Less than a month before the start of the internationally controversial soccer World Cup in his country, the Emir of Qatar has lamented an “unprecedented campaign” against his country. Sheikh Tamim Hamad Al-Thani said on Tuesday that his country was being “slandered” and treated with “double standards”.
For years, the Gulf state has been accused of violating the human rights of foreign workers and members of the LGBTQ community. The English abbreviation LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.
Initially, Qatar dealt with the criticism in good faith, the Emir said. His country felt that some of the criticisms were useful and helped to develop aspects that needed to be developed.
“But we soon realized that the campaign was ongoing, expanding, including slander and double standards – until it reached a level of ferocity that sadly makes many wonder about the real reasons and motives behind this campaign,” Al-Thani said.
The human rights organization Human Rights Watch published a report on Monday accusing the Qatari police of arbitrary arrests of several members of the LGBTQ community.
Four transgender women, a bisexual woman and a gay man said they were being held in an underground prison in the capital Doha. Sex outside of marriage and homosexual sex are banned in the Muslim state. They can be sentenced to up to seven years in prison.
Longtime British LGBTQ activist Peter Tatchell launched a protest in Qatar on Tuesday. Tatchell held a banner in front of Qatar’s National Museum that read, “Qatar arrests LGBT people, imprisons them and subjects them to ‘conversions'”. The Qatari government said a “lone person standing on a roundabout” was asked in a friendly and professional manner to step aside. There were no arrests.
However, Tatchell said on his foundation’s website that he was arrested outside Qatar’s National Museum and held for 49 minutes. The police destroyed photos and videos of the action. Tatchell was arrested after a similar protest before the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The world football association Fifa awarded the World Cup to Qatar in 2010, which has since invested billions of dollars in the preparations. However, the Gulf state has repeatedly been sharply criticized for its treatment of foreign workers, women and queer people.
The World Cup, taking place from November 20th to December 18th, is the first in an Arab country. FIFA President Gianni Infantino recently said the World Cup in Qatar will be “the best ever”.