Journalists pose as gay couple, try to book hotel in Qatar ahead of World Cup
Journalists from Sweden and Norway have highlighted the fact anti-gay attitudes persist in Qatar, despite authorities there claiming everyone is welcome to attend the upcoming soccer World Cup.
Soccer’s ruling body, FIFA, has said that everyone should feel safe visiting Qatar for the tournament, even though homosexuality is illegal and punishable with up to seven years in jail.
FIFA has produced a list of 69 recommended hotels. The journalists called or emailed them and pretended to be a newly-wed same-sex couple from Sweden or Norway seeking accommodation for a honeymoon. It’s currently not possible to buy a ticket for the World Cup without a valid match ticket, so they used the honeymoon ruse instead.
Thirty-three of the hotels accepted the booking with no objections.
Three hotels refused to accept the reservation: The Torch Doha, Magnum Hotel & Suites Westbay, and Wyndham Grand Regency.
Two of them, the Torch Doha and Magnum Hotel, specifically said it was against their policies to take gay couples. The Torch Doha later said it would abide by any special rules in place for the World Cup.
The Wyndham Grand Regency said it was not a policy of the hotel to refuse gay couples but it was simply following the law of the country on the matter.
A further 20 hotels accepted the reservation but warned the potential guests: “Don’t dress gay.” They said the customers should also avoid any public displays of affection, warning they could face consequences from authorities.
The remaining hotels either did not respond to inquiries or are currently being used as Covid-isolation centers.
In April, one of Qatar’s leading security chiefs, Major Abdulaziz Abdullah Al Ansari, told AP the country would welcome LGBTQ people for the World Cup—within limitations.
“Reserve the room together, sleep together—this is something that’s not in our concern,” he said. “We are here to manage the tournament. Let’s not go beyond, the individual personal things which might be happening between these people … this is actually the concept.
“Here we cannot change the laws. You cannot change the religion for 28 days of World Cup.”
He went on to say they should not carry rainbow flags, in case they risk being attacked for promoting gay rights.
When approached about the hotels refusing bookings from same-sex couples, a FIFA spokesperson told the Swedish and Norwegian journalists, “FIFA is confident that all necessary measures will be in place for LGBT + supporters, so that they, like everyone else, can feel welcome and safe during the championship.”
It also said they had passed the findings on to the World Cup organizing committee in Qatar and were seeking answers.
Qatar’s World Cup committee has previously sworn that the championship will take place without any discrimination, and hotels will be expected to comply with this ruling.
Responding the hotel survey by the Scandinavian journalists, it said: “The World Cup Committee treats any violation of this protocol or cases of discrimination with the utmost seriousness. We would like further information on these claims to ensure that all parties associated with the World Cup live up to the expected standard.”
When it was first announced the soccer World Cup would be held in Qatar in 2022—the first Middle Eastern country to host the tournament—many questioned the wisdom of ruling sports body FIFA opting for a country with a poor record on human rights.
The country’s efforts to host the prestigious tournament have been dogged by controversy. After it won the bid ten years ago, it set about building eight new stadiums to host the event, relying on cheap construction labor from countries like India and Pakistan.
Last year, the Guardian revealed around 6,400 migrant workers had died in the country in the last decade, with many human rights observers pointing toward poor health and safety protocols on World Cup-associated sites.
The World Cup usually takes place in the summer, but because of the soaring temperatures in Qatar, it had to be moved to winter. It takes place from November 21 to December 18, 2022.