Some LGBTQ fans skip Qatar World Cup, fearing hostility

Nov 8, 2022, 2:04 PM | Updated: Nov 9, 2022, 4:16 am
Saskia Niño de Rivera, right, a Mexican civil rights activist, and her girlfriend Mariel Duayhe, a...

Saskia Niño de Rivera, right, a Mexican civil rights activist, and her girlfriend Mariel Duayhe, a sports agent for Mexican soccer players, pose for a photo at their apartment in Mexico City, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. Saskia Niño de Rivera contemplated privately proposing in Qatar at the World Cup during a game, but as the lesbian couple learned more about laws against same-sex relations in the conservative Gulf country, she decided against the idea. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

(AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

              Saskia Niño de Rivera, a Mexican civil rights activist, poses for a photo at her apartment in Mexico City, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. Niño de Rivera was excited about going to Qatar for a World Cup that would mark a significant professional event for her partner, a sports agent for Mexican soccer players, but as the lesbian couple learned more about laws against same-sex relations in the conservative Gulf country, she instead proposed at an Amsterdam stadium this summer and opted to skip the World Cup altogether. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Saskia Niño de Rivera, right, a Mexican civil rights activist, and her girlfriend Mariel Duayhe, a sports agent for Mexican soccer players, share a moment at their apartment in Mexico City, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. Saskia Niño de Rivera contemplated privately proposing in Qatar at the World Cup during a game, but as the lesbian couple learned more about laws against same-sex relations in the conservative Gulf country, she decided against the idea. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Saskia Niño de Rivera, right, a Mexican civil rights activist, and her girlfriend Mariel Duayhe, a sports agent for Mexican soccer players, pose for a photo at their apartment in Mexico City, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. Saskia Niño de Rivera contemplated privately proposing in Qatar at the World Cup during a game, but as the lesbian couple learned more about laws against same-sex relations in the conservative Gulf country, she decided against the idea. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Saskia Niño de Rivera, a Mexican civil rights activist, poses for a photo at her apartment in Mexico City, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. Niño de Rivera was excited about going to Qatar for a World Cup that would mark a significant professional event for her partner, a sports agent for Mexico soccer players, but as the lesbian couple learned more about laws against same-sex relations in the conservative Gulf country, she instead proposed at an Amsterdam stadium this summer and opted to skip the World Cup altogether. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Saskia Niño de Rivera, right, a Mexican civil rights activist, and her girlfriend Mariel Duayhe, a sports agent for Mexican soccer players, pose for a photo at their apartment in Mexico City, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. Saskia Niño de Rivera contemplated privately proposing in Qatar at the World Cup during a game, but as the lesbian couple learned more about laws against same-sex relations in the conservative Gulf country, she decided against the idea. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

At first, Saskia Niño de Rivera was excited about going to Qatar for a World Cup that would mark a significant professional event for her partner, a sports agent for Mexico soccer players. She even contemplated privately proposing there during a game, and posting photos once they left the country.

But as the lesbian couple learned more about laws on same-sex relations in the conservative Gulf country, the plans no longer sounded like a good idea. Instead, Niño de Rivera proposed at an Amsterdam stadium this summer and opted to skip the World Cup altogether.

“As a lesbian woman, it’s really hard for me to feel and think that we are going to a country where we don’t know what could happen and how we could be safe,” she said. “It was a really hard decision.”

Niño de Rivera’s concerns are shared by many LGBTQ soccer fans and their allies worldwide. Some have been mulling whether to attend the tournament, or even watch it on television.

Qatar’s laws against gay sex and treatment of LGBTQ people are flashpoints in the run-up to the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East, or in any Arab or Muslim country. Qatar has said all are welcome, including LGBTQ fans, but that visitors should respect the nation’s culture, in which public displays of affection by anyone are frowned on. With his country facing criticism over a number of issues, Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, recently argued it “has been subjected to an unprecedented campaign” that no host country has ever faced.

An ambassador for the World Cup in Qatar, however, has described homosexuality as a “damage in the mind” in an interview with German public broadcaster ZDF. Aired this week, the comments by former Qatari national team player Khalid Salman highlighted concerns about the conservative country’s treatment of gays and lesbians.

Some LGBTQ rights activists are seizing the moment to draw attention, with a heightened sense of urgency, to the conditions of LGBTQ citizens and residents in Qatar. They want to raise concerns about how these people may be treated after the tournament ends and the international spotlight fades.

Dario Minden, who is from Germany, said he’s keen on soccer but won’t watch a single minute of the tournament as a show of solidarity with LGBTQ people in Qatar. Recently, he jumped at the opportunity to lobby for change.

At a human rights congress hosted by the German soccer federation in Frankfurt, Minden told the Qatari ambassador to Germany that Qatar should abolish its penalties for homosexuality.

“I happen to be a gay football fan and I thought that this is a great opportunity to … speak in front of such a high representative, to connect the topic with a face,” Minden said in an interview.

Rasha Younes, LGBTQ rights senior researcher in the Middle East and North Africa at Human Rights Watch, said that while Qatari officials have offered some reassurances for LGBTQ fans, the possibility of stigma and discrimination remained in housing, access to health care and safely reporting potential sexual violence.

At the same time, she argued, “suggestions that Qatar should make an exception for outsiders are implicit reminders that Qatari authorities do not believe that its LGBT residents deserve basic rights or exist,” adding her organization was concerned about conditions for local LGBTQ people, including after the tournament.

Qatari law calls for a prison sentence of one to three years for whoever is “instigating” or “seducing” a male to “commit sodomy,” as well as for “inducing or seducing a male or a female in any way to commit illegal or immoral actions.”

