Subscribe to Secularism is a Womens Issue

Secularism is a Women’s Issue

Home > fundamentalism / shrinking secular space > UK-Qatar: Peter Tatchell seized by Qatar security services

UK-Qatar: Peter Tatchell seized by Qatar security services

Tuesday 25 October 2022, by siawi3


Peter Tatchell seized by Qatar security services

25.10.22 one hour ago

A few minutes ago, Peter was seized by the Qatari security services while demonstrating in Doha against one of the most homophobic regimes on Earth.

Qatar hosts the FIFA football World Cup in three weeks.

He was arrested near Qatar’s national museum while staging the first ever public LGBT+ protest in Qatar or any Gulf state.

Peter was holding a placard supporting Qatari LGBT+ people who can face jail, ‘honour’ killing and forced conversion practices. Under Sharia law, the maximin penalty for homosexuality is death.

Peter’s placard read: “Qatar arrests, jails & subjects LGBTs to ‘conversion’ #QatarAntiGay.”

The current whereabouts of Peter are unknown.

Photographs and videos of the arrest will soon appear here.

We are currently working to secure Peter’s release.

Can you help with the Peter Tatchell Foundation’s costs to organise this protest, secure Peter’s release and his safe return to the UK?



Interview with Peter Tatchell
Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation


Why did you do this protest in Qatar?

To shine a light on Qatar’s human rights abuses against LGBT+ people – and also against women, migrant workers and liberal Qataris. I am supporting brave Qatari people battling their dictatorship.

Qatar is a dictatorship. Were you not afraid?

I was very fearful that I could be beaten, jailed, tortured or framed on sex or drug charges. Qatar’s interrogation centres and prisons are notorious for abuses. But my passion to defend human rights in Qatar overrode those fears.

Shouldn’t sport be kept separate from politics?

Qatar has made sport political by its discrimination. There can be no normal sporting relations with an abnormal regime like Qatar. Sport must be a level playing field for all players. That’s not compatible with discrimination by the Qatar regime. If a star Qatari footballer came out as gay, he would be more likely to be arrested and jailed than be selected for the national team. That’s discrimination and against FIFA’s rules.

What is life like for LGBTs in Qatar?

LGBT+ Qataris face harassment on the street, ‘honour’ killing by homophobic families, online entrapment by the police, arrest, three years jail and potentially the death penalty. Qatar has secret gay conversion centres where LGBTs can be detained and subjected to abusive attempts to turn them straight. These include conversion practices that involve a form of psychological and religious brainwashing. Some LGBTs sent there have suffered mental breakdowns and others have attempted or committed suicide.

Why do you accuse Qatar of sexist discrimination?

Women have to get the permission of a male guardian to marry, work in many government jobs, access reproductive health care and to study and travel abroad. Men have a unilateral right to divorce but women have to apply are only granted divorce on limited grounds. Fathers retain guardianship of their children after divorce. Women, but not men, lose child custody if they remarry. Women are legally required to obey their husbands. Under inheritance rules, female siblings are entitled to only half the inheritance that males receive.

Qatar says it has improved conditions for migrant workers. Isn’t that true?

Over 6,500 migrant workers have died since Qatar was given the right to host the World Cup. Many families are still waiting for compensation. Although Qatar claims to have made improvements, migrant workers still complain of unpaid wages, overcrowded slum hostels, being refused permission to change jobs and forced to pay illegal recruitment fees. Workers who protested against these abuses have been arrested and deported. Migrant workers are from Asian countries like India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Qatar would never subject its own citizens to such ill-treatment, which is evidence of anti-Asian racism.

Why does it matter?

Qatar cannot be allowed to sports wash its reputation. We must ensure that the tyrant regime in Doha does not score a PR victory. It’s aim is to use the World Cup to deflect criticism and enhance its international image. We must not let them get away with that. Qatar is a police state. Ordinary Qataris have no right to freedom of expression, assembly, strike or the press.They are voiceless. We have to be their voice.

Shouldn’t football be able to decide what it does without outside involvement?

Football’s governing body FIFA has accepted that sport must not discriminate and that host nations must respect human rights. Hosting this tournament is a much sought after honour on par with the Olympics. FIFA has a moral responsibility to ensure that human rights are respected.

Surely LGBT+ football fans won’t be at risk if they just use ‘common sense’ in Qatar?

LGBT+ football fans should not have to hide their sexuality and live with the risk of arrest for expressing who they are. Qatar’s leaders have said that LGBT+ fans will be safe but they broke their promises about migrant workers, so they cannot be trusted to keep their word.

This protest was not primarily about LGBT+ fans. I am more concerned with the fate of LGBT+ Qataris. They use their common sense but still get harassed, arrested, jailed and forced to undergo conversion practices in secret abusive centres that seek to turn them straight.

Do football fans care about LGBT+ human rights?

There are plenty of fans who support LGBT+ and other human rights. Regardless of the fans’ views, human rights are universal and must be defended everywhere.

Qatar has talked about making exceptions for LGBT people coming foe the World Cup. What do you think about this?

