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Watch Qatar World Cup ambassador comments on TV interview adds to mounting pressure on hosts

  • An ambassador for the soccer World Cup being held in Qatar has come under criticism comments in TV interview.
  • Khalid Salman described being gay as “damage in the mind” while speaking to German TV.
  • Homosexuality is illegal under Qatar’s strict Islamic laws.

Weeks before soccer’s World Cup in Qatar, an ambassador for the host country claimed homosexuality is “damage in the mind.”

In an interview with Germany’s ZDF public broadcaster, Khalid Salman said that homosexuality “is haram [forbidden]. You know what haram means?,” he said, according to Reuters.

Salman is an official representative for the much-criticized Qatar cup, and a former member of the Qatar national soccer team.

Watch the interview here

His comments are likely to fuel additional concerns over the rights of fans travelling to the tournament, which is due to start on November 20.

Homosexuality remains illegal in the conservative Muslim country.

“They have to accept our rules here,” Salman said of the more than one million visitors expected to travel to the country for the World Cup, according to Reuters.

Qatar’s World Cup organizers declined to comment on the episode when asked by Reuters.

It is the latest controversy surrounding the tournament, which is the first time a soccer World Cup is being held in the Middle East.

Qatar has reportedly spent over $229 billion on the largest infrastructure project in World Cup history.

However, the multi-year build up to the tournament has been marred by accusations of human rights abuses towards the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers, mainly from India and Nepal, drafted in to build the stadiums.

This has led to calls to boycott the tournament.

Last month, Human Rights Watch reported that Qatari security forces arbitrarily arrested lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and subjected them to ill-treatment in detention.

The NGO documented six cases of severe and repeated beatings and five of sexual harassment in police custody between 2019 and 2022. As a requirement for release, it said, security forces mandated that transgender women detainees attend conversion therapy sessions at a government-sponsored facility.

In an interview with Sky News on Monday, Qatar’s foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al Thani, described negative media coverage of the upcoming tournament as “misinformation”.

When asked about LGBTQ supporters travelling to Qatar, he said that public displays of affection were banned between all people, not just same-sex couples.

There had noticeable sustained pressure on the hosts by activists over past weeks in the run up to the tournament.

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