LGTBQ couples and activists have been warned not to display the lifestyle or rainbow flags at the World Cup in Qatar, to protect them from being attacked for promoting gay rights.
A senior leader overseeing security for the tournament told The Associated Press that rainbow flags could be taken from fans at the World Cup.
Major General Abdulaziz Abdullah Al Ansari insisted that LGBTQ couples would be welcomed and accepted in Qatar for the November 21-December 18 FIFA showpiece despite same-sex relations remaining criminalised in the conservative Gulf nation.
However, Al Ansari is against the overt promotion of LGBTQ freedoms as symbolised by the rainbow flag that FIFA and World Cup organisers had previously said would be welcome across Qatar’s eight stadiums.
Al Ansari told AP: “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.
“Because if it’s not me, somebody else around him might attack (him) … I cannot guarantee the behaviour of the whole people. And I will tell him: ‘Please, no need to really raise that flag at this point’.”
He added: “You want to demonstrate your view about the (LGBTQ) situation, demonstrate it in a society where it will be accepted.
“We realise 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.”
Al Ansari’s warning was condemned by fans and anti-discrimination campaigners.
“Often, so-called ‘protections’ are in fact smokescreens to cover up human rights violations,” said Julia Ehrt of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association and Ronain Evain of Football Supporters Europe in a joint response.
Julia Ehrt added: “FIFA and Qatar must address these concerns immediately, and show the world there is a chance of carrying out a rights-respecting and safe tournament for LGBTIQ fans.”
Al Ansari said he was not telling LBGTQ fans to stay away from Qatar or warning them of facing prosecution.
He said: “Reserve the room together, sleep together — this is something that’s not in our concern. 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.
“Here we cannot change the laws. You cannot change the religion for 28 days of the World Cup.”
He added: “I am risking … a minority view against a majority.
“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.”