A senior Qatari leader overseeing security for the World Cup has told The Associated Press that rainbow flags could be taken from supporters
At the World Cup in Qatar later this year, rainbow flags might be taken from fans to protect them from possible violence over promoting LGBTQ+ rights, a Qatari official told The Associated Press.
Major General Abdulaziz Abdullah Al Ansari insisted that LGBTQ couples would be welcomed and accepted in Qatar for the Nov. 21-Dec. 18 FIFA showpiece despite same-sex relations remaining criminalized in the conservative Gulf nation.
But Al Ansari is against the overt promotion of LGBTQ freedoms as symbolized by the rainbow flag that FIFA and World Cup organizers had previously said would be welcome across Qatar’s eight stadiums.
“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 the AP. “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 is director of the Department of International Cooperation and chairman of the National Counterterrorism Committee at the Ministry of Interior where he discussed World Cup planning for an hour with the AP.
“You want to demonstrate your view about the (LGBTQ) situation, demonstrate it in a society where it will be accepted,” he said. “We realize 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.
“Watch the game. That’s good. But don’t really come in and insult the whole society because of this.”
The potential confiscation from supporters was condemned as “deeply concerning” by fan and anti-discrimination campaigners.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino said this week in Doha that “everyone will see that everyone is welcome here in Qatar, even if we speak about LGBTQ.”
Al Ansari said he is not telling LGBTQ fans to stay away from Qatar or warning them of facing prosecution.
“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 … this is actually the concept.
Male homosexuality is punishable by a prison sentence in the Gulf Nation and same-sex marriages are not recognised by the government, meaning some supporters are uneasy about travelling to Qatar when the finals kick off in November.
“Here we cannot change the laws. You cannot change the religion for 28 days of World Cup.”
When it was pointed out that visiting fans and teams could take offense to the comments, Al Ansari said he did not view himself as being discriminatory.
“I am risking … a minority view against a majority,” he said. “We have to be close to the problem before it erupts and gets out of control. … If somebody attacks you, then I have to get involved and it will be too late.”
The FARE network, which monitors games for discrimination, called for the freedoms of fans to be respected at the World Cup.
“The idea that the flag, which is now a recognized universal symbol of diversity and equality, will be removed from people to protect them will not be considered acceptable, and will be seen as a pretext,” FARE executive director Piara Powar said. “I have been to Qatar on numerous occasions and do not expect the local Qatari population or fans visiting for the World Cup to be attacked for wearing the rainbow flag. The bigger danger comes from state actions.”