(Beirut) – Qatari Preventive Security Department forces arbitrarily arrested lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and subjected them to ill-treatment in detention, Human Rights Watch said today. LGBT people interviewed said their mistreatment took place in September 2022, as Qatar was preparing to host the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup in November and even as the government was under intense scrutiny for its treatment of LGBT people.
Human Rights Watch documented six cases of severe and repeated beatings and five cases of sexual harassment in police custody between 2019 and 2022. Security forces arrested people in public places based solely on their gender expression and illegally searched their phones. . As a requirement for their release, security forces required detained transgender women to attend conversion therapy sessions at a government-sponsored “behavioral health” center.
“As Qatar prepares to host the World Cup, security forces detain and abuse LGBT people simply for who they are, apparently confident that security force abuses will not be reported and controlled,” said Rasha Younes, researcher rights from Human Rights Watch. “Qatar authorities need to end impunity for violence against LGBT people. The world is watching.”
Human Rights Watch interviewed six LGBTQ people from Qatar, including four trans women, a bisexual woman and a gay man. Dr Nasser Mohamed, an openly gay activist from Qatar, helped connect Human Rights Watch with five of the respondents.
All said officials from the Department of Preventive Security detained them in an underground prison in Al Dafneh, Doha, where they verbally harassed and subjected detainees to physical abuse, from slapping to kicking and punching to bleeding. One woman said she lost consciousness. Security officers also inflicted verbal abuse, extracted forced confessions and denied detainees access to legal advice, family and medical care. All six said the police forced them to sign pledges indicating that they would “cease immoral activity”.
All were held without charge, in one case for two months in solitary confinement without access to a lawyer. None received any record of being detained. These acts may constitute arbitrary detention under international human rights law.
The Department of Preventive Security is under the Qatari Ministry of the Interior.
A transgender woman from Qatar said that after security forces arrested her on the street in Doha, Preventive Security officials accused her of “imitating women” because of her gender expression. In the police car, they beat her until her lips and nose bled and kicked her in the stomach, she said. “You gays are immoral, so we will be the same with you,” she told an official.
“I saw many other LGBT people detained there: two Moroccan lesbians, four Filipino gays and one Nepalese gay,” she said. “I was held for three weeks without charge, and the officers repeatedly sexually harassed me. Part of the release requirement was to attend sessions with a psychologist who would ‘make me a man again’.”
Another transgender woman from Qatar said she was publicly arrested by Department of Preventive Security forces because she was wearing makeup. “They gave me baby wipes and made me wipe the makeup off my face,” she said. “They used the makeup-stained tissues as evidence against me and took a picture of me with the tissues in my hand. They also shaved my hair.” Security forces made her sign a pledge that she would not wear makeup again as a condition of her release, she said.
A bisexual woman from Qatar said: “[Preventive Security Officers] beat me several times until I lost consciousness. A police officer drove me blindfolded to another place that looked like a private house from the inside and forced me to watch restrained people being beaten up as an intimidation tactic.”
A transgender woman from Qatar, publicly arrested by Preventive Security in Doha, said: “They [Preventive Security] are a mafia. They detained me twice, once for two months in a solitary cell in the basement and once for six weeks. They beat me every day and shaved my hair. They also made me take off my shirt and took a picture of my breasts. I suffered from depression because of my detention. I still have nightmares to this day and I am terrified of being in public.”
In all cases, LGBT detainees said, preventive security forces forced them to unlock their phones and took screenshots of photos and private chats from their devices, as well as contact information for other LGBT people.
A Qatari gay man who has faced government repression, including arbitrary arrest, said security forces watched and arrested him based on his online activity.
All respondents provided surprisingly similar reports. The repressive climate around freedom of expression in Qatar, including around the rights of LGBT people, has made many people who have been mistreated fearful of being interviewed because of the risk of retaliation, Human Rights Watch said.
The Penal Code of Qatar, under article 285, punishes extramarital sex, including same-sex relationships, with up to seven years in prison. None of the interviewees said they had been charged, and it appears that their arbitrary arrest and detention is based on Law no. – well-founded reasons to believe that the defendant may have committed a crime”, including “violation of public morality”. Qatari authorities also censor mainstream media reporting on sexual orientation and gender identity.
In 2020, Qatar assured prospective visitors that it would welcome LGBT visitors and that fans would be free to fly the rainbow flag at World Cup football matches. Suggestions by officials that Qatar would make an exception to its laws and abusive practices for outsiders are unspoken reminders that Qatari officials do not believe that its LGBT citizens and residents deserve basic rights, Human Rights Watch said.
FIFA, football’s governing body, which awarded Qatar the World Cup in 2010, adopted the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in 2016, which require it to “avoid infringing the human rights of others and address adverse impacts about human rights. ” Demands that FIFA take appropriate measures for the “prevention, mitigation and remediation” of human rights impacts.
Qatari security forces must end prisons for consensual adult sexual relationships, including same-sex conduct, or those based on gender expression, and immediately release LGBT people who remain arbitrarily detained, Human Rights Watch said. The government of Qatar must end security forces’ mistreatment of LGBT people, including stopping any government-sponsored programs aimed at conversion practices. Countries that send external security forces to Qatar during the World Cup must ensure compliance with international human rights law and avoid increasing abuses by Qatari security forces.
Qatari authorities must repeal Article 285 and all other laws that criminalize consensual sexual relations outside of marriage and introduce legislation that protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, online and offline. Freedom of expression and non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity must be guaranteed at all times for all residents of Qatar, not just spectators traveling to Qatar for the World Cup, Human Rights Watch said. .
“Just weeks before the World Cup, LGBT people are raising the alarm about the abuses they have suffered by security forces,” Younes said. “The Government of Qatar must immediately stop this abuse and FIFA must press the Government of Qatar to ensure long-term reform that protects LGBT people from discrimination and violence.”