LGBTQ+ people were detained and subjected to “ill-treatment in detention” in Qatar as recently as last month, according to a new report from Human Rights Watch (HRW).
There were at least six cases of “severe and repeated beatings” reported, as well as five incidences of “sexual harassment in police custody between 2019 and 2022.”
Some faced arrest in public places solely because of their gender expression, with there even being claims that security forces unlawfully searched the phones of detainees.
Transgender women were ordered to attend government-sponsored sessions of so-called ‘conversion therapy’ in order to be released, the report adds.
It comes after the Football Association (FA) assured LGBTQ+ fans that they will not face arrest for kissing or holding hands in public at the World Cup in November.
“While Qatar prepares to host the World Cup, security forces are detaining and abusing LGBT people simply for who they are, apparently confident that the security force abuses will go unreported and unchecked,” said Rasha Younes, LGBTQ+ rights researcher at HRW. “Qatari authorities need to end impunity for violence against LGBT people. The world is watching.”
The tournament has been marred with controversy since it was announced that it would take place in the Gulf state, where homosexuality is illegal and the LGBTQ+ community is subjected to discriminatory laws.
Qatar’s Penal Code punishes extramarital sex, including same-sex relations, with up to seven years in prison.
“Only weeks ahead of the World Cup, LGBT people are raising the alarm on the abuses they have endured by security forces,” Younes added. “The Qatari government should call an immediate halt to this abuse and FIFA should push the Qatari government to ensure long-term reform that protects LGBT people from discrimination and violence.”
Quote of the day, from @Rasha__Younes
— Human Rights Watch (@hrw) October 24, 2022
Four trans women, one bisexual woman and one gay man were interviewed by HRW as part of the report, with all claiming to have been detained in an underground prison in Al Dafneh Doha.
They were forced to sign documents pledging that they would “cease immoral activity.”
The harassment they faced included physical abuse which ranged from slapping and kicking to punching until they bled.
“Security officers also inflicted verbal abuse, extracted forced confessions, and denied detainees access to legal counsel, family, and medical care,” the report says.
None were charged or given a record of their detainment, with one being held in solitary confinement for two months without access to legal counsel – acts which could constitute arbitrary detention under international human rights law.
“I saw many other LGBT people detained there: two Moroccan lesbians, four Filipino gay men, and one Nepalese gay man,” one trans woman explained. “I was detained for three weeks without charge, and officers repeatedly sexually harassed me. Part of the release requirement was attending sessions with a psychologist who ‘would make me a man again.’”
She added that one officer accused her of “imitating women” before adding, “You gays are immoral, so we will be the same to you.”
Another trans woman said that security forces shaved her hair off and made her wipe makeup off of her face before using the makeup-stained wipes as “evidence” against her.
“[Preventive Security officers] beat me until I lost consciousness several times,” another woman, who identifies as bisexual, alleged. “An officer took me blindfolded by car to another place that felt like a private home from the inside and forced me to watch restrained people getting beaten as an intimidation tactic.”
The 2022 FIFA World Cup will take place from 20 November – 18 December this year.