LGBTQ+ football fans heading to the World Cup in Qatar have been urged to be ‘respectful of the host nation’ by foreign secretary James Cleverly.
He warned football fans would have to ‘make some compromises’ if attending the spectacle in the nation, where homosexuality is still illegal.
However his advice has been criticised by the likes of Gary Lineker and Peter Tatchell, who was detained after staging an LGBTQ+ protest in Qatar yesterday.
Mr Cleverly told LBC radio: ‘I haven’t spoken with the government of Qatar in direct response to Peter Tatchell, but my understanding is that he was questioned, that he was supported by the FCDO’s consular team.
‘I have spoken to the Qatari authorities in the past about gay football fans going to watch the World Cup and how they will treat our fans and international fans.
‘They want to make sure that football fans are safe, secure and enjoy themselves, and they know that that means they are going to have to make some compromises in terms of what is an Islamic country with a very different set of cultural norms to our own.
‘One of the things I would say for football fans is, you know, please do be respectful of the host nation.
‘They are trying to ensure that people can be themselves and enjoy the football, and I think with a little bit of flex and compromise at both ends, it can be a safe, secure and exciting World Cup.’
Meanwhile, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has hit back at the foreign secretary’s advice for LGBTQ+ football fans to be ‘respectful’ of Qatar’s culture.
The activist was arrested after staging the first ever LGBTQ+ protest in the country to highlight its human rights abuses in the run up to the World Cup.
Mr Tatchell was questioned by police and eventually released, but said he had been subjected to interrogation.
But authorities in Qatar – where homosexuality is illegal – deny he was arrested, calling the reports ‘completely false and without merit’.
The activist, 70, said his aim was to draw attention to the treatment of the LGBTQ+ community, women and migrant workers in the Gulf state.
Mr Tatchell said: ‘The UK government must use its public voice to condemn the appalling human rights abuses carried out daily by the Qatari regime.
‘Unless we all speak out, Qatar will have achieved its goal of sports washing its appalling reputation during the World Cup. Mr Cleverly has an opportunity to highlight the abuses being carried out by the regime.
‘All fans, not just LGBTs, should boycott the World Cup and use their social media to amplify the shocking human rights abuses by the Qatari state. Going to the World Cup is colluding with a homophobic, sexist and racist regime.’
Mr Cleverly confirmed he would be attending the World Cup, and criticised Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer who refuses to attend over Qatar’s homophobic views.
Mr Cleverly took a swipe, saying: ‘As leader of the opposition, he’s in a lovely position to to send messages. I’ve got real work to do.’
But Labour has criticised the foreign secretary’s comments as being ‘tone deaf’ and ‘endorsing the regime’.
Labour’s shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell said: ‘This is shockingly tone deaf from James Cleverly. Sport should be open to all.
‘Many fans will feel they can’t attend this tournament to cheer on their team because of Qatar’s record on human, workers, and LGBT+ rights.
‘The government should be challenging FIFA on how they’ve put fans in this position, and ensuring the full safety of all fans attending, not defending discriminatory values.’
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