World Cup: Soccer fans stopped by security officials for wearing rainbow-colored items as LGBTQ+ rights issue won’t go away at Qatar 2022

Doha, Qatar

The World Cup is going well in Qatar, but LGBTQ+ rights issues remain unresolved for the Gulf state, world soccer governing body FIFA, teams and fans.

Two German soccer fans told CNN on Saturday that they were asked by Qatar 2022 security officials to remove the rainbow-colored items they were wearing on their way to watch Saturday’s World Cup match between France and Denmark.

CNN witnessed the conclusion of the incident at Msheireb metro station in Doha, as Bengt Kunkel, wearing a rainbow sweatband, and his friend – wearing a similar colored band – refused to hand over the items. The rainbow is a symbol of LGBTQ+ pride.

According to Kunkel, after the Germans were taken aside, a group of guards let them go on the condition that they put rainbow-colored items in their pockets.

“Out of nowhere. They grabbed my friend by the hand, pushed him out of the crowd and told him to take it. [the armband] shut down,” Kunkel told CNN, detailing the incident.

“Then they took me away. They said, “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 told security they could call the police.

“We had a little discussion, we respectfully said, ‘We’re not going to throw it away, but we’re going to pocket it,'” added Kunkel, who is using the soccer tournament to enjoy the World Cup, as well as using his social media platform to talk about LGBTQ+ issues and Qatar 2022.

Kunkel and his friend were then allowed down to the station platform, where CNN accompanied them to the match. Kunkel’s friend said he did not want to talk to CNN.

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As he made his way outside Stadium 974, Kunkel put his rainbow armband and wristband back on and walked through security.

CNN witnessed Kunkel being cleared, but the 23-year-old German was taken away.

Kunkel then told CNN that he was stopped four more times before he was allowed to sit inside the stadium wearing the rainbow-colored items.

Earlier this week, American journalist Grant Wall and former Wales captain Laura McAllister both said they were told by security to take off their rainbow-coloured clothing.

Val said he was released 25 minutes after his arrest and apologized to a FIFA representative and a senior member of the stadium’s security team.

detailed view

When asked to clarify the dress code for fans, FIFA quoted CNN as referring to the tournament handbook, which states that “expats and tourists may wear modest and culturally respectful clothing.”

After some Wales fans were banned from stadiums on Monday for wearing rainbow bucket hats, the Football Association of Wales (FAW) FIFA said on Thursday the federation will be allowed to wear rainbow flags and hats at World Cup stadiums in Qatar. .

“In response to FAW, FIFA has confirmed that fans wearing ‘Rainbow Wall’ bucket hats and rainbow flags will be allowed into the stadium for @Cymru’s match against Iran on Friday,” he tweeted.

“All World Cup venues have been contacted and instructed to adhere to agreed rules and regulations.”

However, Kunkel’s experience on Saturday shows that there is a gap between FIFA’s rules and regulations and what is happening on the ground at Qatar 2022.

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CNN reached out to FIFA and Qatar’s organizing committee. FIFA referred CNN to Qatar’s organizing committee, but they had not responded at the time of publication.

Bengt Kunkel wearing his rainbow armband inside the 974 Stadium on Saturday, November 26.

Kunkel, 23, a student sports journalist in Germany, was in Qatar with three friends just before the start of the World Cup and says his rainbow-colored items were confiscated.

Kunkel said he was removed from the bench at the Al Toumana Stadium during Senegal’s game against the Netherlands on Monday and had to unpack.

At that point, security officers tossed them into the trash can and Kunkel was allowed to return to his seat.

“Throwing the sky flag in the trash is very important,” Kunkel added.

“I’m not a member of the LGBTQ community myself, but I understand those who don’t want to come here [Qatar] because the people of the community are being oppressed.”

Kunkel’s visit to Qatar made headlines in Germany, and he met with German Interior and Community Minister Nancy Faser in Doha this week.

DFB President Bernd Neuendorf (left) and Germany's Federal Minister of the Interior and Community, Nancy Faser.

Faizer, along with FIFA president Gianni Infantino, wore the ‘OneLove’ armband, which featured an outline of a striped heart in different colours, during his country’s 2-1 loss against Japan.

Since the start of the World Cup, FIFA has been at loggerheads with seven European nations over threats to sanction players who wear the OneLove logo during the 2022 games in Qatar.

Kunkel said he was upset 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.

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The 23-year-old says that both Feuser and the German Football Association (DFB) have supported his actions, and that the DFB has given him more rainbow stuff since the confiscation.

Ahead of a game against Japan earlier this week, the German team posed with their right hand in front of their mouth in protest at FIFA’s decision to ban the ‘OneLove’ armband, which many European captains had hoped to wear in Qatar.

While he supports the protest, Kunkel says more can be done.

“The German football federation talks a lot about the rights of the LGBTQ community, but the more they fear the consequences, the more they back off, and I think that’s a bit sad,” Kunkel said, returning to Germany on Monday.

Kunkel said he wanted to use his platform in Qatar to raise awareness, adding that despite the mixed response online, fans who attended Saturday’s game congratulated him several times.

“I want to be a voice,” said Kunkel, who earlier this week posted a photo of himself on Instagram from Qatar, wearing a rainbow sweatband with a German flag in front of his face: “Right, show up, make a difference. It’s a wonderful feeling.”

Meanwhile, Qatar’s organizing committee has already pledged to host an “inclusive and non-discriminatory” World Cup despite Western criticism of its anti-LGBTQ laws – which Infantino criticized as “hypocritical” when speaking about Qatar’s human rights record in general. before the tournament.

“It’s very infuriating that they would do this,” Kunkel told CNN. “This is not a political issue, this is basic human rights.”


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