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Activists urge FIFA to defend LGBTQ rights at World Cup

Activists hold boards reading in German "shooting at queer hate" during a symbolic action by LGBT+ associations in front of the FIFA museum in Zurich. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Rights activists demonstrated outside the FIFA Museum in Zurich on Tuesday to urge world football’s governing body to defend LGBTQ rights during the World Cup in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.

The groups All Out, Pink Cross, the Swiss Lesbian Organisation and Transgender Network Switzerland staged a kick-about featuring purported representatives of FIFA, Qatar and the LGBTQ community.

All Out campaign manager Justin Lessner said the event was to encourage national teams, footballers and sponsors to show their support for LGBTQ rights in Qatar, where the 2022 World Cup will be staged from November 20.

“By staging this football match… it’s kind of symbolic and we are able to score a goal for love and equality,” he said.

The person representing FIFA wore a FIFA t-shirt, while the supposed Qatar representative in the match was dressed as a policeman.

They were chained in front of their goal to stop the LGBTQ team from scoring.

At the end, the FIFA player took off his t-shirt and joined the opposing team, to score a goal.

Participants then kissed “for love and equality”.

Around 50 people took part in the demonstration, some holding signs reading “Kissing for Qatar”, “FIFA: let’s kick away the hate”, “Rights not greed” and “Queers against corruption”.

“It’s up to FIFA to take responsibility and really take action for the rights and defence of LGBTQ people in Qatar — not just fans, but for all the people who currently live there,” Gae Colussi, the head of Pink Cross in French-speaking western Switzerland, told AFP.

FIFA should “intervene with Qatar, to use its power to put pressure on the regime” he said, pointing out that football’s governing body signed a charter in 2016 vowing to respect human rights.

“There are an astronomical number of reports from major international NGOs, such as Amnesty or Human Rights Watch, which have repeatedly denounced human rights violations since the World Cup was awarded to Qatar,” he said.

Colussi said FIFA had been “extremely silent on the issue”.

Instead of speaking up, FIFA has called on the 32 teams at the World Cup to “focus on football” and stop “handing out moral lessons” — in a message that received a sharp rebuke from Amnesty International.

Qatar has come under sustained fire over its human rights record, its treatment of foreign workers and stance on women’s and LGBTQ rights.

Former Qatari international and World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman called homosexuality a “damage in the mind”, in an interview to be aired by German broadcaster ZDF on Tuesday.

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