Qatar’s ruler said Tuesday that all fans will be welcomed to this year’s World Cup “without discrimination” in a bid to ease fears raised by LGBTQ activists.
Homosexuality is illegal in the Gulf state and organisers have battled to reassure rights groups that same sex couples would not face action at the tournament that starts November 20.
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani told the UN General Assembly that Qatar’s people would be “opening our doors for all (fans) without discrimination to enjoy the football matches and the amazing atmosphere of the tournament.”
Read more: The World Cup and beyond: Thinking strategically about LGBT rights
Muslim Qatar bills itself as a conservative state and the rights of women and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community have come under the spotlight in the buildup to the World Cup.
“The Qatari people will receive with open arms football fans from all walks of life,” the emir told the assembly of world leaders, without mentioning any specific group.
“The world will see that one of the small and medium-size countries is able to host global events with exceptional success, in addition to its ability to provide a spacious ambience for diversity and constructive interaction between peoples.”
It's illegal to be LGBTQ+ in Qatar. Whilst the world's eyes are on the World Cup, let's show solidarity with LGBTQ+ people in Qatar and beyond.
Our football role models using their platform to highlight this sends a strong message to FIFA too.
— Liz Ward 🇰🇳🇮🇪 (@LizMaryWard) September 21, 2022
After comments by Qatari officials this year, FIFA reaffirmed that LGBTQ rainbow flags would be allowed around stadiums.
The host nation has struggled to convince rights groups with its message that “all will be welcome” despite the law.
Organising committee and government officials have said that the million plus fans expected to attend the World Cup should respect local cultural norms.
Read more: Qatar World Cup: An unintended boon for the UAE
“We don’t believe in public displays of affection but we are also ingrained towards welcoming everyone from all backgrounds,” organising committee chief Hassan Al-Thawadi told a New York conference on Monday when asked about LGBTQ fans.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk