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How Will Qatar Handle Gay Fans for the World Cup? It’s Not Clear.

A New York Times interview with the head of the 2022 World Cup organizing committee may worry gay fans.

Doha, Qatar

In an interview with The New York Times, Hassan al-Thawadi, the head of the 2022 World Cup organizing committee did not offer a clear answer on whether the Middle Eastern country would treat gay fans fairly or with respect.

A strictly Muslim country, Qatar has severe laws governing sexuality, and Human Rights Watch has accused the country of draconian measures:

Qatar’s penal code punishes “sodomy” with one to three years in prison. Muslims convicted of zina (sex outside of marriage) can be sentenced to flogging (non-married persons) or the death penalty (married persons). Non-Muslims can be sentenced to imprisonment. According to media reports, authorities have flogged dozens of people since 2004, including at least 45 between 2009 and 2011.

When asked whether gay fans would be safe in Qatar, al-Thawadi did not offer concrete assurances that they would not endure targeting from Qatari authorities.

Here’s the relevant exchange:

Will gay fans be welcomed, and do they have anything to fear?

It’s a simple thing: everyone is welcome to come to Qatar. What we ask is that when people come just to respect — we’re a relatively conservative nation. Public display of affection is something that’s not part of our culture. So all we ask is that every fan who comes in, and every fan is welcome, is we ask that people respect that.

It’s hard to imagine that with hundreds of thousands of fans from all over the world descending on Qatar in 2022, the country will be able to police all “public displays of affection.” But will authorities single out specific groups or persons in Qatar, where the punishment for the crime could be death?