A World Cup wish for ‘peace and freedom’ – LGBT+ Qatari stories, shared by Dr Nas

Published by Jon Holmes on

Every day during the FIFA World Cup, Dr Nas Mohamed is sharing a story from a fellow LGBT+ Qatari; members of the community back in Qatar have been submitting testimonies via Instagram – read them here; Dr Nas is raising money for the Alwan Foundation to advance LGBTQ+ rights in the Gulf region

By Jon Holmes

‘Celebrating the moment with love. It won’t be behind closed doors until you stop torturing us behind closed doors’ – Dr Nas’s Instagram post on the first day of the World Cup in Qatar

Dr Nas Mohamed is determined to keep the truth about LGBT+ Qataris “front and centre” during the FIFA World Cup in his homeland.

While consternation continues at the tournament around FIFA’s refusal to allow the OneLove armband to be worn by the captains of seven European teams, Dr Nas continues to advocate fiercely on behalf of his community.

On Wednesday, the players in Germany’s starting XI against Japan posed for a team photo with their hands covering their mouths.

“Denying us the armband is the same as denying us a voice,” said the German FA in a statement.

On the same day, Dr Nas shared a story on Instagram from ‘Hamad’, a gay man in Qatar. Hamad describes how he is living a life of denial just to appease the state authorities.

So far during the World Cup, Dr Nas has posted about three other Qataris, all of whom are trans. His first video, in which he narrates the tragic tale of a woman called ‘Fatma’, was shared on Trans Day of Remembrance.

Dr Nas plans to share one story every day from the people hidden in the shadows while the spotlight focuses on the football. “They want people to know what they’re going through and how the local LGBT+ community is living,” he says.

“I don’t want this event to sportswash what actually happens to us as a community in Qatar.”

With Dr Nas’s permission, Sports Media LGBT+ is sharing written versions of the powerful stories below. Please help to amplify these Qatari voices.

Donate to the Alwan Foundation and show support for Proud Maroons, an LGBT+ and allies fans group for the host nation – a group which LGBT+ people who live in Qatar cannot join.

The Maroons play Senegal in their next World Cup Group A game on Friday (kick-off 1pm GMT).

Here are the LGBT+ Qatari Stories shared by Dr Nas so far…

‘Fear lives in my heart all the time’

‘Hamad’ is a gay man.

My story would make my enemy’s heart ache. I’ve known I was gay since childhood – I knew I was different but I did not know what it meant.

My suffering started after I came back to Qatar from a study trip abroad. Just a little taste of freedom got me addicted to being my full authentic self.

Doha, Qatar (image via Nikolovskii, CC 2.0)

I could see the irrational hate towards the LGBT+ community in Qatar after I came back. I’m not doing anything to provoke anyone – I came out to a small group of people that I trusted with my truth, and kept it to my small circle.

Otherwise, I keep pretending that I’m straight. I got into severe depression from pretending all of the time. I saw a mental health expert, to seek a solution, but I was not convinced speaking to that expert.

Then I decided to try to at least be at peace with myself – and that’s when the dilemma started. I started expressing the way I feel. It’s the biggest challenge and curse for an LGBT+ Qatari – being a cisgender male with a feminine look.

This is a male-dominated society and I got flagged by the Preventive Security Department. At the moment, my life is fear-based and unstable. It is not just fear of the community but fear of the laws that govern us. Fear lives in my heart all the time.

I even feel scared driving my car on the streets, that I would be randomly stopped and picked on – just for being an LGBT+ person, just for not looking masculine. I’m afraid of holding non-masculine items, even if I don’t put them on.

I was out in a public space once with one of my friends. I was called in to report to the PSD because I had earrings on. I was interrogated for three hours. They took my phone, they took photos of me and I had to sign a contract indicating that I would not wear jewellery again.

They told me these are not our values and decided they can control me based on that. Then I asked about all the men that walk Qatar, wearing accessories. They said they are not Qatari and they have freedom in their own culture.

Despite the fact that we live in the same setting, we do not have the same rights.

This is just a moment of my struggles living here. If we continue to be dehumanised in the next few years, I will have to seek asylum somewhere else so I can live in peace and freedom.

