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 (pictured above) told the news wire that LGBTQ+ couples would still be welcomed in the conservative Gulf country during the November 21-December 18 global soccer tournament even while same-sex sexual activity is criminalized.
However, in the interview with the AP, Al Ansari voiced opposition to displays of support for LGBTQ+ rights at the FIFA games. The news wire reports that organizers had said the flag would be tolerated in the cup’s 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 said. “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 serves as the director of the Department of International Cooperation and Chairman of the National Counterterrorism Committee at the Ministry of Interior.
“You want to demonstrate your view about the (LGBTQ) situation, demonstrate it in a society where it will be accepted,” he told the news wire. “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.”
In Qatar’s capital of Doha, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said that “everyone will see that everyone is welcome here in Qatar, even if we speak about LGBTQ.”
Al Ansari explained that he isn’t saying queer fans should not come to the World Cup or that he’s warning them.
“Reserve the room together, sleep together — this is something that’s not in our concern,” Al Ansari 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.
He added that the laws cannot change for the 28 days the tournament will be hosted. Al Ansari said he wasn’t discriminating against anyone with his comments.
“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 AP notes that World Cup executives have repeatedly said rainbow flags and other rainbow items would be allowed in the stadium. However, Al Ansari’s comments are now causing some confusion.
“This inconsistency and the continued lack of detail in terms of how that will be provided beyond the rhetoric of ‘everyone is welcome’ is concerning to say the least,” Chris Paouros, a member of the English Football Association’s inclusion advisory board, said.
The concerns are echoed by the FARE network, a group monitoring discrimination in soccer.
“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 told the AP. “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.”