Rainbow flags could be flown to protect fans at World Cup, Qatari official says

Rainbow flags could be removed from fans at the World Cup in Qatar to protect them from attacks for promoting gay rights, a senior tournament security official has told The Associated Press. .

Major General Abdulaziz Abdullah Al Ansari insisted that LGBTQ couples would be welcome and accepted in Qatar from November 21 to December 21. 18 FIFA showpiece despite same-sex relationships still criminalized in the conservative Gulf nation.

But Al Ansari is against the overt promotion of LGBTQ freedoms, symbolized by the rainbow flag that FIFA and World Cup organizers have previously said are welcome at Qatar’s eight stadiums.

“If he [a fan] raised the rainbow flag and I took it from him, it’s not because I really, really want to take it, really insult him, but to protect him,” Al Ansari told AFP. AP “Because if it’s not me, someone else around him might attack [him] … I cannot guarantee the behavior of all the people. And I’ll be like, ‘Please, no need to really raise that flag at this point.’

Al Ansari is director of the International Cooperation Department and chairman of the National Counterterrorism Committee at the Interior Ministry where he discussed World Cup planning for an hour with the AP.

Do not enter and insult the whole society

“You want to show your point of view on the [LGBTQ] situation, demonstrate it in a society where it will be accepted,” he said. “We realize that this man got the ticket, comes here to watch the game, not to demonstrate, a [act] or something that’s on his mind.

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

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said this week in Doha that “everyone will see that everyone is welcome here in Qatar, even if we talk about LGBTQ”.

Al Ansari said he was not telling LBGTQ fans to stay away from Qatar or warning them to face lawsuits.

“Book the room together, sleep together – that’s something that doesn’t concern us,” he said. “We’re here to run the tournament. Let’s not go beyond individual personal things that might happen between these people…that’s actually the concept.

“Here we can’t change the laws. You can’t change your religion for 28 World Cup days.”

When it was pointed out that fans and visiting teams might take offense to the comments, Al Ansari said he did not consider himself to be discriminatory.

Comments create confusion among activists

“I risk … a minority opinion against a majority,” he said. “We need to be close to the problem before it erupts and gets out of control. … If someone attacks you, I have to get involved and it will be too late.”

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

But Al Ansari’s comments about the confiscation of rainbow flags from supporters have caused confusion among campaigners, including Chris Paouros, a member of the English Football Association’s inclusion advisory board and trustee of the anti – Discrimination Kick It Out, who want a safe and inclusive tournament.

“This inconsistency and the continued lack of detail on how this will be provided beyond the rhetoric of ‘everyone is welcome’ is concerning to say the least,” Paouros said.

The FARE network, which monitors matches for discrimination, has called for the freedoms of fans to be respected at the World Cup.

“The idea that the flag, which is now a recognized universal symbol of diversity and equality, will be taken away from people to protect them will not be seen as acceptable and will be seen as a pretext,” said FARE’s executive director. , Piara Powar. “I have been to Qatar many times and I don’t expect the local Qatari people or visiting fans for the World Cup to be attacked for carrying the rainbow flag. The biggest danger comes from the actions of the state.”

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