Pride flags could be confiscated from fans attending the World Cup in Qatar to protect them from being attacked for promoting gay rights, says Major General Abdulaziz Abdullah Al Ansari, a senior leader overseeing security for the tournament.
Football governing body FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) has been heavily condemned since announcing that the 2022 World Cup would be held in Qatar, where homosexuality is still criminalised and same-sex marriages are not recognised by the government.
Despite the obvious ramifications for LGBTQ+ football fans – not to mention the horrendous message it sends to fans and the sporting community in general – FIFA and security for the competition maintained that LGBTQ couples would be welcomed in the country.
In Qatar, male homosexuality is punishable by a jail sentence of up to seven years and there is also the real risk of the death penalty. Qatar has also faced criticism for its treatment of migrant workers, with allegations of worker exploitation and abuse in its preparations for the World Cup.
Despite FIFA and World Cup organisers previously insisting that Pride flags would be permitted at matches, Al Ansari, a official managing security at the tournament, has now warned against “the overt promotion of LGBTQ freedoms as symbolised by the rainbow flag”.
“If he (a fan) raised the rainbow flag and I took it from him, it’s not because I really want to, really, take it, to really insult him, but to protect him”, Al Ansari told Metro.
‘Because if it’s not me, somebody else around him might attack (him) … I cannot guarantee the behavior of the whole people. And I will tell him: ‘Please, no need to really raise that flag at this point.”
Al Ansari added: ‘You want to demonstrate your view about the (LGBTQ) situation, demonstrate it in a society where it will be accepted.
‘We realise that this man got the ticket, comes here to watch the game, not to demonstrate, a political (act) or something which is in his mind.
Despite insisting that the intention of his statement was not discourage fans away from matches, Al Ansari added: ‘Watch the game. That’s good. But don’t really come in and insult the whole society because of this.’
‘Reserve the room together, sleep together – this is something that’s not in our concern,’ he said. ‘We are here to manage the tournament. Let’s not go beyond, the individual personal things which might be happening between these people.
‘Here we cannot change the laws. You cannot change the religion for 28 days of World Cup.’
Chris Paouros, a member of the English FA’s inclusion advisory board and a trustee of the anti-discrimination group Kick It Out, expressed concerns over the comments.
“This inconsistency and the continued lack of detail in terms of how that [a safe environment] will be provided beyond the rhetoric of ‘everyone is welcome’ is concerning to say the least,” Paouros said.
Back in November 2021, Lewis Hamilton defiantly donned a rainbow helmet at the Formula 1 Qatar Grand Prix in solidarity of LGBTQ+ rights.
The World Cup in Qatar kick off in November.