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

Doha, Qatar

The World Cup is underway in Qatar, but LGBTQ+ rights issues for the Gulf state, world soccer governing body FIFA, teams and fans just won’t go away.

On Saturday, two German soccer fans told CNN that security officials asked them to remove the rainbow-colored items they were wearing as they headed to watch the World Cup game between France and Denmark on Saturday.

CNN witnessed the conclusion of the incident at Doha’s Msheireb metro station when Bengt Kunkel, wearing a rainbow-colored sweatband, and his friend, wearing a rainbow-colored armband, refused to deliver the items. The rainbow is a symbol of LGBTQ+ pride.

After shoving the Germans aside, a group of security guards finally let them go, on the condition that they keep the rainbow-colored items in their pockets, according to Kunkel.

“Out of nowhere. They grabbed my friend’s arm quite aggressively and pulled him away from the crowd and told him to take it. [the armband] off,” Kunkel told CNN, recounting the details of the incident shortly after it occurred.

“Then they took me with him. They said, ‘You take it off and throw it away or we’ll call the police.’”

The couple refused to throw their items away, saying they told security they could call the police.

“We had a little discussion, we were respectful and we said: ‘We are not going to throw it away but we are going to put it in our pocket,’” added Kunkel, who traveled to the World Cup to enjoy the soccer tournament, but also to use his platform. of social networks to talk about LGBTQ+ issues and Qatar 2022.

Kunkel and his friend were then allowed to walk to the station platform where CNN escorted them to the game. Kunkel’s friend said he didn’t want to talk to CNN.

Outside of Stadium 974, Kunkel donned his rainbow-colored bracelet and wristband again and made his way through security.

CNN witnessed Kunkel being allowed through, though the 23-year-old German was again led aside.

Kunkel later told CNN he was stopped four more times before being allowed to take a seat inside the stadium with the rainbow-colored items.

Earlier this week, US journalist Grant Wahl and former Wales captain Laura McAllister said they were told by security staff to remove their rainbow-patterned clothing.

Wahl said he was released 25 minutes after being detained and received an apology from a FIFA official and a senior member of the stadium’s security team.

Asked to clarify the dress code for fans, FIFA referred CNN to the tournament manual, which states that “ex-pats and tourists are free to wear the clothing of their choice, as long as it is modest and respectful of culture”.

After some Welsh fans were also denied entry to stadiums for wearing rainbow-colored bucket hats on Monday, the Football Association of Wales (FAW) said FIFA told the federation on Thursday that Rainbow 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 allowed into the stadium for @Cymru’s game against Iran on Friday,” he tweeted.

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

However, Kunkel’s experience on Saturday would seem to suggest that there remains a disconnect between FIFA’s rules and regulations and what happens on the ground at Qatar 2022.

CNN contacted FIFA and the Qatar organizing committee. FIFA referred CNN to the Qatar organizing committee, which had not responded by time of publication.

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

Kunkel, 23, who is studying sports journalism in Germany, has been in Qatar with three friends since shortly before the World Cup began and says they have already had rainbow-colored items confiscated.

Kunkel said he was taken from his seat at Al Thumana Stadium during Senegal’s game against the Netherlands on Monday and told to remove his items.

On that occasion, security tossed them into the trash can, and Kunkel was able to return to his seat.

“It’s quite a statement to throw a rainbow flag in the trash,” Kunkel added.

“I myself am not part of the LGBTQ community, but I can understand those who do not want to come here. [Qatar] because the people of the community are being oppressed.”

Kunkel’s trip to Qatar has made headlines in Germany and this week he met with German Interior and Community Minister Nancy Faeser in Doha.

German Football Association President Bernd Neuendorf (left) and German Federal Minister for the Interior and Community Nancy Faeser, wearing a

Faeser wore the “OneLove” bracelet, which features the outline of a heart striped in different colours, with FIFA president Gianni Infantino sitting nearby during his country’s 2-1 loss to Japan.

Since the World Cup began, FIFA has found itself at loggerheads with seven European nations playing in Qatar 2022 over the threat of sanctions for any player who wears a “OneLove” armband during games.

Kunkel says he is not happy that FIFA has 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 that both Faeser and the German Football Association (DFB) have supported his actions and that the DFB even provided him with more rainbow items after his were confiscated.

Before their match against Japan earlier this week, the Germany team posed with their right hands in front of their mouths in protest of FIFA’s decision to ban the “OneLove” armband that many European captains had hoped to wear in Qatar.

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

“The German Football Federation 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’s passionate about using his platform in Qatar to raise awareness, adding that although he received a mixed response online, he was congratulated multiple times by fellow fans entering Saturday’s 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 sweatband in front of his face, which he had painted with the German flag with a message that read: “Take a stand, be seen, participate in the change. Incredible feeling.”

Meanwhile, Qatar’s organizing committee earlier vowed to host an “inclusive and discrimination-free” World Cup in the face of Western criticism of its anti-LGBTQ laws: criticism that Infantino, speaking broadly about Qatar’s human rights record, called them “hypocritical”. before the tournament.

“It’s so upsetting that they’re doing this,” Kunkel told CNN. “This is not a political problem, it is basic human rights.”

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