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Nancy Faeser's trip to Qatar turns into a farce

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD), who is responsible for sports, has a problem with the World Cup in Qatar, it's no secret.

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Nancy Faeser's trip to Qatar turns into a farce

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD), who is responsible for sports, has a problem with the World Cup in Qatar, it's no secret. The awarding of major sporting events must be linked to compliance with human rights standards, she told the ARD magazine Monitor on October 27.

It would therefore be better if major sporting events were “not awarded to countries like Qatar” – which is why awarding the World Cup to Qatar is “totally difficult” for the federal government. But now the World Cup will take place in Qatar from November 20, and Faeser faces a dilemma.

In order to get an idea of ​​the situation in Qatar and to address the grievances to those responsible, the minister will travel to the Gulf emirate on Monday. She will be accompanied by Bernd Neuendorf, President of the German Football Association, the sports policy spokesman for the parliamentary groups and two LGBT activists.

Actually, the human rights officer Luise Amtsberg should also be there. But she canceled her participation in Faeser's trip to Qatar at short notice on Sunday morning. The latest developments have made it clear how difficult it is in the run-up to the World Cup with the Qatari government "to have the open and critical talks I planned about the human rights situation in Qatar," Amtsberg said on Sunday. So she decided to do the trip at a later date.

With the "recent developments" she probably means, among other things, the unusual reaction of the emirate to Faeser's statements in the run-up to her trip. After the interior minister criticized the award of the World Cup to Qatar on October 27, the Gulf state summoned the German ambassador the following day and handed him a note of protest.

The Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Qatar and five other Arabian Peninsula states - Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman - reiterated its support for Qatar.

Shortly before Faeser's criticism of Qatar, a Human Rights Watch report caused a stir. Four trans women, a bisexual woman and a homosexual have told the human rights organization how Qatari police allegedly took them to a torture chamber in al-Dafneh, one of the high-rise areas of the capital Doha.

With no legal counsel, no access to medical care, or a way to call their families. A due process? Shouldn't have existed either. The arrest of those affected is not documented anywhere, they have not even received an entry in the police clearance certificate. In the HRW report, those affected remain anonymous for fear of further reprisals.

They raise serious allegations against the Qatari police. A bisexual woman tells HRW police beat her unconscious. In captivity, she had to watch other people being beaten by the security forces.

A trans woman says of the months of solitary confinement: "They beat me every day and shaved my hair. They also forced me to take off my shirt and took a picture of my breasts.”

According to HRW, the cell phones of the prisoners were searched for private pictures, chats and contacts, and confessions are said to have been extorted.

The condition for the release of the trans women was that they agreed to go to psychological "conversion therapy". According to the report, this is offered in a state-funded clinic for the treatment of people with behavioral problems. As one of those affected reports, the therapist should "make her a man again".

Human Rights Watch's report, first published in English on October 24, relies solely on the testimonies of six LGBT people. HRW staff member Rasha Younes interviewed her in Qatar. There are no statistics on the number of persecuted LGBT people in Qatar, and the state keeps such cases secret. Younes therefore assumes that the number of unreported cases is high.

"In Qatar, LGBT people told me about their fear of being visible in public or online," reports Younes WELT. She also received other reports from those affected, she says. However, they did not even want to be included anonymously in the report. For fear of identification and possible acts of revenge, as she explains.

Thanks to Nasser (Nas) Mohamed, a Qatari now living in San Francisco, Human Rights Watch was able to speak to five of those affected. The practicing doctor was granted asylum in the US in 2017 and came out as gay to the British BBC in May 2022. The world's first publicly outed Qatari is an LGBT activist in Qatar. Affected people kept contacting him, he says.

He had put in touch with five of the six LGBT people Younes interviewed for the HRW report. He tells WELT: "I've interviewed more people than just the ones I put in touch with HRW. Showing that we are not doing well in Qatar is important for our community in this global debate.”

Also in Doha is a building that looks like a Babylonian temple tower: the Qatar Interior Ministry. According to HRW, the trail of violence leads here, more specifically, to its Preventive Security Department. She is said to monitor and arrest people she believes to be LGBT people.

All incidents from the HRW report are said to have taken place between 2019 and September 2022. In addition to Qataris, they also affect guest workers from Morocco, the Philippines and Nepal. Political responsibility for the abuse documented by HRW rests with Qatari Prime Minister and Interior Minister Chalid Bin Chalifa Bin Abdulasis al-Thani, whom Faeser is scheduled to meet during her trip.

When asked by WELT whether Faeser would address the HRW report to al-Thani, the Federal Ministry of the Interior evaded the question and referred to an in-house press release from October 28 about Faeser's trip to Qatar, in which, among other things, the "protection of queer people " the speech is.

The mistreatment described in the HRW report, al-Thani's political responsibility for the attacks - all of this is missing from the press release. Al-Thani only appears as Faeser's "counterpart", with whom she will exchange views on the "reforms and their continuation after the end of the tournament". Which reforms are meant exactly is not specified in the press release.

Qatar denies to WELT all the kidnappings and mistreatment described by HRW. Qatar does not discriminate against anyone, says a government spokesman. He does not mention that Qatari criminal law provides for draconian punishments for any sexual intercourse outside of heterosexual marriage and for "immoral behavior in public". The government spokesman in Doha also denies the existence of so-called “conversion centers” in Qatar to WELT.

The world football association, which awarded the tournament to the desert state, explained to WELT that Fifa is unequivocally opposed to any discrimination based on sexual orientation.

According to the spokesman, they are working intensively with the Qatari authorities to create a "welcoming environment" for all LGBT fans during the World Cup. He did not comment on the Human Rights Watch report.

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