Qatar World Cup: LGBTQ+ activists protest at FIFA Museum ahead of tournament

A few dozen people protested in front of the FIFA Museum in Zurich on Tuesday to press for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community ahead of the World Cup in Qatar.

Some football players have raised concerns over the rights of fans travelling to the event, especially LGBTQ+ individuals and women, whom rights groups say Qatari laws discriminate against.

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In an interview filmed in Doha and to be screened later on Tuesday, a Qatar World Cup ambassador told German television broadcaster ZDF that homosexuality, which is illegal in the conservative Muslim country, was "damage in the mind."

Former Qatari national team player Khalid Salman said he has a problem with children seeing gay people and added: "During the World Cup, many things will come here to the country. Let's talk about gays. The most important thing is, everybody will accept that they come here. But they will have to accept our rules."

The All Out group that organised the Zurich protest said the demonstration aimed to "make sure FIFA and Qatar know the world is watching and that citizens around the world expect action."

All Out wants FIFA to pressure Qatar to decriminalize same-sex relations and protect the LGBTQ+ community, and says FIFA had not publicly committed to concrete steps that would ensure the safety of LGBTQ+ football fans, gay players, or the local LGBTQ+ community.

"FIFA is confident that all necessary measures will be in place for LGBTIQ+ fans and allies to enjoy the tournament in a welcoming and safe environment, just as for everyone else," a FIFA spokesperson said.

FIFA's position is that discrimination of any kind on account of sexual orientation was strictly prohibited, the spokesperson said.

"Qatar as a host country is fully committed to ensuring that everyone will be able to enjoy the tournament in a safe and welcoming environment, including members of the LGBTIQ+ community."

Qatar is the first Middle Eastern country to host the World Cup, and the small nation has come under intense pressure for its treatment of foreign workers and restrictive social laws.

The country's human rights record has led to calls for teams and officials to boycott the Nov. 20-Dec. 18 tournament.