backlash. (Photo credit: Christopher Pike/Getty Images for the 2022 Supreme Committee)
The Football Association (FA) has reassured LGBTQ+ fans they will not be arrested for holding hands or kissing at the World Cup in Qatar.
Under the country’s penal code, same-sex relationships continue to be punished with up to seven years in prison, while queer Muslim men can be punished with the death penalty under Sharia law.
FA chief executive Mark Bullingham made the pledge amid concerns about the safety of queers fans at this year’s event.
The pledge follows Bullingham learning that some fans from the LGBTQ+ community will be staying away from the event due to a lack of proper accommodation assurances, as reported by The Independent.
Bullingham confirmed that Qatari police have been instructed to be tolerant during the tournament.
LGBTQ+ activist Peter Tatchell narrates PinkNews he believes Bullingham and the FA are “credulous” to believe any assurances.
This comes as Qatar “repeatedly breaks its promises on migrant workers’ rights,” prompting Tatchell to raise concerns about the country delivering on its promises to LGBTQ+ fans.
In preparation for same-sex couples being arrested for kissing or holding hands in public, Bullingham confirmed the FA had informed Qatari authorities ahead of the World Cup.
“We have been asking these questions to the Qatari authorities for the past six months,” he said.
“You absolutely gave us the right answers for everything we talked about, even down to ‘Are rainbow flags allowed?’ Yes, absolutely (they are allowed) as long as they are not draped by someone on the outside of a mosque – that was an example given to us – and behave in a disrespectful manner in that way.
“But they have been absolutely instructed to be very tolerant and to behave properly. Any time we ask a direct question, we usually get an answer.”
But those promises mean little to Tatchell.
“This is a regime that recently confiscated rainbow-colored children’s toys from shopping malls because they promoted homosexuality,” he says.
“Qatar flipped over whether rainbow flags would be allowed. Under pressure from Fifa, she first said yes, then said no, and now she’s saying yes again. Who says they won’t change their minds one more time and ban them and arrest people for showing rainbow flags?”
The ardent activist noted that the FA is paying no attention to LGBTQ+ Qataris who are at risk of arrest.
Hoping to offer solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community, the FA supports the OneLove anti-discrimination campaign.
England captain Harry Kane will wear a OneLove armband for the first time in the Nations League game against Italy on Friday night (23 September).
Kane said, “As captains we may all compete on the pitch, but together we stand against any form of discrimination.”
“This is all the more relevant at a time when division is common in society.
“Wearing the armband together on behalf of our teams will send a clear message as the world watches.”
Tatchell believes the OneLove tagline is “too vague” and he called the design “not really a rainbow” but “a deliberate mishmash of colors to avoid the controversy of being seen as an advocate of LGBTQ+ equality.” .
He also expressed concern at his statement, which only marginally mentions LGBTQ+ fans and “completely” ignores restrictions on women’s rights.
“The statement misleadingly suggests that Qatar has significantly improved conditions for migrant workers.
“It neglects unpaid wages, overcrowded slum housing, workers still unable to change jobs and being forced to pay illegal recruitment fees, and that those who protested were recently arrested and deported. That statement is an embarrassment and whitewash.”
The FA said it is still seeking further details on the local organizing committee’s assurances that all fans – including those from the LGBTQ+ community – will be safe and welcome at the World Cup in Qatar.
Bullingham confirmed he was also lobbying with global football’s governing body FIFA for an update on a compensation scheme for migrant workers in Qatar and the creation of a center to make it easier for them to access support.
It follows that Qatar’s ambassador to Germany is confronted with an urgent plea for the abolition of his country’s death penalty for homosexuality at a human rights congress.