In the run-up to the World Cup, Qatari security forces have been accused of mistreating LGBTQ people. In a statement, the Qatari government has denied those allegations: “Qatar does not tolerate discrimination against anyone, and our policies and procedures are underpinned by a commitment to human rights for all.”

Dr. Nasser Mohamed, an openly gay Qatari activist who now lives in the United States, is among those saying that international attention is disproportionately focused on visitors and not enough on LGBTQ people in Qatar. He publicly came out and has been lobbying to expand the conversation before the World Cup.

“Being in a country that has no LGBT visibility, no conversations about what it’s like to be an LGBT person, made me feel like there’s something wrong with me,” he said in an interview. With the current intense public debates, “I feel like there is a moment of urgency to…put something out there now to actually let people know that we’re not OK.”

Josie Nixon of the You Can Play Project, which advocates for LGBTQ people in sports, said the group was part of a coalition of LGBTQ rights organizations that made demands of FIFA and the Qatari organizers. These included repealing laws targeting LGBTQ people, providing “explicit safety guarantees” against harassment, arrest or detention, and working to ensure the long-term safety of LGBTQ people in the region.

“FIFA and Qatar have taken steps to make sure that LGBTQ fans are safe, but is that enough to change the way Qatar views LGBTQ citizens?” said Nixon, who lives in Colorado. “My answer is no.”

Even before the tournament kicks off, questions about what legacy it would leave behind loomed large amid intense international scrutiny over Qatar’s human rights record, including treatment of migrant workers. As the World Cup neared, Qatari officials sounded increasingly frustrated, saying their country’s achievements and progress were being overlooked and that the attacks raise questions about the motive behind them.

“Qatar believes strongly in the power of sport to bring people together and build bridges of cultural understanding,” the Qatari government said in a statement to The Associated Press in response to questions. “The World Cup can help change misconceptions, and we want fans to travel home with a better understanding of our country, culture and region. We believe this tournament … can show that people of different nationalities, religions and backgrounds in fact have more in common than they think.”

The statement added that Qatar is a country of “warm hospitality” and will continue to ensure the safety of all “regardless of background.”

FIFA’s top officials have recently urged the teams preparing for the World Cup to focus on soccer and avoid letting the game be dragged into ideological or political battles. The officials did not address or identify any specific issue in their message, which angered some human rights activists.

In soccer-crazy Argentina, Juan Pablo Morino, president of the group Gays Passionate About Soccer said he was dismayed by FIFA’s decision to organize the World Cup in Qatar.

“In the election of a host, basic parameters of coexistence should be met. It cannot be that any country is a candidate,” he said.

In Mexico, Niño de Rivera said she would be supporting her fiancée, who will attend the tournament for work, from afar. That makes her sad.

The decision to sit out the World Cup “has to do with being true to your own values and bringing a lot of money to a country where you’re not welcome because of your sexual orientation,” she said. She was scared that if they went as a couple, they might have been harassed or worse while having dinner or walking back to the hotel.

“The World Cup is normally an event that brings people together, where it doesn’t matter what part of the world you’re from… what religion you have; It doesn’t matter what community you belong to,” she said. “We all speak the same language. We all speak football.”

___

Associated Press writer Debora Rey in Buenos Aires, Argentina, contributed to this report.

___

AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports ___

Associated Press religion coverage receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

concede...
Associated Press

GOP’s Joe Kent contests results of Washington state race

Republican Joe Kent's campaign said Friday it intends to request a machine ballot recount of the counties within southwest Washington state's 3rd Congressional District.
20 hours ago
Gavel...
Associated Press

Case against man arrested in 1994 death of woman dismissed

Criminal charges against a man suspected in the 1994 murder of a Vancouver, Washington, woman have been dismissed.
20 hours ago
Protesters sing an anti-government song in front of a barricade of burning tires during a protest a...
Associated Press

US says it will expand, extend temporary status for Haitians

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Biden administration said Monday that it would expand temporary legal status for Haitians already living in the United States, determining conditions in the Caribbean nation were too dangerous for their forced return. The Homeland Security Department said Haitians who were in the United States Nov. 6 could apply for Temporary […]
20 hours ago
FILE - A TV screen shows a file image of North Korea's military exercise during a news program at t...
Associated Press

N. Korea orders new artillery firings over South’s drills

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea’s military says it has ordered frontline units to conduct artillery firings into the sea for the second consecutive day in a tit-for-tat response to South Korean live-fire drills in an inland border region. The statement by the North Korean People’s Army’s General Staff came a day after the […]
20 hours ago
Fans of Brazil cheer their team after the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Brazil and Sou...
Associated Press

World Cup betting down in Las Vegas but higher than expected

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The World Cup may be the globe’s biggest sporting event, yet in the United States in the fall, it competes with a full sports betting calendar. Las Vegas sportsbook directors weren’t overly optimistic the betting would be higher than the 2018 World Cup, which was played in the more usual summer […]
20 hours ago
FILE -  Kirstie Alley attends the premiere of HBO's "Girls" on Jan. 5, 2015, in New York.  Alley, a...
Associated Press

Kirstie Alley, Emmy-winning ‘Cheers’ star, dies at 71

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kirstie Alley, a two-time Emmy winner whose roles on the TV megahit “Cheers” and in the “Look Who’s Talking” films made her one of the biggest stars in American comedy in the late 1980s and early 1990s, died Monday. She was 71. Alley died of cancer that was only recently discovered, […]
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Some LGBTQ fans skip Qatar World Cup, fearing hostility