Jamie Gardner, PA Chief Sports Reporter, Doha
Removing rainbow flags from supporters at the World Cup later this year would be an unacceptable act by the Qatari authorities, the Fare network has said.
A senior security official for the host country’s government told the Associated Press that flags could be confiscated from people to protect them from being attacked by others.
Fare, which was part of a group of 16 organisations which is seeking assurances from tournament organisers over the safety of fans from the LGBTIQ+ community, said the suggestion that flags would be removed to ensure safety would be seen as a pretext and that the “bigger danger” to the community was the state, not intolerant supporters.
“The reassurances of safety we are seeking from the Supreme Committee and government of Qatar are categorical,” a statement from the network read.
“The LGBTIQ+ community should be allowed freedom of expression and be protected in exercising those rights. This is the international norm.
“The rainbow flag will be worn by thousands of people in Qatar, by LGBTIQ+ visitors and regular supporters. The idea that the flag, which is now a recognised and 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.
“From our experience of Qatar and the work we have done there we do not expect the local Qatari population or visiting fans to be attacked for wearing the rainbow flag, the bigger danger comes from state actions.”
Qatari law criminalises same-sex relationships, but FIFA and the Supreme Committee insist supporters from the LGBTIQ+ community will be made welcome in the country during the World Cup.
The president of the Norwegian football federation, Lise Klaveness, told the FIFA Congress on Thursday that there should be no room for countries like Qatar to host the World Cup until they can legally guarantee safety and respect for the LGBTIQ+ community.
She said: “In 2010, World Cups were awarded by FIFA in unacceptable ways with unacceptable consequences. Human rights, equality, democracy, the core interests of football, were not in the starting XI until many years later.
“There is no room for authorities who did not secure the freedom and safety of World Cup workers.
“No room for hosts that cannot legally guarantee the safety and respect of LGBTQ+ people coming to this theatre of dreams.”
Supreme Committee secretary general Hassan Al Thawadi criticised Klaveness for not speaking to his organisation before speaking out.
“Madame president visits our country and made no request for a meeting, did not attempt to contact us and did not attempt to engage in dialogue before addressing Congress today,” he said.
“We will always have our doors open for anyone who wants to understand the issues and educate themselves before casting judgement.”