‘I thought they would kill me’: the story of the first gay to come out in Qatar



After living in hiding his homosexuality for most of his life, he decided to come out to expose the persecution suffered by members of the LGBT + community in Qatar.

Nas Mohamed had to keep his homosexuality a secret for many years to survive in Qatar, where he was born, despite “knowing it from an early age”.

“I remember when I was 11 or 12 and I was thinking about it, but I didn’t know what it really meant to be gay,” he says, now 35, in an interview with BBC News Mundo, the BBC’s Spanish-language news service.

“I didn’t have access to anything. There was no Internet, there was no gay community in my city and I was not exposed to anything. I didn’t understand what was happening to me.”

Initially, she decided to ignore and suppress any thoughts about sex and her sexual orientation.

He preferred to concentrate on medical studies and religion; he was an “extremely religious” person who knew the Koran by heart.

Thus he spent his adolescence and early adulthood, during which he had only to ignore the advice to marry.

“Many of us are forced to marry very young, sometimes before the age of 20. For me, the hardest thing was trying to resist the pressure around me to get married,” she reveals.

“I had to give a good reason not to want to get married so they wouldn’t get suspicious.”

It was during a trip to Las Vegas, at the age of 22, that he confirmed that he was “definitely” gay. In an LGBT + nightclub, he felt truly free for the first time.

“I realized that I didn’t have any kind of tendency or desire to have straight sex. I was shocked. So I started reading and learning more about myself and what it meant to be homosexual,” he says.

But after returning to Qatar, he had to completely repress the sexual desire it had aroused in him.

“I lived in constant fear. I thought they would kill me if they knew I was gay, if it went public. Honor killings are very tribal in Qatar. Some families do it, some don’t, and the government tries not to intervene. . ”

After graduating in 2011, at the age of 24, Nas decided to move “temporarily” to the United States, where he would spend three years doing a residency to complete his professional training as a doctor.

Never returned.

After completing his Connecticut hospital residency and a scholarship to the state of Pennsylvania in 2015, he applied for asylum in California, saying he would be persecuted in his country because of his sexual orientation.

The end of the relationship with the family

But before applying for asylum, he called his parents to explain why he would not be returning to Qatar.

“I confessed to them that I was gay and that I didn’t feel safe at home, that I didn’t think I could go back. We had a fight and then we talked a couple of times, but it never ended well,” explains Nas.

Nas Mohamed had to hide his homosexuality to survive in Qatar

He says that, unfortunately, the relationship with his parents ended in that first phone call.

“Out of tradition and shame, I guess they made up a story for the rest of the family. I don’t know what they told them, but I think now everyone knows the real reason I left, thanks to my interviews.”

Nas Mohamed gained notoriety this year after speaking publicly about his homosexuality.

Many have awarded him the title of “1st Qatar to come out publicly” after giving interviews to various media outlets.

Qatar World Cup 2022

He explains that he has decided to come out now precisely because the World Cup, which takes place at the end of this year in Qatar, has turned the spotlight on this country and on all the allegations of violations of human rights and minorities that are regularly reported. in the Arab state. .

Earlier this year, Nasser Al Khater, CEO of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, assured at a press conference that all fans are welcome to Qatar, as long as they respect the country’s traditions.

“I would like to assure all fans, of any gender, (sexual) orientation, religion or race, that they can be sure that Qatar is one of the safest countries in the world and everyone is welcome here,” he said.

“Public displays of affection are frowned upon, they are not part of our culture, and this applies to everyone.”

But several associations, such as the European Gay & Lesbian Sport Federation, have complained that safety guarantees for LGBTQ + people in Qatar remain inadequate months before the start of the World Cup.

Being gay in Qatar

Nas says he didn’t come out to tell his own story, but to spread that of all members of the LGBT + community in Qatar.

“It is very dangerous to come out when you are Qatari, and I have been preparing for months.”

He says that through his recent work as a spokesperson for the LGBT + community in Qatar, he realized how large the community is in his home country.

But everyone hides their sexuality and is afraid to talk about it or confess it to someone.

According to him, this is due to the fact that the Qatari police have a team dedicated to “hunting” LGBT + people – and when they find a member of the community, they pick up their phone and rummage through their contacts to try to locate others.

“I know gay people who don’t even know that other people close to their circle are (gay), as it is very dangerous for an LGBT + person to meet another.”

Being gay is illegal in Qatar.

According to article 296 of its penal code, the penalties for sexual intercourse between persons of the same sex range from 3 to 5 years of imprisonment up to the death penalty, although there is no evidence that death sentences have been applied for sexual intercourse. . of the same sex.

Nas says that censorship reigns within the gay community of Qatar and nothing is transparent, but it guarantees that not everyone lives in the same conditions.

“There are LGBT people who live well. They are a lucky minority, because they are very rich, with very large families, and they are accepted on the assumption that it must be a family secret.”

But he adds that these people too live with many limitations in what they can do, and some often have mental health problems.

“Many of us have not been so lucky and horrible things have happened to us.”

you still fear for your life

Nas says that although he no longer lives in Qatar, he still fears for his life. He received a barrage of insults and death threats after he made public his homosexuality.

“Even living here in San Francisco (California) I don’t feel safe. Because there is a lot of hatred and violence against us,” he adds.

Nas Mohamed has applied for asylum in the United States and currently lives in San Francisco, California.

He has had to shut down almost all of his social networks to reduce the number of hate messages he receives daily, with the exception of one Instagram account he uses as a platform for his activism.

But just when the hate mail arrives, he also gets thanks.

“I am grateful to be the voice of many people who cannot speak. Many people from the LGBT + community and many allies from all walks of life in Qatar have contacted me.”

“My own family would kill me”

The US government granted Nas asylum in 2017 after an intense judicial battle.

He has made San Francisco his home since 2015 and says he could never return to Qatar.

“No doubt I would be mistreated upon arrival. I think my own family would kill me for what I am doing. There are people who tell me on Instagram that if I step there, they will help me get to know Allah,” he says.

He adds that he could also be prosecuted by the Qatari government for “breaking the law”.

Nas hopes his story will serve to inform many people about how “backward” Qatari society is in terms of the freedom and rights of the LGBT + community.

And he appeals to foreigners who will visit Qatar during the World Cup not to hide, as he insists on the importance of visibility.

He also hopes this will help other Qatari gay and transgender people have documented stories to show as evidence if they intend to seek asylum in other countries where they can live freely.

“We are a population in need of help and support. What is happening in Qatar is not only affecting the Qatari, but the LGBT + community around the world,” he notes.

“We need our rights to be universally respected, that wherever we go we are treated equally and as human beings with rights, not criminals. We need more voices.”

‘This text was originally published in https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/internacional-61894518

Source: Terra

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