‘I don’t wish to be anonymous’: Doctor becomes ‘first’ Qatari to publicly declare he is gay

The moment Nas Mohamed knew for sure that he was gay, he panicked.

“I walked into a gay club and I knew it was 100% gay,” he says. the independent. “I went home and cried, I thought my life was in crisis. I thought I was going to hell, my life is doomed.

“That was the main thing. And then I thought about the risk of someone finding out. I was really afraid that I would be killed if someone found out.”

Nas, 35 this month, is Qatari.

Homosexuality in the Gulf state is illegal. Same-sex relationships are prohibited and carry a sentence of several years in prison. Qatar is one of nearly 70 countries identified by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association as criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual relations.

Apart from the illegality, the social pressures on any Qatari suspected of being LGBT+ are many.

Gay Qataris live in the shadows, in constant fear that their secret will become public, they will be detected, caught or harassed by the police and security services. If exposed as LGBT+, they face social shaming, ongoing ostracism from friends and family, serious risks to their mental health, the threat of violence, or worse.

Despite all this, Nas has made the decision to come out to the media, possibly the first Qatari to come out as gay to the general public and not just among a few trusted friends.

(AFP via Getty Images)

“I don’t want to be anonymous,” he says by phone from San Francisco, where he now lives and works as a doctor. He is seeking asylum because, Nas says, he doesn’t feel safe returning to the Gulf.

Coming out is entirely your decision, something you’ve considered for some time before taking the plunge now.

Nas understands the personal cost that will almost certainly result from going public. Any chance to reconnect with your estranged family will be lost; his family might be publicly shamed, she says, but they are likely to distance themselves from him even further. Any chance of returning home to Qatar ever again is unlikely.

Despite this, he insists that he is making the right decision.

“I have already lost everything: my citizenship, my family and my financial security in Qatar. For us to change things for LGBT+ Qataris, we need more people to come out.

“Referring to us by anonymous, faceless names reinforces the view that we are doing something wrong that we should be ashamed of.

“I would like to share my views with my name, as a doctor and as a Qatari citizen who still has parents and siblings in the country. They need to know that I am one of their own and that I am not a ‘western agenda’ as they refer to us,” he says defiantly.

A worker at the Lusail Stadium in Doha, Qatar, on March 28, 2022.

(AFP via Getty Images)

Among the many charges leveled against LGBT+ Qataris in the Gulf is one that they are “pawns” of the West, trying to impose “abhorrent” outside views on an established religious and conservative culture. This is strongly denied, not only by Nas, but also by other gay Qataris who argue that they want to follow Western culture but are simply seeking acceptance from their own country.

The Gulf and the issue of homosexuality have been in the spotlight for a long time, but it has been in the spotlight over the fact that Qatar will host the World Cup in soccer, arguably the biggest sporting event in the world. which will start in six months.

Qatar has been the subject of exceptional criticism, especially for its treatment of the human rights of migrant workers. This criticism has expanded in recent months to an examination of the country’s law on homosexuality and the treatment of its LGBT+ community. Doha’s attempts to counter accusations that it is a relatively progressive country in the region and that it has adapted and responded to Western calls for change on issues such as workers’ rights fail on the issue of sexuality.

The country’s zero-tolerance approach to homosexuality is based as much on religion and culture as it is on the law, and appears utterly immovable and resistant to mounting calls for change.

Attempts by the tournament’s organizers in the Gulf to ensure that it will receive all of the 1.5 million football fans expected during November, regardless of their sexuality, have failed to satisfy critics abroad and, more importantly, , left Qataris who are LGBT+ furious that others could be accommodated for a month before normal restrictions return after the football circus moves forward.

It is clear that the issue will create a sticking point throughout the tournament. There are likely to be protests and gestures from fans and players when the World Cup begins.

But for Nas and others like Qatar and the rest of the Gulf, the fight will continue for well over three weeks in front of the world’s television cameras.

“There are a lot of gay people in Qatar,” says Nas. “I didn’t realize how many people were gay in Qatar until I moved to the United States. They felt comfortable hanging out with me.”

Nas Mohamed now lives in the US and says he would be afraid to return to Qatar

(Nas Muhammad)

He adds: “But I haven’t met anyone who is publicly gay in Qatar.”

Rights activist Peter Tatchell calls Nas’s decision to go public “groundbreaking”.

“As far as I know, Nas is the first gay Qatari to publicly identify himself and give an interview to the media. He is shedding light on the homophobia of the Qatari regime; showing why FIFA should never have given the country the right to host the World Cup,” he says.

“The oppression that Nas identifies is the common experience of LGBT+ people living in most Arab and Muslim nations.”

‘Couldn’t settle’

Nas says he grew up “extremely religious.”

“I memorized the Koran by heart, I was very devout and very academic.”

It wasn’t until his early teens that he began having “boy crushes”, but this left him confused rather than sure of his sexuality.

“I had no internet, there were no gay public figures, I was really confused, I didn’t know what was going on.”

Such confusion is not unique to LGBT+ people in Qatar, but the repressive nature of the country is something more particular.

Nas says she couldn’t trust anyone, or go on dates. He talks about the gay conversion therapy centers that operate in the country and grow where a “masculine, macho, fair and misogynistic culture” is “celebrated”. He went on a solo medical student trip to, of all places, Las Vegas when he was in his early 20s and visiting a gay club he knew for sure about his sexuality.

He eventually told his parents, who were initially afraid, Nas says, that he was going to tell them he planned to marry a non-Qatari.

Men and women dressed in traditional Qatari clothing walk along the Corniche in Doha

(False images)

“I told them that I was gay and that I couldn’t fit in with the way other people live in Qatar. They were very upset. His initial reaction was to try to find a treatment for me,” she says.

Nas went to the US in 2011, initially for residency training, but has worked there ever since, returning only once to Qatar, in 2014 for a weekend, and says he didn’t feel safe.

By coming out now, Nas hopes, he says, to “bring visibility” and end the “cycle of denial,” not just for LGBT+ Qataris but for everyone in the country.

“It is time to give ourselves rights, we need to be recognized and be honest about how we are treated. I don’t think anyone can make a difference except Qataris,” she says.

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