Security Forces Arrest and Abuse LGBTQ People in Qatar Ahead of FIFA World Cup, Says HRW

Human Rights Watch identified six instances of severe and persistent beatings and five instances of sexual harassment in police custody between 2019 and 2022.

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Security forces in Qatar reportedly arrested and several lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ) people and abused them in detention camps, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). This comes just weeks ahead of the FIFA World Cup, which is being hosted in Qatar.

The arrests were made in public places solely on the basis of their gender expression. The FIFA World Cup has brought the spotlight on Qatar where homosexuality is illegal. This has made some soccer stars who have expressed concern over the rights of spectators traveling for the event, particularly LGBTQ+ people and women, who rights groups claim are subjected to discrimination under the country's laws.

Intervening in One's Rights

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According to HRW, LGBT people interviewed claimed that they were arrested and abused as recently as September 2022 as Qatar prepares to host the 2022 FIFA Men's World Cup in November and the government also came under severe scrutiny for its treatment of LGBT people.

Human Rights Watch identified six instances of severe and persistent beatings and five instances of sexual harassment in police custody between 2019 and 2022. Security personnel improperly checked people's phones while detaining them in public and making arrests based simply on their gender expression.

A Qatari official said in a statement that HRW's allegations "contain information that is categorically and unequivocally false," without specifying.

LGBTQ rights
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As part of the requirement for the release of transgender women detainees, security forces mandated conversion treatment sessions at a government-sponsored "behavioral healthcare" facility.

"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," said Rasha Younes, LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.

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

The World Cup organizers have said that everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or ethnicity, is welcome at the World Cup, which begins on November 20 and is the first to be held in a Middle Eastern country. However, they have also cautioned against public displays of affection.

Il-treatment Based on Gender

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Qatar FIFA World Cup logo Twitter

Six LGBT Qataris, including four transsexual women, one bisexual woman, and one gay man, were interviewed by Human Rights Watch. Five of the people questioned by Human Rights Watch were connected to by Qatari activist and doctor Nasser Mohamed, who is openly gay.

According to HRW, one of them was held in solitary confinement for two months while the others were held without charges in a prison beneath Doha.

"All six said that police forced them to sign pledges indicating that they would 'cease immoral activity'," it said, adding that transgender women detainees were mandated to attend conversion therapy sessions at a government-sponsored clinic.

FIFA World Cup 2022 venues
FIFA World Cup 2022 venues Twitter

A transgender Qatari woman who was interviewed by HRW told Reuters under the condition of anonymity that she had been arrested multiple times, most recently last summer when she was detained for several weeks.

The woman said that she had been stopped by authorities because of how she looked or because she was carrying makeup. She also claimed that she had been severely abused and had her head shaved.

The woman was accused of having a gender identity issue and being transgender in order to gain "sympathy from others" by the behavior center she was required to attend.

"The last thing I want is sympathy, I just want to be myself," she told Reuters.

Another Qatari bisexual woman said: "[Preventive Security officers] beat me until I lost consciousness several times. An officer took me blindfolded by car to another place that felt like a private home from the inside and forced me to watch restrained people getting beaten as an intimidation tactic."