The World Cup is well underway in Qatar, but issues surrounding LGBTQ+ rights in the Gulf state, world football’s governing body FIFA, teams and fans will not go away.
Two German football fans told CNN on Saturday that Qatar 2022 security officials asked them to remove the rainbow-colored items they wore to watch the World Cup match between France and Denmark on Saturday.
CNN witnessed the finale of the incident at Doha’s Msheireb metro station, when Bengt Kunkel, who was wearing an iridescent sweatband, and his friend – wearing a similarly colored armband – refused to hand over the items. The rainbow is a symbol of LGBTQ+ pride.
After taking the Germans aside, a group of security guards eventually let them go — on the condition that they keep the rainbow-colored items in their pockets, according to Kunkel.
“Come out of nowhere. They grabbed my friend by the arm very aggressively and pushed him away from the crowd for him to hold it [the armband] Shut down,” Kunkel told CNN, recounting details of the incident shortly after it happened.
“Then they took me. They said: ‘You’re going to take it off and throw it in the trash or we’ll call the police.'”
The couple refused to throw the items in the trash and said they told security they could call the police.
“We had some discussions and we showed respect and said: ‘We’re not going to throw it away, but we’re going to put it in our pocket’,” added Kunkel, who traveled to the World Cup to enjoy the football tournament and also used His social media platforms talk about LGBTQ+ issues and Qatar 2022.
Kunkel and his friend were then allowed to walk to the station where CNN accompanied them to the game. Friends of Kunkel said he didn’t want to talk to CNN.
After stepping out of Stadium 974, Kunkel put his rainbow-colored armband and wristband back on and went through security.
CNN witnessed Kunkel being let through, although the 23-year-old German was once again taken aside.
Kunkel later told CNN that he was stopped four more times before being allowed to take his seat in the stadium wearing the rainbow-colored item.
Earlier this week, American journalist Grant Wahl and former Wales captain Laura McAllister both said they were asked by security to remove clothing with rainbow-coloured patterns.
Val said he was released after 25 minutes in custody and received an apology from FIFA representatives and senior members of the stadium’s security team.
Asked to clarify the dress code for fans, FIFA referred CNN to the match manual, which states that “expats and tourists are free to choose the attire of their choice as long as it is modest and culturally respectful.”
The Football Association of Wales (FAW) said it was told by FIFA on Thursday that rainbow flags and hats would be allowed inside Qatar’s World Cup stadium after some Welsh fans were also denied entry to the stadium on Monday for wearing rainbow-coloured bucket hats.
“In response to FAW, FIFA has confirmed that fans wearing rainbow wall bucket hats and rainbow flags will be allowed into the stadium during @Cymru’s match against Iran on Friday,” it tweeted.
“All World Cup venues have been contacted and instructed to abide by the agreed rules and regulations.”
However, Kunkel’s experience on Saturday appeared to show that there is still a disconnect between FIFA’s rules and regulations and the reality of the 2022 Qatar Olympics.
CNN reached out to FIFA and the Qatar organizing committee. FIFA referred CNN to Qatar’s organizing committee, which had not responded at the time of publication.
Kunkel, a 23-year-old student sports reporter in Germany who has been to Qatar with three friends since the eve of the World Cup, said he had confiscated rainbow-colored items.
Kunkel said he was removed from his seat and asked to remove the items during Senegal’s game against the Netherlands on Monday at the Al Thumana stadium.
That time security threw them in the trash, and Kunkel was allowed to return to his seat.
“Throwing a rainbow flag in the trash is a nice statement,” Kunkel added.
“I’m not part of the LGBTQ community myself, but I can understand people who don’t want to be here [Qatar] Because people in the community are being oppressed. ”
Kunkel’s trip to Qatar grabbed headlines in Germany, where he met German Interior and Communities Minister Nancy Feiser in Doha this week.
Faeser, wearing a “OneLove” armband featuring a heart silhouette in different colored stripes, sat next to FIFA president Gianni Infantino during her national team’s 2-1 win over Japan.
Since the start of the World Cup, FIFA has found itself at loggerheads with the seven European nations participating in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar over the possibility of sanctions for any player wearing the “OneLove” armband during the match.
Kunkel said he was unhappy with FIFA allowing 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 said both Feisel and the German Football Association (DFB) supported his actions, and the DFB even offered him more rainbow items after his items were confiscated.
Germany posed with their right hand in front of their mouths ahead of their game against Japan earlier this week to protest FIFA’s decision to ban the “OneLove” armband that many European captains have been hoping to wear in Qatar.
While Kunkel supported that protest, he said more could be done.
“The DFB talks a lot about the rights of the LGBTQ community, but whenever they worry about the consequences, they seem to back off, which I think is a bit sad,” said Kunkel, who returned to Germany on Monday.
Kunkel said he was keen to use his platform in Qatar to raise awareness, adding that despite the mixed reaction he received online, fans who walked into Saturday’s match congratulated him several times.
“I want to be a voice,” said Kunkel, who posted a photo of himself earlier this week on Instagram in Qatar, wearing a rainbow-colored sweatband over his face as he It was painted with the German flag and included a message: “Take a stand, be seen, be part of change. Great feeling.”
Meanwhile, Qatar’s organizing committee, which had previously promised an “inclusive and non-discriminatory” World Cup in the face of Western criticism of its anti-LGBTQ laws – criticized Infantino for being slammed as “hypocritical” when it came to Qatar’s human rights record. before the game.
“It’s so annoying that they’re doing this,” Kunkel told CNN. “This is not a political issue, this is a basic human right.”