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Qatar might confiscate rainbow flags at World Cup to ‘protect’ LGBTQ fans

A head of World Cup security says flying pride flags would be an “insult the whole society” while arguing they might be confiscated for safety reasons.

Sport-Club Freiburg v Hertha BSC - Bundesliga
Fans at a German league soccer game wave rainbow flags in February.
Photo by Christian Kaspar-Bartke/Getty Images

Qatar might confiscate any rainbow pride flags flown at World Cup stadiums there this fall, a leading security official said, saying it was for the safety of LGBTQ fans.

“If he [a fan] raised the rainbow flag and I took it from him, it’s not because I really want to, really, take it, to really insult him, but to protect him,” Major General Abdulaziz Abdullah Al Ansari told the AP. “Because if it’s not me, somebody else around him might attack (him) ... I cannot guarantee the behavior of the whole people. And I will tell him: ‘Please, no need to really raise that flag at this point.’”

“You want to demonstrate your view about the [LGBTQ] situation, demonstrate it in a society where it will be accepted,” he added. “We realize that this man got the ticket, comes here to watch the game, not to demonstrate, a political [act] or something which is in his mind.

“Watch the game. That’s good. But don’t really come in and insult the whole society because of this.”

What a crock of crap. The head of security says he can’t guarantee the safety of fans, which is his main job, and he then turns around and blames anyone flying a rainbow flag as insulting “the whole society.” It’s clear what his agenda is and it’s not the safety of LGBTQ fans.

In Qatar, homosexuality is illegal and punishable by up to three years in prison and possible flogging. In addition, according to a 2019 human rights report, “Qatar operates Sharia courts in which it is technically possible for men who engage in same-sex intimacy to be sentenced to death,” adding that “it does not appear that any person has been executed for this reason or at all.”

Ansari’s statements also directly contradict FIFA and other officials, as AP points out:

FIFA chief social responsibility and education officer Joyce Cook told the AP in 2020 that “rainbow flags, T-shirts will all be welcome in the stadium — that’s a given. They understand very well that is our stance.” World Cup chief executive Nasser Al-Khater also said “we will respect” FIFA guidelines on allowing rainbow flags.

FARE, a group dedicated to opposing discrimination in soccer, also called out Ansari:

“The idea that the flag, which is now a recognized universal symbol of diversity and equality, will be removed from people to protect them will not be considered acceptable, and will be seen as a pretext,” FARE executive director Piara Powar said. “I have been to Qatar on numerous occasions and do not expect the local Qatari population or fans visiting for the World Cup to be attacked for wearing the rainbow flag. The bigger danger comes from state actions.”

Despite warning any LGBTQ fans wanted to wave pride colors that they might be attacked, Ansari nonetheless welcomed such fans to attend. “Reserve the room together, sleep together — this is something that’s not in our concern,” he said.

That’s high irony from someone who clearly doesn’t want anyone to show their pride. My favorite comment from him was, “If somebody attacks you, then I have to get involved and it will be too late.” It doesn’t sound like he would move too fast.