Qatar has blown hot and cold on whether there will be exceptions made for LGBT+ fans. It has flip-flopped on whether rainbow flags will be permitted. Under pressure from FIFA, Qatar officials first said yes to rainbow flags, then said no and they are now saying yes again. Who is to say they won’t change their minds in the next few weeks, ban rainbow flags and arrest people who display them? This is a regime that earlier this year confiscated rainbow-coloured children’s toys in shopping malls on the grounds that they were promoting homosexuality.

What do you think of the assurances given to LGBT+ fans by the English Football Association?

CEO Mark Bullingham and the Football Association are gullible to believe Qatar’s promises. Qatar has repeatedly broken its pledges about the rights of migrant workers. Why should we trust that they’ll keep their promises about LGBT+ fans?

The FA is focussing entirely on LGBT+ fans. It doesn’t seem to care about LGBT+ Qataris who face arrest, three years jail and potentially the death penalty. Plus, Qatar has secret gay conversion centres where LGBTs can be detained and subjected to abusive conversion practices. The FA has nothing to say about these abuses.

England Football has come out against discrimination with its OneLove slogan and armband. What is your verdict?

The OneLove slogan is too vague to have any serious impact. It is not a proper rainbow flag but looks like a deliberate hodgepodge of colours to avoid the controversy of being seen to endorse LGBT+ equality.

England Football’s OneLove launch public statement did not address Qatar’s specific discrimination against women and LGBT+ people. It only mentioned LGBT+ fans in passing and completely ignored the restrictions on women’s rights. Women have to get the permission of a male guardian too study, marry and travel abroad. The statement misleadingly suggests that Qatar has made major improvements in conditions for migrant workers. It neglects to mention unpaid wages, overcrowded slum hostels, and workers who still cannot change jobs and are forced to pay illegal recruitment fees. It is silent about the workers who protested and were arrested and deported. England Football’s statement was an embarrassment and whitewash.

FIFA said they would try to secure legislative change when awarding the Games? What do you think of their efforts?

FIFA has failed. There have been no legislative reforms on LGBT+ or women’s rights. Improvements for migrant workers have been patchy at best.

Culture is culture – what right do you have to tell anyone how to live?

I am not telling anyone how to live. I am supporting courageous Qataris who want LGBTs, women and migrant workers to be treated in accordance with international human rights law. As a member state of the UN, Qatar is obliged to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is not doing that.

What if you get thrown into prison?

I want to avoid prison. Conditions are poor and abuse is rife. I am anxious and fearful. But I am ready to face prison if that is the price for exposing Qatar’s tyranny and supporting its victims.

Iran has faced mass protests: women reacting to strict cultural sanctions. Will there be parallel protests in Qatar?

Many Qataris are bought off by wealth and government perks to secure their silence and acquiescence. Right now there is no sign of a democratic uprising but in the long term Qatar’s suppression of democracy and human rights is unsustainable.

Qatar says it wants to show the world it is a modern state – why can’t they be given that chance?

Qatar has had plenty of chances and failed to deliver. It is a modern state in terms of wealth, technology and consumer goods – but it is almost medieval in terms of democracy and human rights.

How many people have died as a result of LGBT/Human rights violations in Qatar ?

Over 6,500 migrant workers have died. Unknown numbers of women and LGBTs have committed suicide or been murdered in so-called honour killings. These are hushed up and no official records are kept.

The Middle East has a whole range of ‘free zones’ for more western cultures. Aren’t hotels doing that? Isn’t that enough?

This is looking at the issue from a western perspective. We have to hear progressive Qatari voices. They are not content with free zones. We are duty bound to support their quest for freedom and to voice their yearning for human rights.

What message does this all send to LGBT people worldwide?

My aim is to support and give hope to courageous Qataris who oppose the dictatorship. I want to send a message to LGBTs inside and outside Qatar that the quest for LGBT+ freedom knows no borders.

What would you say to FIFA?

FIFA must press Qatar much harder to deliver on human rights. It is letting Qatar get away with evading many of its pledges when it was granted the right to hold the World Cup.

What would you say to Qatari Government?

It is time you honoured the pledges you made when you were granted the right to host the World Cup. If you want international respect and acceptance you need to conform to international human rights standards.

What would you say to the UN?

In 2016, FIFA adopted the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which require it to “avoid infringing on the human rights of others and address adverse human rights impacts. The UN must press Qatar to honour those principles.

What advice would you give to people living in Qatar right now?

Don’t give up hope. Human rights - including the rights of women and LGBTs - are unstoppable global trends.

You’ve obviously played a huge role in the shaping of LGBT rights for people in the UK and globally – often through struggle – what would you advise Qataris do?

LGBT+ Qataris must chart their own course for freedom, rooted in their own culture, history and traditions. It may be useful to publicise the long history of homosexuality in Qatar and neighbouring Gulf states and in the wider Muslim world. In previous eras, there was often greater acceptance and toleration of same-sex relations. Some of the great writers in the golden age of Islam were gay and wrote positively about same-sex acts and love.

What would you say to players for England and other international teams?

Use the World Cup to speak out for the rights of LGBTs, women and migrant workers. Wear rainbow laces and a rainbow armband in solidarity with LGBT+ Qataris. Urge FIFA to demand that Qatar does better.