Recent Comments


    Fight for LGBTQ Rights Intensifies Ahead of 2022 FIFA World Cup

    On the morning of the San Francisco 2022 Pride Parade, members of our San Francisco Bay Times team happened upon Dr. Nasser “Nas” Mohamed, the only known openly LGBT individual from Qatar. He earned that distinction just a month prior, when he came out in a very public way during an interview with the BBC. Wearing traditional attire from his homeland yet sporting a bright rainbow sash, he was preparing for the parade. Others were waiting on him, fearful and in hiding.

    These anonymous others were in Qatar and additional countries that have jurisdictions criminalizing private, consensual, same-sex sexual activity. According to the Human Dignity Trust, there are 70 such countries around the world. In Qatar, as for Brunei, Mauritania, and Nigeria, the law can allow for a horrific and shameful death by public stoning. The death penalty is also a maximum punishment in Afghanistan, Iran, and Somalia. Still other countries, such as Sierra Leone, can sentence gay men to a life in prison for having sex with other men. Violence against LGBTQ women often goes unreported.

    Those waiting on Nas were LGBTQ individuals from around the world, connected via trusted friends and networks, who were hoping to learn about the queer community here and experience a sense of Pride, if only virtually. Nas was preparing to live-stream his participation in the parade and otherwise share with these invisible members of our global LGBTQ community. For them, his activism provides a beacon of hope.

    Soccer Players and a Referee Come Out Ahead of World Cup

    Another sign of hope is the growing effort to draw attention to the plight of LGBTQ individuals in countries where it is illegal to be gay, particularly now that Qatar is in the global spotlight. Qatar will be hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup—the most prestigious soccer tournament in the world—from November 21 to December 18. This will be the first World Cup ever to be held in the Arab world, and the second to be held entirely in Asia (Qatar is in Western Asia).

    In addition to Nas’ declaration on the BBC, a few well-known soccer stars have publicly come out over the past several months. Australia’s Adelaide United midfielder Josh Cavallo said in a video shared via social media: “I’m a footballer and I’m gay.” (If you have ever wondered why the sport is called soccer and not football in the U.S.: ) Cavallo wrote that he was “ready to speak about something personal that I’m finally comfortable to talk about in my life.”

    In May of this year, Jake Daniels, a forward for Blackpool in the U.K., became the first U.K. male soccer player to come out since 1990. That was the year that Justin Fashanu made LGBT sports history when he came out. Daniels said, “Now is the time to do it. I feel like I am ready to tell people my story. I want people to know the real me.”

    Earlier this month, Brazilian referee Igor Benevenuto became the first FIFA-ranked referee in soccer history to come out as gay. In a statement, FIFA responded as follows: “FIFA welcomes and supports referee Igor Benevenuto and his decision to come out. As highlighted at other times, FIFA strongly believes that football is for everyone. And Igor striving to be true to himself is an important moment for football in Brazil and in other countries around the world. We hope this decision will encourage others and inspire greater diversity and inclusion in the ‘beautiful game.'”

    Anti-LGBT Campaign ‘Fetrah’

    A new anti-LGBT campaign has emerged called “Fetrah.” #Fetrah has been trending for the past several weeks on multiple social media platforms, particularly in Morocco, but also in other parts of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Supporters often post a blue and pink-colored flag signifying the male and female gender binary. For example, one Twitter user wrote, “There are only two genders. This is our reality,” with #Fetrah and the blue and pink image added to the tweet.

    According to the Morocco World News, some Muslims have invoked Islamic Law (Shari’aa), to justify their ideology. They have quoted verses in the Quran, such as: “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other not that ye may despise (each other).”—Surah Al-Hujurat 49:13.

    Facebook shut down the official Fetrah page, but the organization behind the campaign quickly created another page saying: “Given the West’s habit of restricting freedoms if the opinion is contrary to their whims, they put down the page; but they will not be able to put down the idea.”

    Fears Over Safety of Individuals Traveling to Qatar

    The Supreme Committee, the organizational body of the World Cup, issued the following statement to media outlets inquiring about LGBTQ safety in Qatar: “Everyone will be welcome to Qatar in 2022, regardless of their race, background, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or nationality. We are a relatively conservative society—for example, public displays of affection are not a part of our culture. We believe in mutual respect and so whilst everyone is welcome, what we expect in return is for everyone to respect our culture and traditions.”

    The LGBTIQ Human Rights Sports Coalition has been in contact with Qatari officials for about two years now over multiple concerns. The coalition, however, has not received basic safety assurances that could apply to visiting sports fans, athletes, and many others.

    Lou Englefield of the organization Football v Homophobia told The Guardian: “I know of no European LGBTIQ supporters’ group, or individual supporters, who are currently planning to attend this World Cup. The position of the Supreme Committee is just not in keeping with the undertakings they must have given to FIFA. How can an international sporting event which expects millions of visitors not be open to reassuring a large minority group who have well-founded fears that they will be safe and welcome? We have never seen anything like this.”

    Petition to Tell Qatar that Love Is Not a Crime

    Nas has created a petition, written in both English and Arabic versions, which details two demands. It is addressed to FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani (Chief of the Organizing Committee). It reads:

    “The World Cup is so often a symbol of pride, diversity, and respect. These are values that unite teams from around the world. However, the 2022 World Cup fails to embody those values.

    Instead of celebrating the beauty of all the citizens of Qatar, the Qatari LGBT+ community is being forced, along with LGBT+ football fans, to refrain from being their authentic selves. Meanwhile, the World Cup is reinforcing the fact that LGBT+ Qatari are forced to live in the shadows, hiding their true identities, and living in fear for their safety and freedom. This is not what the World Cup should be known for.

    There is no shame in being human. Love is not a crime.

    Consequently, we are demanding, as evidenced by the historic progress in Human Rights that the World Cup has addressed over time, that FIFA officials act today to pressure the Qatari government to meet two simple demands regarding the LGBT+ community:

    1.) Ensure the safety and security of all LGBT+ people traveling to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup by decriminalizing homosexuality. No World Cup fan should have to travel in fear just to see the World Cup game.

    2.) Permanently repeal Article 296 and other discriminatory legislation so that all LGBT+ Qataris have the chance to live openly, freely, and safely. Just as importantly for World Cup visitors, is the right of every LGBT+ Qataris to live with the freedom to be their authentic self.

    FIFA and Qatar: the world is watching. Now is your chance to show that FIFA and Qatar embody the values of a modern world, where love is not a crime—not just this year, but always.”

    Join the thousands who have already signed the petition:

    Published on July 28, 2022