The World Cup is in full swing in Qatar, but issues around LGBT+ rights for the Gulf state, world football’s governing body FIFA, teams and fans aren’t going away.
On Saturday, two German soccer fans told CNN they were asked by security officials at Qatar 2022 to remove the rainbow-colored clothing they were wearing while on their way to watch the World Cup match between France and Denmark on Saturday.
CNN witnessed the closing of the incident at Msheireb metro station in Doha, where Bengt Kunkel, who was wearing a rainbow-coloured headband, and his friend – who was wearing a similar-colored armband – refused to hand over the belongings. The rainbow is a symbol of LGBTQ+ pride.
After the Germans were escorted to one side, a group of security guards eventually let them go — on the condition that they pocket the rainbow-colored objects, according to Kunkel.
“From where I don’t know. They took my friend very hard on the arm and pushed him away from the crowd and told him to take her.” [the armband] Kunkel told CNN, recounting the details of the incident shortly after it occurred.
Then they took me with him. They said, ‘You’ll take it off and throw it in the trash or we’ll call the police.'”
The couple refused to throw their belongings in the trash and said they told security they could call the police.
He traveled to the World Cup to enjoy the football tournament, but also to use his social media platform to talk about LGBT issues and Qatar 2022, added Kunkel.
Kunkel and his friend were then allowed to walk to the station platform where CNN escorted them to the match. Kunkel’s friend said he did not want to speak to CNN.
Once out of 974 Stadium, Kunkel put his rainbow bandana and wristband back on and walked through security.
CNN saw Kunkel allowed through, although the 23-year-old German was carried back to one side.
Kunkel then told CNN he was stopped four more times before he was allowed to sit inside the stadium wearing the rainbow-colored items.
Earlier this week, both US journalist Grant Wahl and former Wales captain Laura McCallister said they were asked by security personnel to take off clothes with rainbow patterns.
Wahl said he was released 25 minutes after his arrest and received an apology from a FIFA representative and a senior member of the stadium’s security team.
When asked to clarify the dress code for fans, FIFA referred CNN to the tournament’s handbook, which states, “Expats and tourists are free to wear the clothing of their choice, as long as it is modest and respectful of the culture.”
After some Welsh fans were banned from stadiums for wearing rainbow-coloured bucket hats on Monday, the Football Association of Wales (FAW) said Fifa had told the FA on Thursday that rainbow-coloured flags and hats would be allowed at World Cup stadiums in Qatar. .
“In response to the FAW, FIFA has confirmed that fans wearing rainbow bucket hats and rainbow flags will be allowed into the stadium for @Cymru’s match against Iran on Friday,” she wrote on Twitter.
“All World Cup venues have been contacted and instructed to follow the agreed rules and regulations.”
However, Kunkel’s experience on Saturday seems to indicate that there is still a disconnect between FIFA’s rules and regulations and what happens on the ground at Qatar 2022.
CNN has contacted the FIFA Organizing Committee and Qatar. FIFA referred CNN to the organizing committee in Qatar, which did not respond at the time of publication.
The 23-year-old Kunkel, a sports journalism student back in Germany, has been in Qatar with three friends since just before the World Cup kicks off, and says rainbow-colored items have been confiscated.
Kunkel said he was removed from his seat at the Stade de 88 during Senegal’s match against the Netherlands on Monday and asked to remove items.
On that occasion security threw them into the bin and allowed Kunkel to return to his seat.
“Tossing a rainbow flag in the trash is a cool statement,” Kunkel added.
“I’m not part of the LGBTQ community myself, but I can understand those who don’t want to come here [Qatar] Because people in society are oppressed.”
Kunkel’s trip to Qatar made headlines in Germany and he met German Minister of the Interior and Society Nancy Weser in Doha this week.
Weisser wore the “OneLove” armband, which featured striped heart stripes in different colours, while FIFA President Gianni Infantino sat near her during her country’s 2-1 defeat by Japan.
Since the start of the World Cup, FIFA has found itself at loggerheads with seven European nations playing in Qatar 2022 over the threat of sanctions against any player who wears the “OneLove” armband during matches.
Kunkel says he is unhappy that FIFA allowed Qatar to host the World Cup in a country where sex between men is illegal and punishable by up to three years in prison.
The 23-year-old says both Visser and the German Football Association (DFB) support his actions and that the German Football Association supplied him with more rainbow items after they were confiscated.
Ahead of their match against Japan earlier this week, the German national team stood with their right hand in front of their determined mouth to protest FIFA’s decision to ban the “OneLove” armband that many European captains had hoped to wear in Qatar.
Although he supports this protest, Kunkel says more can be done.
“The German Federation talks a lot about the rights of the LGBTQ community, but whenever they fear the consequences they seem to hold back and I think that’s a bit sad,” said Kunkel, who returned to Germany on Monday.
Kunkel says he is excited about using his platform in Qatar to raise awareness, adding that although he received mixed responses online, he was congratulated several times by fellow fans who entered Saturday’s match.
“I want to be a voice,” said Kunkel, who earlier this week posted a photo of himself on Instagram from Qatar displaying a rainbow headband in front of his face, which he had painted with the German flag with a message saying. “Take a stand, see, and participate in the change. It feels great.”
Meanwhile, Qatar’s organizing committee previously promised to host an “inclusive and discrimination-free” World Cup in the face of Western criticism over its anti-LGBT laws – and Infantino, who speaks generally about Qatar’s human rights record, has been slammed as a “hypocrite” by tournament.
“It’s very disturbing that they’re doing this,” Kunkel told CNN. This is not a political issue, it is a basic human right.