Gay Soccer Player Josh Cavallo Pleads for LGBTQ+ Rights in Qatar Ahead of World Cup
“The world is watching. Do you see us?”
BY SAMANTHA RIEDEL, October 13, 2022
With only a few weeks remaining before the 2022 FIFA World Cup kicks off in Qatar, activists and players alike are once again calling for an end to the Gulf country’s human rights abuses of migrants and LGBTQ+ people.
While collecting his Man of the Year trophy at the Attitude Awards on Wednesday, gay footballer Josh Cavallo vowed to “stand up for LGBTQ athletes and fans at the World Cup in Qatar,” saying “the work that still needs to be done [for LGBTQ+ rights] is staggering.”
Addressing the Qatari government and FIFA officials directly, Cavallo said, “The world is watching. Do you see us?”
Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, punishable by torture and death; citizens have reported that the government surveils and arrests people suspected of “sodomy.” Culturally, Qatari censors have also banned films that include LGBTQ+ characters from theaters, recently including Lightyear and Disney’s West Side Story remake.
In remarks to Attitude on the red carpet, Cavallo also addressed David Beckham, the former soccer star who accepted £10 million in 2021 to become the face of Qatar’s tourist campaign ahead of the World Cup. “I just hope he’s continuing to be an ally for the LGBTQ community,” Cavallo said of Beckham, adding that “we need as many allies and support as we can.”
But Beckham’s allegiance is still very much in question this week after receiving pointed criticism from out gay Qatari man Dr. Nasser Mohamed, who is currently seeking asylum in the U.S. Mohamed is believed to be the country’s first gay public figure. Last week, Mohamed accused Beckham of “stamping out hope” for the Qatari LGBTQ+ community by giving the government cover for its ongoing human rights abuses. “You show up… take money and look the other way,” Mohamed wrote in a letter to Beckham obtained by the Independent.
“This whitewashing of the persecution of the LGBT community in Qatar does not just erase the pain of those suffering from it, but also undermines their pleas for asylum when they do escape,” Mohamed continued, referencing Beckham’s series of rapturous videos praising the country’s beauty and kindness. “After all, if David Beckham describes Qatar as ‘perfection,’ how bad could it really be?”
After penning the letter and attempting to catch Beckham’s attention on social media, Mohamed told news media Wednesday that Beckham had apparently seen his messages — and then blocked him on Instagram. “It’s not only shocking, it’s frightening that they are so engaged with the deal they are doing that they don’t want to hear the message,” Mohamed told Metro. After the news made headlines, the doctor told the paper in a follow-up statement that Beckham had unblocked him.
Qatar won its bid to host the World Cup after a FIFA committee vote in 2010, which has since been alleged to be fraudulent; former FIFA president Sebb Blatter said in 2018 the country used “black ops” to cheat the bid process. Since 2021, numerous players, teams, and fan associations have spoken out against human rights abuses in Qatar suffered by migrant workers hired for construction of the World Cup stadium and related infrastructure, following multiple reports that estimated over 6,700 workers were killed between 2010 and 2020.
The questionnaire is sparking fears over privacy for both trans and cis athletes.
Though comparably little heed has been paid to Qatar’s LGBTQ+ rights abuses, Mohamed — who says he has received death threats for coming out — believes that sustained pressure can force a change in the country’s laws, and hopes that Beckham in particular will reverse course on covering for atrocities.
“Thank you @davidbeckham for unblocking me after I put it in the press. Now I expect us to have a conversation about what is going on,” Mohamed wrote in an Instagram post Wednesday. “I am waiting.”
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