A Qatar official revealed that rainbow flags might be confiscated during the highly-anticipated 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The upcoming event is set to take place between November and December in the Gulf state. 

Since the news was announced, activists have expressed concerns over the tournament due to the country’s strict anti-LGBTQ laws. 

In Qatar, homosexuality is illegal and can be punished by penalties including flogging, imprisonment and even execution.

Even though World Cup officials have previously encouraged the LGBTQ+ community to attend the event, the flying of rainbow flags has now been discouraged.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Major General Abdulaziz Abdullah Al Ansari revealed that individuals with LGBTQ+ flags could be at risk of being attacked. 

“If he (a fan) raised the rainbow flag and I took it from him, it’s not because I really want to, really, take it, to really insult him, but to protect him,” he explained. 

“Because if it’s not me, somebody else around him might attack (him)… I cannot guarantee the behaviour of the whole people. And I will tell him: ‘Please, no need to really raise that flag at this point.'” 

Al Ansari went on to say that LGBTQ+ fans should “demonstrate” their view in a society “where it will be accepted.” 

“We realise that this man got the ticket, comes here to watch the game, not to demonstrate a political (act) or something which is in his mind,” he said. 

“Watch the game. That’s good. But don’t really come in and insult the whole society because of this.” 

Al Ansari also reiterated that LGBTQ+ fans are still welcomed to the World Cup and said his comments are not meant to be discriminatory. 

“I am risking… a minority view against a majority. We have to be close to the problem before it erupts and gets out of control,” he said. “If somebody attacks you, then I have to get involved and it will be too late.”

Since the release of Al Ansari’s comments, LGBTQ+ activists have pointed out the inconsistencies regarding officials’ previous statements relating to rainbow flags at the World Cup. 

Back in 2020, FIFA Chief Social Responsibility and Education Officer Joyce Cook said that “rainbow flags and t-shirts” would be welcomed.

“They understand very well that is our stance,” she told the Associated Press.

At the time, World Cup Chief Executive Nasser Al-Khater seemed to echo similar sentiments and said that the country would “respect” the aforementioned stance. 

Chris Paouros, a member of the English Football Association’s inclusion advisory board, recently described Al Ansari’s statement as “concerning.”

“This inconsistency and the continued lack of detail in terms of how that will be provided beyond rhetoric of ‘everyone is welcome’ is concerning to say the least,” he explained.