World Cup hosts Qatar raise the rainbow flag even as LGBT+ community is forced to live a double life

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08/12/2021

Degree-educated, bi-lingual and with a well-established career at one of the country’s leading companies, Hamad is, to all appearances, the very epitome of modern-day, outward-looking Qatar. But he harbours a secret, one which he says he has no choice but to keep hidden at all times; Hamad is gay – in a country where homosexuality is illegal. “I pretend to be straight and tell people I am seeing a girl. I make myself fit into society. I can’t express myself in any way at all,” he tells The Independent from his home in Doha. “I don’t find it safe.” Jovial and softly spoken, he details how the pretence even went as far as ditching his dreams of studying art and design at university, in case it was seen by some as “feminine”. Instead, he chose to complete an engineering degree which, he says, “I hated but I am fine with – as long as it keeps me away from people’s attention and their attempts to guess my sexuality.” But the constant strain of living a lie takes its toll: “It is so oppressive.” Qatar’s discriminatory policies towards its LGBT+ population have become relatively well-known in the run-up to next year’s World Cup, when the exceptionally wealthy Gulf state will notably become the first Middle East nation to host football’s main event. Same-sex relations are illegal and carry a punishment of several years in jail. A conservative, religious, authoritarian state which applies Sharia law, theoretically Qatar could apply the death penalty for homosexuality, although no such punishment has been recorded.

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