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Qatar police halt protest by Australian-born activist

Qatari police have stopped a one-man protest by activist Peter Tatchell outside the national museum of the Gulf Arab state which hosts soccer’s World Cup next month.

Melbourne-born Mr Tatchell, who moved to Britain aged 19, stood for more than an hour on Tuesday wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with “#Qatarantigay” and holding a placard that read “Qatar arrests and subjects LGBTs to conversion”.

Two uniformed police officers and three plain clothes officials arrived at the scene. They folded up his placard and took photos of Mr Tatchell’s passport and other papers, and those of a man accompanying him.

Police left after shaking hands with Mr Tatchell, who performed similar protests in Russia before the 2018 World Cup and in Birmingham before this year’s Commonwealth Games, and once tried to effect a citizens arrest on former Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe.

Homosexuality is illegal in the conservative Muslim country, and some soccer stars have raised concerns over the rights of fans travelling for the event, especially LGBT+ individuals and women, whom rights groups say Qatari laws discriminate against.

Organisers of the World Cup in Qatar, which starts on November 20 and is the first to be held in a Middle Eastern nation, say that everyone, no matter their sexual orientation or background, is welcome, while also warning against public displays of affection.

Qatar’s Government Communication Office said Mr Tatchell was neither arrested nor detained and was simply told “cordially and professionally” to move.

“Rumours on social media that a representative from the Peter Tatchell Foundation has been arrested in Qatar are completely false and without merit,” it said in a statement.

Human Rights Watch on Monday said security forces in Qatar arbitrarily arrested and abused LGBT Qataris as recently as last month.

A Qatari official said in a statement that HRW’s allegations “contain information that is categorically and unequivocally false”.

Mr Tatchell was later criticised by LGBT+ groups for what they described as a ‘stunt’.

Elias Jahshan, author of This Arab is Queer, tweeted: “White people going to foreign countries to pull a protest stunt without the backing of the local community always risks doing more harm than good.”

“Hi Peter Tatchell, remember in that Signal chat group when you denied you were planning on doing that stunt you just pulled in Qatar? I know many queer Qataris would love to hear why you didn’t listen. As you lap up the media attention, I hope you realise you betrayed their trust,” he said.

Topics: Qatar
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