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Wednesday, 26 October 2022 – British human rights activist, Peter Tatchell was allegedly arrested by Qatari police for staging a public LGBT protest, 26 days before the start of the 2022 World Cup.
The protest was ‘the first-ever public LGBT+ protest in any gulf state,’ according to a representative of the veteran protester.
Tatchell, 70, staged the one-man protest outside the National Museum of Qatar in Doha on Tuesday, with pictures showing him holding a placard supporting Qatari LGBT people. The placard read: ‘Qatar arrests, jails & subjects LGBTs to ‘conversion”.
According to Mail Online, two uniformed police officers and three other officials arrived at the scene outside Qatar’s national museum. They folded up his placard and took photos of Tatchell’s passport and other papers, and those of a man accompanying him.
Tatchell later claimed that he was then arrested for holding the protest, before shortly being released.
Qatari officials said this was not true and Tatchell was not arrested.
A spokesperson for the Qatari government said: ‘Rumours on social media that a representative from the Peter Tatchell Foundation has been arrested in Qatar are completely false and without merit.
‘An individual standing in a traffic roundabout was cordially and professionally asked to move to the sidewalk, no arrests were made.’
A spokesperson for the Peter Tatchell Foundation, who said he was arrested, said the arrest is proof that the country is using the World Cup as a sports washing project to enhance its image on the world stage.
‘There can be no normal sporting relations with an abnormal regime like Qatar. It is a homophobic, sexist and racist dictatorship,’ his statement said.
‘Qatar cannot be allowed to sportswash its reputation. It is using the World Cup to enhance its international image. We must ensure that the tyrant regime in Doha does not score a PR victory.
Tatchell said he ‘did this protest to shine a light on Qatar’s human rights abuses against LGBT+ people, women, migrant workers and liberal Qataris. I am supporting their brave battle against tyranny.’
He also criticised FIFA, football’s world governing body, for handing Qatar the coveted honour of hosting the tournament in 2010.
‘Despite FIFA saying that discrimination will not be tolerated, if a Qatari footballer came out as gay, he would be more likely to be arrested and jailed than be selected for the national team. That’s discrimination and against FIFA’s rules,’ he said.
‘FIFA has failed to secure change in Qatar. There have been no legislative reforms on LGBT+ or women’s rights. Improvements for migrant workers have been patchy at best. FIFA is letting Qatar evade many of its pledges when it was granted the right to hold the World Cup,’ he added.
Tatchell also highlighted human rights issues with Qatar in his statement. He noted that ‘women must get permission from a male guardian to marry, work in many government jobs and to study and travel abroad.’
He also said, ‘over 6,500 migrant workers have died since Qatar was given the right to host the World Cup,’ and that ‘many families are still waiting for compensation.’
On the conditions faced by the workers, he said they ‘complain of unpaid wages, overcrowded slum hostels and being refused permission to change jobs.’
Tatchell, who had staged a similar protest ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, stood for more than hour wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with ‘#Qatarantigay’ and holding a placard that read ‘Qatar arrests and subjects LGBTs to conversion.
The events came on the same day as Qatar’s emir raged against what he called an ‘unprecedented campaign’ of criticism over his country’s hosting of this year’s football World Cup, saying no other host nation has ever faced the same scrutiny.
FIFA awarded the World Cup to Qatar in 2010 and it has since spent tens of billions of dollars on preparations ahead of the competition that kicks off on November 20.But the energy-rich Gulf state has faced constant scrutiny over its treatment of foreign workers as well as its poor record on LGBTQ and women’s rights.
Homosexuality is illegal in the conservative Muslim country and can be punished by up to three years in prison. The country’s laws also allow gay Muslims to be punished with the death penalty.