Qatar’s World Cup chief has spoken out about what will happen to people if they hold hands while visiting the country during the tournament.
The 2022 World Cup is about to start and many going to Qatar to watch the competition in person are unsure of what they are and aren’t allowed to do.
The values of Qatar are very different to many other nations and plenty of the fans travelling to attend the World Cup are unsure what they can do, especially when some of the rules appear to have been changed at the last minute.
The sale of alcohol at the World Cup’s stadiums has suddenly been banned despite FIFA and Qatar previously reaching an agreement.
People aren’t even sure if they’ll be allowed to hold hands while in Qatar, especially LGBTQ+ fans who’ve been told they will be ‘welcome’ and ‘feel safe’, but have plenty of reasons to be wary of that reassurance.
Speaking to Rob Harris of Sky News, 2022 World Cup CEO Nasser Al Khater insisted that public displays of affection like holding hands would be tolerated for the duration of the competition.
Al Khater was told that there was ‘some confusion’ over whether fans could come to Qatar and bring rainbow flags, and asked what his message to LGBTQ+ fans would be if they wanted to come and watch the World Cup.
He said: “Look, we’ve always said that everybody is welcome here, all we ask is for people to be respectful of the culture.
“Everybody is welcome here and everybody will feel safe when they come to Qatar. Everybody. “If I held your hand Rob, and I walked outside the street for hours and hours and hours, nobody would say anything to us.”
While that message might be intended to reassure fans who are concerned over the treatment they might face, the recent incident involving Danish TV presenter Rasmus Tantholdt underlines the risks people face by going to Qatar.
He was filming in Qatar for the build up to the World Cup when a group of men pulled up and threatened to smash his camera despite Tantholdt showing his media accreditation and explaining he was allowed to be there.
Qatari officials later apologised, but the incident is a reminder that despite the insistence that everyone will be safe and welcome while the World Cup is on safety cannot be guaranteed.
Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and can result in a prison sentence of up to three years, along with a fine, while campaigning for LGBTQ+ rights is also not allowed in the country.