The World Cup and LGBTIQ+ rights
For Qatar, hosting of the Men’s World Cup is a once-in-a-lifetime event – it will be the first World Cup in the Arab world and only the second time it has been hosted in Asia. Qatar will become the smallest nation with the smallest population to host the event. These and many other features of the World Cup are all things for the country to be proud of. Indeed, even on the human rights of migrant workers Qatar has made great progress and is now well ahead of its neighbours in the region.
But these feats should not detract from the importance of this World Cup being organised to international standards. Those standards include the protection of the human rights of minorities, and whom the UN defines as ‘vulnerable populations’, whether they are residents or visitors and regardless of local laws or culture.
Before the last World Cup in Russia in 2018, FIFA pledged it would respect the rights of the LGBTIQ+ community to actively participate in all aspects of the event, including the freedom to have equal access, to display symbols that are motifs of the community, such as the Rainbow flag, and enjoy freedom of expression.
FIFA says these commitments remain in place and will be respected in Qatar in the areas they control – such as the stadiums.
Thus far the Qatar authorities – through the organising body of the Supreme Committee– have not offered any public reassurances to the LGBTIQ+ community that their safety will be protected. And having been asked extensively for a specific welcome the answer remains that ‘all are welcome’. They do not feel it necessary to address the well founded and very specific fears of LGBTIQ+ people.
There is also a widespread concern that the World Cup will have no positive impact on local Qatari LGBTIQ+ people’s freedoms, level of acceptance, or rights. Indeed, many in Qatar fear that the World Cup may lead to them being further marginalised as the country’s stance on LGBTIQ+ people is seen to have been accepted – and validated – by international communities.