The World Cup in Qatar is well under way, but concerns about LGBTQ+ rights for the Gulf nation, FIFA, teams, and spectators simply won’t go away.
Two German soccer fans told CNN on Saturday that when traveling to witness the France vs. Denmark World Cup game, security personnel at Qatar 2022 asked them to take off the rainbow-colored clothing they were wearing.
At the Msheireb Metro Station in Doha, CNN saw the matter come to a head when Bengt Kunkel, who was sporting a rainbow-colored sweatband, and his friend, who was wearing a coordinating armband, refused to turn over the items. LGBTQ+ pride is symbolized by the rainbow.
According to Kunkel, a group of security guards eventually released the Germans after separating them and demanding that they place the rainbow-colored objects in their pockets.
“Out of the blue. As soon as the event occurred, Kunkel told CNN that “they took my friend fairly aggressively on the arm, pushed him away from the crowd, and instructed him to take it [the armband] off.”
They later brought me along with him. They threatened to call the police unless you removed it and disposed of it in the trash.
The two allegedly informed security they could contact the police and refused to dispose of their belongings in the trash.
Kunkel, who went to the World Cup to see the soccer match but also to utilize his social media platform to discuss LGBTQ+ issues and Qatar 2022, continued, “We had a small chat, we were being respectful and said: ‘We’re not going to throw it out but we’re going to put it in our pockets’.”
Then CNN was authorized to follow Kunkel and his friend to the game as they made their way down to the station platform. Kunkel’s pal claimed he was unwilling to speak with CNN.
Kunkel put the rainbow-colored armband and wristband back on when she exited Stadium 974 and proceeded through security.
CNN saw Kunkel get through, though the 23-year-old German was once more escorted to the side.
After being stopped four more times, Kunkel told CNN he was finally allowed to enter the stadium while still sporting the rainbow-colored attire.
Both former Wales captain Laura McAllister and American writer Grant Wahl claimed earlier this week that security personnel had instructed them to take off any apparel with rainbow-colored designs.
A FIFA spokesman and a senior member of the stadium security staff apologized to Wahl, who claimed he was freed 25 minutes after being arrested.
FIFA pointed CNN to the tournament guidebook when the organization was questioned about the appropriate attire for spectators. The handbook reads that “expats and visitors are allowed to wear the apparel of their choice, as long as it is modest and respectful to the culture.”
The Welsh Football Association (FAW) reported that FIFA informed the federation on Thursday that rainbow-colored flags and hats would be permitted in World Cup stadiums in Qatar after several Wales supporters were also denied access into stadiums for donning rainbow-colored bucket hats on Monday.
In response to the FAW, FIFA announced that supporters wearing rainbow flags and bucket hats would be permitted admission to the stadium for @Cymru’s match against Iran on Friday.
All World Cup locations have been notified and told to abide by the established rules and guidelines.
Kunkel’s Saturday incident, however, would seem to indicate that there is still a discrepancy between FIFA’s rules and regulations and what is taking place at Qatar 2022.
CNN contacted the organizing committee in Qatar and FIFA. FIFA directed CNN to the organizing committee in Qatar, but as of the time of publication, they had not responded.
The 23-year-old Kunkel, a student sports journalist back in Germany, has been in Qatar since shortly before the World Cup began and claims he has already had items confiscated that are rainbow-colored. He is there with three companions.
During Monday’s match between Senegal and the Netherlands at the Al Thumana Stadium, Kunkel claimed he was ordered to leave his place and remove the objects.
When security did so, they were placed in a trash can, and Kunkel was then free to return to his seat.
Kunkel continued, “Tossing a rainbow flag in the trash is quite a message.
Although I don’t identify as a member of the LGBTQ community, I can understand those who do not want to visit Qatar because the country’s residents are subjected to discrimination.
German media have covered Kunkel’s visit to Qatar, and this week he met with Nancy Faeser, the interior and community minister of Germany, in Doha.
During her nation’s 2-1 loss to Japan, Faeser wore the “OneLove” armband with FIFA President Gianni Infantino sitting close by. The armband depicts the outline of a heart with stripes of various colors.
FIFA and seven European nations participating in the Qatar 2022 World Cup have been at odds since the tournament began over the prospect of punishment for any player donning a “OneLove” armband during matches.
Kunkel claims he is dissatisfied with FIFA for allowing Qatar to hold the World Cup in a nation where having sex with another man is against the law and is subject to a three-year prison sentence.
The 23-year-old claims that Faeser and the German Football Association (DFB) have backed his activities and that the DFB even sent him additional rainbow merchandise after his original possessions were seized.
Germany’s team protested FIFA’s decision to forbid the “OneLove” armband that several European captains had hoped to wear in Qatar before its match against Japan earlier this week by posing with their right hands in front of their mouths.
Kunkel affirms that protest, but adds more can be done.
Kunkel, who is leaving for Germany on Monday, said, “The German FA talks a lot about the rights of the LGBTQ community but once they fear consequences they appear to back out and I think that’s a little bit sad.”
Although he’s received a mixed response online, Kunkel claims he was often congratulated by other fans as he arrived at Saturday’s game. Kunkel is passionate about using his platform in Qatar to raise awareness.
Kunkel, who earlier this week from Qatar uploaded a photo of himself on Instagram holding a rainbow-colored sweatband in front of his face that he had painted with the German flag and a message reading: “Take a stand, be seen, engage in change,” said, “I want to be a voice. Fantastic feeling
In contrast, Qatar’s organizing committee has pledged to organize “an inclusive and discrimination-free” World Cup in response to criticism from the West for its anti-LGBTQ laws, which Infantino called “hypocritical” prior to the tournament when discussing Qatar’s human rights record more broadly.
Kunkel told CNN, “It’s really aggravating when they do this. “These are fundamental human rights; this is not a political issue.”