The World Cup is well underway in Qatar, but the LGBTQ+ rights issues for the Gulf state, world football’s governing body FIFA, the teams and the fans just aren’t going away.
On Saturday, two German soccer fans told CNN that Qatar 2022 security officials asked them to remove the rainbow-colored items they were wearing as they headed to the FIFA Cup game. world between France and Denmark on Saturday.
CNN witnessed the conclusion of the incident at Msheireb metro station, Doha, as Bengt Kunkel, who was wearing a rainbow-colored headband, and his friend – sporting a similarly colored armband – refused to return the items. The rainbow is a symbol of LGBTQ+ pride.
After taking the Germans aside, a group of security guards finally let them go – on condition that they put the rainbow-colored items in their pockets, according to Kunkel.
“Out of nowhere. They grabbed my friend quite aggressively on the arm and pushed him away from the crowd and told him to take it [the armband] off,” Kunkel told CNN, as he recounted the details of the incident shortly after it happened.
“Then they took me with him. They said, “You’re going to take it down and throw it in the trash or we’ll call the police.”
Both men refused to throw their items in the trash and said they told security they could call the police.
“We had a little discussion, we were respectful and we said to each other: ‘We are not going to throw it away but we are going to put it in our pockets'”, added Kunkel, who went to the FIFA Cup. world to enjoy the football tournament, but also to use his social media platform to talk about LGBTQ+ issues and Qatar 2022.
Kunkel and his friend were then allowed to walk down to the station platform where CNN accompanied them to the game. Kunkel’s friend said he didn’t want to talk to CNN.
Once outside Stadium 974, Kunkel put on the rainbow-colored armband and wristband and walked through security.
CNN saw Kunkel cleared through, although the 23-year-old German was once again taken to the sidelines.
Kunkel later told CNN he was arrested four more times before being allowed to sit inside the stadium wearing the rainbow-colored items.
Earlier this week, US journalist Grant Wahl and former Wales captain Laura McAllister both said they were told by security staff to remove the rainbow-patterned clothing.
Wahl said he was released 25 minutes after being detained and received an apology from a FIFA representative and a senior member of the stadium security team.
When asked to clarify the dress code for fans, FIFA referred CNN to the tournament manual, which states that “expats and tourists are free to wear whatever clothing they choose, as long as they are modest and respectful of the culture”.
After some Wales fans were also refused entry to stadiums for wearing rainbow-coloured bucket hats on Monday, the Football Association of Wales (FAW) said FIFA had told the federation on Thursday that rainbow-colored flags and hats would be allowed in World Cup stadiums in Qatar. .
“In response to the FAW, FIFA has confirmed that fans wearing Rainbow Wall bucket hats and rainbow flags will be permitted to enter the stadium for @Cymru’s match against Iran on Friday,” a- he tweeted.
“All World Cup venues have been contacted and urged to follow agreed rules and regulations.”
However, Kunkel’s experience on Saturday would seem to suggest there remains a disconnect between FIFA rules and regulations and what is happening on the pitch at Qatar 2022.
CNN has contacted FIFA and the Qatar Organizing Committee. FIFA referred CNN to the Qatar Organizing Committee, which had not responded at press time.
Kunkel, 23, who is a student sports journalist in Germany, has been in Qatar with three friends since just before the World Cup kicked off and says he has already had items in the colors of Qatar confiscated Rainbow.
Kunkel said he was removed from his seat at Al Thumana Stadium during Senegal’s game against the Netherlands on Monday and told to remove the items.
On this occasion, security threw them in the trash and Kunkel was allowed to return to his seat.
“That’s quite a statement to throw a rainbow flag in the trash,” 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 the community are oppressed.
Kunkel’s trip to Qatar has made headlines in Germany and he met German Interior and Community Minister Nancy Faeser in Doha this week.
Faeser wore the ‘OneLove’ armband, which features the outline of a heart striped in different colours, with FIFA President Gianni Infantino seated nearby during his country’s 2-1 loss to 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 for any player wearing a “OneLove” armband during matches.
Kunkel says he is unhappy that FIFA allowed Qatar to stage 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 claims Faeser and the German Football Association (DFB) supported his actions and the DFB even provided him with more rainbow items after his confiscation.
Ahead of their game against Japan earlier this week, the German side put their right hand over their mouths in protest at 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 FA talks a lot about the rights of the LGBTQ community, but every time they fear the consequences they seem to back down and I think that’s a bit sad,” said Kunkel, who returns to Germany on Monday.
Kunkel says he is passionate about using his platform in Qatar to raise awareness, adding that although he has received a mixed response online, he has been repeatedly praised by other fans entering the Saturday game.
“I want to be a voice,” said Kunkel, who earlier this week posted a photo of himself on Instagram from Qatar showing a rainbow-colored headband in front of his face, which he had painted with the flag. German with a message saying: “Take a stand, be seen, be part of the change. Awesome feeling.
Qatar’s organizing committee, meanwhile, has previously promised to stage an “inclusive and non-discriminatory” World Cup in the face of Western criticism of its anti-LGBTQ laws – Infantino’s criticism, usually speaking of the record of the Qatar on human rights, was branded a “hypocrite” ahead of the tournament.
“It’s so annoying that they’re doing this,” Kunkel told CNN. “It’s not a political issue, it’s basic human rights.”