What a powerpoint leak tells us about World Cup policing in Qatar

A presentation created by FIFA and the Qatari government detailing policing procedures suggests the approach that may be taken to the policing of LGBTIQ people and their allies, and other human rights issues during the World Cup. 

The presentation, leaked to the Bloomberg news agency, sets out a position in which police officers are asked to exercise “less intervention, more mediation” and practice “leniency towards behaviours that do not threaten physical integrity or property.”

Specifically, security forces are not to approach, detain or prosecute people displaying rainbow flags – a globally recognised symbol of LGBTQ pride – or disrupt fans marching and chanting in the streets. The presentation also instructs security forces to leave protesters alone unless they create a “security issue.”

The guidelines could still change before the World Cup begins on November 20th. But if implemented they mark a shift in policy for Qatar, which has faced criticism from activists, players, and foreign government officials about it’s record on policies that limit the rights of women and LGBTQ people. 

The presentation describes the guidelines as being aligned with the Safety and Security Operations Committee (SSOC), an entity made up of officials from FIFA and the Qatar Ministry of Interior created to manage security at the tournament.

The critical human rights areas the presentation covers include:

  • The right of women not to face accusations if they report rape or sexual violence and to receive medical care related to pregnancy and reproductive health when they are victims of sexual crimes
  • The right of people to display rainbow flags or other sexual identity flags and not be approached, detained or prosecuted
  • People showing signs of public affection will not be approached
  • Discussing and promoting LGBTIQ rights will not be an offence
  • Players speaking out for LGBTIQ rights is permitted
  • Visitors can stay in the same room regardless of marital status or gender

Also mentioned are the rights of journalists and human rights defenders, who are not to be approached and are to be allowed free entry into the country. 

A member of the LGBTIQ+ Human Rights Sports Coalition said: ”The Coalition has been asking FIFA and the SC for reassurances on safety for two years now and no concrete information has been forthcoming. 

“A worried and concerned minority group have had no reassurances about how they will be treated, policed or protected. It takes a leak to get information into the public domain about a key human rights concern. Whatever happens during the World Cup the Qatari state have created a negative human rights legacy for LGBTIQ+ people, as in other areas, real harm has been done.”

The document refers to the Enabling Law citing the ability of “the Chairman of the SSOC to issue decisions that include disposition of violating acts which are committed… in violation of the provisions of the laws in effect in the state”. In short the document recognises that the Enabling Law allows the security committee to set aside any of the laws of Qatar to meet the terms of the “hosting agreement and and government guarantees” given to FIFA.

The presentation lays out a four-tier category of offences, with penalties spanning no action, a warning, a fine and prosecution. 

Women will be able to receive reproductive care irrespective of their marital status, and the documents say that “law enforcement could only get involved if there is a suspicion of sexual violence or abuse against the woman.” Women who have children outside of marriage can face imprisonment, given Qatari law forbids premarital sex.

Diplomats have raised concerns with their Qatari counterparts about how security personnel will respond to challenges. Last month, the U.S. ambassador to Qatar, Timmy Davis, called on local officials to practice “patience and tolerance” when dealing with visitors. 

The Guardian reports that “The document is understood to be a distillation of a lengthy meeting in which Fifa officials sought to obtain firm answers…”

But a response from the supreme Committee denied the involvement of Qatari authorities: “We are aware of a FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 document regarding fan behaviour circulating on social media. This document was not developed or approved by the SC or any other State of Qatar entity.”

The Supreme Committee denial suggests the authorities may reverse the commitments made or do not want to publicly acknowledge that they have been forced to reflect concerns about policing and human rights during the World Cup. 

Download the FIFA FWC presentation.

Sources: Bloomberg, The Guardian