By Dirk Smith, M.Sc, SDL (He/Him)
The Organization ‘Kick It Out’ announced the formation of a working group, consisting of members from Stonewall, Football Supporters’ Association, Football vs. Homophobia, and Sports Media LGBT+ to “create a safe and inclusive 2022 World Cup for LGBTQIA+ supporters and a positive legacy for LGBTQIA+ Qataris.”
The member organizations are primarily UK based and the coalition formed following England’s official qualification in the 2022 World Cup due to be held in Qatar. Qatar will be hosting the world’s largest soccer championship for the first time, and its bid to host has not been without significant controversy. With issues stemming from the climate and weather conditions in Qatar being of danger to athletes and supporters, corruption surrounding the bid, the subjection of Sharia law to athletes, staff and supporters, the use of slave labor in the construction of the venues including instances of workers deaths, media suppression in the years leading up to the event, diplomatic issues between Qatar and its neighbor countries among many other issues.
For the working group led by Kick it Out, the issue focuses on Qatar’s treatment of LGBTQIA+ people. Qatar, being a conservative monarchy rooted in Sharia law, the working group is particularly focused on the country’s criminalization of homosexuality and legal oppression of transgender rights and basic freedoms surrounding the expression of gender identity. According to travel blog Asher and Lyric, Qatar is ranked as the 8th most dangerous place to travel for LGBTQIA+ people.
Concerns have been raised about the safety and protection of LGBTQIA+ fans, where even the act of showing a rainbow flag or even “appearing” gay might be enough cause for persecution. Invoking the same kind of fear-based oppression seen throughout Europe and the US in the 1930s to 1960s.
For the Kick it Out working group, the objectives for Qatar 2022 include
- Preparing for a safe and inclusive 2022 Qatar World Cup for LGBTQ+ supporters: Urging FIFA and tournament organizers to take the necessary steps that ensure the protection and inclusion of fans at the tournament.
- Creating a positive legacy for LGBTQ+ Qataris: Using the tournament as a platform for the advancement and amplification of LGBTQ+ rights in Qatar.
- Creating an LGBTQ+ voice within sports leadership to inform key decisions around future events: Making sure the rights and considerations of the LGBTQ+ community are incorporated into decisions regarding future tournaments and events.
According to Chris Paouros, Chair of the Kick It Out Qatar 2022 working group,
“Kick it Out is committed to supporting football in becoming a game where everyone belongs. Holding the world’s biggest sporting and football event in a country where LGBTQ+ people are criminalized is a challenging concept for us both as a football charity and as an organization which has built a reputation around fighting for inclusion.
Alongside the other inspirational organizations in the newly formed Qatar 2022 Working Group, we hope to drive inclusion and security for fans at next year’s tournament, as well as creating a lasting impact for the rights LGBTQ+ people in Qatar, and on the decision-making process for future tournaments.”
As the World Cup qualifications continue, we hope more LGBTQIA+ activists and organizations around the world will also step up to ensure the safety, well-being and recognition of the issues facing LGBTQIA+ in Qatar, both visitors and residents.
For more information about Kick it Out, visit https://www.kickitout.org/