Concerns about Qatar hosting the World Cup continue, and now there's been a report that a gay man says he was gang-raped by police in the nation in 2018.
The Middle Eastern nation has some of the most anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the world. Homosexuality is illegal there and can be punished with up to seven years in prison. Qatar is also repressive toward women, and migrant workers have been abused there. Qatari officials have defended the nation's policies, with one doing so in an interview Monday.
A man who was once an office worker in Qatar's capital, Doha, recently told British publication The I about the 2018 gang rape. The full article is available to subscribers only, but several other outlets have summaries.
The man, a Filipino identified only as Ali, told The I that he agreed to a sexual encounter with a Turkish man in a hotel for pay. Ali was not a sex worker but wished to make extra money to send to his family in the Philippines. He agreed to meet the Turkish man in a hotel room, and when he arrived there were six other men there, all police officers.
"They catch me and threw me on the bed," Ali said. "They started to rape me. All of them except the Turkish [man] -- he watched until they finished. He was laughing at me." One officer slapped Ali after the rape, he said.
Ali then spent a night in jail and two days in a detention center before being sent back to the Philippines. The Qatari police confiscated the papers that had allowed him to work in the nation.
Ali said he decided to go public now because of the approaching World Cup, which opens November 20 and runs through September 18. Attacks like the one he suffered and other anti-LGBTQ+ actions are common in Qatar, The I notes, and there is much concern about the safety of LGBTQ+ people and women attending the soccer tournament.
Then Monday, the nation's World Cup ambassador, Khalid Salman, defended Qatari's homophobic laws in an interview with German broadcaster ZDF. He said homosexuality "is damage in the mind."
"Let's talk about gays," he said during the interview. "The most important thing is, everybody will accept that they come here. But they will have to accept our rules." He added that he was worried that children may learn "something that is not good."
Human Rights Watch, which has often spoken out about abuses in Qatar, immediately denounced Salman's comments. They are "harmful and unacceptable," Rasha Younes, senior LGBT rights researcher at HRW, said on Twitter. She added, "The Qatari government's failure to counter this false information has a significant impact on the lives of Qatar's #LGBT residents."
FIFA, the world governing body for soccer, sent a letter last week to the 32 participating nations urging them to focus on the sport, CNN reports. FIFA leaders confirmed that the letter was sent but wouldn't disclose the contents, although other sources did.
Amnesty International quickly condemned FIFA's action. "If [FIFA President] Gianni Infantino wants the world to 'focus on the football,' there is a simple solution: FIFA could finally start tackling the serious human rights issues rather than brushing them under the carpet," said Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International's head of economic and social justice, according to CNN.
"A first step would be publicly committing to the establishment of a fund to compensate migrant workers before the tournament kicks off and ensuring that LGBT people do not face discrimination or harassment. It is astonishing they still have not done so," he added.
Some workers died during the construction of the stadium where the World Cup will be played, HRW reports.