Berlin — An ambassador for the World Cup in Qatar has described homosexuality as “damage in the head” in an interview with German public broadcaster ZDF just two weeks before the opening of the soccer tournament in the Gulf state and expressed concern about the conservative country’s treatment of gays and lesbians
Former Qatar international Khalid Salman told a German reporter in an interview that being gay is “haram” or forbidden in Arabic and he has a problem with children seeing gays.
Excerpts of the television interview were shown on Monday in the ZDF news program Today Journal. The full interview, which is part of a documentary, will be shown on ZDF on Tuesday.
Germany’s interior minister condemned Salman’s statements.
“Obviously comments like this are terrible and that is why we are working to hopefully improve things in Qatar,” Nancy Faeser said on Tuesday.
Some 1.2 million international visitors are expected in Qatar for the tournament, which has drawn criticism and skepticism since FIFA chose the gas-rich emirate in December 2010 for a long time.
New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) is among organizations that have accused Qatar of arbitrarily detaining and abusing LGBTQ people. The rights group said in late October it had documented six cases of “severe and repeated” beatings and five cases of sexual harassment in police custody between 2019 and 2022. CBS News has not verified the allegations of violence.
In the interview, Salman also said that homosexuality is “a spiritual harm.”
“A lot will come to the countryside here during the World Cup. Let’s talk about gays,” said Salman in English, which is simultaneously dubbed into German in the TV report. “The most important thing is that everyone accepts that they are coming here. But they will have to accept our rules.”
The interview was cut short by a media officer from the World Cup Organizing Committee after Salman expressed his views on homosexuals, ZDF reported.
Faeser, who is also in charge of sport, said during her visit to Qatar a week ago that the country’s prime minister had given her a “guarantee of security” for fans “no matter where they come from, who they love or what they believe in”.
Faeser said the prime minister, who is also Qatar’s interior minister, has not changed that stance. She is planning a trip to Germany’s World Cup opening game against Japan.
Last month, the German ambassador to Qatar was summoned by the government there after Faeser appeared to criticize the country for its human rights record.