‘I was having nightmares every day’

‘Halem’ is a trans man.

In the recent documentary ‘Qatar: State of Fear?’ – watch in full on ITVXHalem talks about undergoing so-called conversion therapy.

He says that for two years, he was forced by his school to undergo conversion therapy at a behavioural centre called Daam.

“The aim of this therapy was that they knew I was gay,” he says in the documentary. “They wanted to find any possible way to revert me, or to change me into a straight person as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

“The therapist just explained to me, ‘this is a sin. You are committing a sin by doing this. You are going to hell’.

“He was very frightening.”

Halem says his treatment at Daam left him traumatised.

“When I had my first conversion therapy, I remember that I was having a lot of nightmares every single day. And they only increased as my sessions became heavier. So the more I had, the more depressed I felt.”

Even as recently as this month, an article in Qatar Tribune refers to a training workshop for a Daam youth programme as follows…

“The workshop also aims to raise awareness about the most prominent behavioural disorders in society and proffers the ways to influence them positively to raise moral values among the youth, as well as highlight the role of youth initiatives in behavioural aberrations prevention.”

‘My mental and physical health went up in flames’

‘Fahad’ is a trans man.

I’m a Qatari bisexual, trans man who is still living in Qatar. My path in life was pre-determined for me ever since I was a child and religion was forced upon me, even though I’m not religious. I was forced to put up a front and pretend that I am a cis, straight and Muslim woman, for my own safety and for the safety of my siblings who I fear my parents would assume will turn like me once I reveal my true identity.

I am not allowed to travel or move out, even though I am well above the age of 18. I was told this is for my own safety as a woman. This means even though I strongly disagree with the Qatari laws and how my family treats me, I cannot leave.

Doha, Qatar (image via Nikolovskii, CC 2.0)

My family keeps commenting about the LGBTQ+ community being ‘disgusting animals’ that deserve to be put in jail and killed for being who they are. They full-heartedly believe queer people are behaving like literal animals by disobeying God, which somehow warrants their abuse and suffering because this is what God intended.

My family also told me that feminism is a Western mindset that allows women to lead their own lives by living alone and getting a job, without having kids or a husband, which is apparently wrong.

Due to my family’s hateful comments about my community, I began losing touch with my religion because I cannot stop thinking about what would happen to me after the judgement day, because of who I am. The mere thought of what would happen to queer people in the afterlife haunts me, even after leaving their religion.

My mental and physical health went up in flames. My family responded to my declining wellbeing but letting me know that God intended to do this to me to test my faith and instead of allowing me to seek help from anyone, they told me I was at fault for not reading another Quran.

‘She chose death rather than being captured’

‘Fatma’ was a trans woman.

This story was shared by Dr Nas on Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Fatma did not have a chance to experience living life out of fear.

She was absolutely abused by her family and punished for any self expression that was not cisgender.

Doha (image via Thameur Belghith, CC 2.0)

She learned that she was not alone in Qatar. She met some other transgender women that were Qatari. Their group was small but they got together in safe spaces to experience being themselves.

Wearing what they wanted, they called themselves by their chosen names. They did not do anything much beyond that in their gatherings.

One night, one of them booked a hotel room. They felt very adventurous. They got their favourite clothes and decided to spend the night together. They dressed the way they felt. They were enjoying their evening away from society.

Suddenly, the PSD broke into their room. Fatma had heard about them before and what they do when they capture transgender women like her. She got up and was full of fear. As they rushed in and started beating her friends, she turned to the window behind her. Fatma decided to jump to her death.

She chose death rather than being captured by them.

Dr Nas says… “Community members in Qatar know this incident and know this story. This is a life that was lost due to irrational hate against the LGBT+ community in Qatar. While LGBT+ fans are ‘welcome’ in Qatar, we are not welcome in Qatar.

“Fatma was not welcome in Qatar and I will make sure to keep emphasising the hypocrisy of how we’re treated versus of how the world is treated in Qatar this year.”

Follow Dr Nas on Instagram at @dr._nass, and on Twitter at @Dr_NassMohamed

Follow @proudmaroons and @alwanfoundation. Please donate what you can.

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Jon Holmes

Digital Sports Editor