Qatar LGBTQ+ community members detained and abused as recently as last month

Doha, Qatar - Members of Qatar’s LGBTQ+ community were being detained and physically abused by the country’s security services as recently as last month, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

Visitors take photos with a FIFA World Cup sign in Doha on October 23, 2022, ahead of the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament.
Visitors take photos with a FIFA World Cup sign in Doha on October 23, 2022, ahead of the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament.  © JEWEL SAMAD / AFP

Qatar’s treatment of the community is in the spotlight as it prepares to host the men’s World Cup, which kicks off on November 20.

Same-sex relationships are criminalized in Qatar, and HRW alleges officers belonging to the Qatar Preventive Security Department have arbitrarily arrested members of the LGBTQ+ community and subjected them to ill-treatment in detention.

The Qatari government rejects the content of the HRW report, stating that the allegations within it are "categorically and unequivocally false."

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HRW documented six cases of severe and repeated beatings and five cases of sexual harassment in police custody between 2019 and 2022. LGBTQ+ people interviewed by HRW said these practices were occurring as recently as September.

HRW said transgender women detainees were mandated to attend conversion therapy sessions at a government-sponsored facility as a condition of their release.

Rasha Younes, an LGBTQ+ rights researcher at HRW, said: "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."

"Qatari authorities need to end impunity for violence against LGBT people. The world is watching."

Qatari government denies the allegations

Banner depicting world soccer stars hang alongside buildings in Doha ahead of the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Banner depicting world soccer stars hang alongside buildings in Doha ahead of the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup.  © GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

Six individuals – four transgender women, a bisexual woman, and a gay man – were interviewed by HRW, and all said they had been detained in an underground prison in Doha and subjected to physical abuse, ranging from slapping to kicking and being punched until they bled.

The detainees were also verbally abused and forced to issue confessions, HRW said, and denied access to legal counsel, family support, and medical care.

All were detained without charge, and one of the individuals was detained for two months in solitary confinement, HRW said.

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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."

A Qatari government official said: "The allegations contain information that is categorically and unequivocally false. Qatar does not tolerate discrimination against anyone, and our policies and procedures are underpinned by a commitment to human rights for all."

"Despite the Qatari government’s commitment to engage with Human Rights Watch and other critical groups, the claims were not brought to our attention until they were first reported in the media. If Human Rights Watch had contacted us, we would have been able to disprove the allegations."

"The Qatari government does not operate or license any 'conversion centers.' The rehabilitation clinic mentioned in the report supports individuals suffering from behavioral conditions such as substance dependence, eating disorders, and mood disorders, and operates in accordance with the highest international medical standards."

"We understand the role of Human Rights Watch to apply pressure on these topics, but their decision to release demonstrably false information, without first contacting our government to verify the findings and better understand Qatar’s policies and standard procedures, compromises their self-proclaimed commitment to reporting the truth."

Cover photo: GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

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