Qatar’s ambassador to Germany was urged on Monday to scrap his country’s sanctions for homosexuality at a human rights congress organized by the German football federation two months before the Middle Eastern country is hosting world Cup.
Fan representative Dario Minden switched to English to speak directly to Qatari Ambassador Abdulla bin Mohammed bin Saud Al Thani at the Frankfurt congress.
“I’m a man and I like men,” Minden said. “I do – please don’t be shocked – have sex with other men. It’s normal. So please get used to it or stay out of football. Because the most important rule in football is that football is for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re lesbian, if you’re gay. It’s for everyone. For the boys. For the girls. And for everyone in between.” Minden continued, “Abolish all sanctions regarding sexual and gender identity. The rule that football is for everyone is so important. We can’t allow you to break it, no matter how rich you are. You are more than welcome to join the international football community and also, of course, to organize a great tournament. But in sports, that’s how it is. You have to accept the rules.” Al Thani was to be given a chance to respond later, although his comments were to remain confidential. Only the opening 90 minutes of the federation congress were broadcast to the public and no journalists were invited to the event.
Federation spokesman Steffen Simon said it was not the organisation’s decision to hold the majority of the congress off-camera, but “we have received a clear request from some attendees that they would like discuss these issues internally with us. They didn’t want to argue in public. We respected that.” Qatar’s laws and society have come under increased scrutiny over the past decade.
Qatari law provides for a prison term of one to three years for adults convicted of consensual same-sex or lesbian sex. However, the US State Department warned in a report last year that homosexuality remains punishable by death under Sharia or Islamic law, although there have been no reports reporting such an execution in Qatar.
Major General Abdulaziz Abdullah Al Ansari, a senior official in charge of tournament security, previously told The Associated Press that rainbow flags could be removed from supporters at the World Cup in Qatar for the protect against attacks for promoting gay rights.
Al Ansari insisted that LGBTQ couples would still be welcome and accepted in Qatar for the World Cup despite same-sex relationships remaining criminalized in the conservative Gulf nation.
Before Minden spoke on Monday, Al Thani complained to the congress that the human rights issue was distracting from the tournament.
”We all care about human rights. But I would have enjoyed (it) more if I had seen some focus not just on one subject, but on the enjoyment of football and the effect of football on people around the world,” Al Thani said.
The Ambassador referred to the last World Cup in Russia, its invasion and takeover of Crimea from Ukraine, and the human rights abuses there, “and there was no attention, nor of Germany, nor of any country in Europe”. Al Thani said Qatar had abolished the controversial kafala system which required migrant workers to have a sponsor, a system which left many workers vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, and that the country had introduced a minimum wage. and a compensation fund for workers to claim rights violations.
”Yes, we are not perfect. We don’t claim to be perfect, but it’s a journey we’re going to write,” Al Thani said.
The ambassador invited football fans to go there on their own to “enjoy the football, see the different cultures” and meet the migrant workers once there.
”You’ll see them in hotels. You will come across them on public transport. Ask them,” Al Thani said.
He then touched on Bayern Munich’s longstanding sponsorship deal with Qatar.
”Bayern Munich have spent the last four or five years coming for a winter camp in Doha. Why don’t they talk? Why don’t they say they went to Doha? (If) they think it’s appalling, say so publicly or just shut up,” Al Thani said. “Because you know, you have the ability to be there. You have the ability to meet people, to talk to them. If you think something is wrong, say so. Don’t hide behind the bush. German Football Association President Bernd Neuendorf has called on the Qatari government to establish, “without any ifs and buts”, work centers where migrants can go in the event of employer violations, and a fund compensation for the relations of workers who died or were injured on the construction sites of the world cup.
“The latest request for funds is also for FIFA,” Neuendorf said.
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