Landmark LGBTQ+ protest in Qatar stopped by police

The protest comes only a day after Human Rights Watch revealed that LGBTQ+ Qataris continue to be arbitrarily arrested and abused while in custody.

Activist Tatchell while staging the first LGBTQ+ protest in Qatar.
Image: Peter Tatchell Foundation

British human rights activist Peter Tatchell was stopped by police in Qatar while he staged a one-man protest ahead of the World Cup next month. According to the Peter Tatchell Foundation, this was the first LGBTQ+ protest to ever take place in Qatar, or any Gulf nation for that matter.

On Tuesday, October 25, Tatchell stood outside the National Museum of Qatar to protest the violations of LGBTQ+ rights perpetrated in the Arab country. He was wearing a t-shirt with the hashtag “#QatarAntiGay” printed on, and holding up a sign that read: “Qatar arrests, jails & subjects LGBTs to ‘conversion’ #QatarAntiGay.”

While he stood there, he was approached by two uniformed police officers and three other officials, who folded up his sign and took photos of Tatchell’s ID documents, as well as those of the people who accompanied him. They then shook hands with Tatchell and left the scene.

The protest was staged because next month, Qatar will host the FIFA World Cup, which is expected to attract 1.2 million visitors from all parts of the globe. LGBTQ+ activists and soccer stars worldwide have strongly criticised FIFA’s decision to let Qatar host the World Cup, as both male and female homosexuality is criminalised in the country and even punishable with the death sentence under Sharia law.

Tatchell’s protest comes only a day after Human Rights Watch revealed that security forces in Qatar are arbitrarily arresting and abusing LGBTQ+ people, reporting interviews with various individuals who shared experiences of severe beatings and sexual harassment while in custody.

In a speech delivered after the protest, Tatchell said: “There can be no normal sporting relations with an abnormal regime like Qatar. It is a homophobic, sexist and racist dictatorship”. He added, “I 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.

“LGBT+ Qataris face police harassment, online entrapment, ‘honour’ killing, arrest, three years’ jail and potentially the death penalty. Qatar has secret gay conversion centres where LGBT+ people can be detained and subjected to abusive attempts to turn them straight,” Tatchell explained.

He concluded by saying, “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.”

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