Stride Radio

World Cup 2022: Growing up LGBT in the Middle East

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Over a million fans from around the world will be going to Qatar to watch the World Cup.

But the country has been criticised for its ban on same-sex relationships and its treatment of migrant workers.

For some LGBT football fans, there is a conflict – between the game they love and the life they wish to lead.

It’s a dilemma one fan, who fled a neighbouring Middle Eastern country with similar attitudes, understands well.

That person, who asked to remain anonymous, explains what it’s like to grow up LGBT in a country where “everyone is scared to talk about it”.

‘I was trying to change myself’
Living your whole life in fear isn’t an experience you would wish on your worst enemy.

Fear, consistent lying, pretending – this is the highlight of my life there.

I wasn’t happy for long time, to be honest. At that time I was thinking there is something wrong with me for being gay and I didn’t accept it.

I was trying to change myself – we are raised like that.

Everything around us says being gay is wrong and God will punish us for being gay. My home country is a religious country and Islam is the religion.

‘Everyone is scared to talk’

It took me a long time to accept myself.

Once I became comfortable and accepted myself for who I am, that’s when everything changed and I felt so relieved.

The environment I was living in wasn’t helpful. Older people don’t know anything about LGBT since the TV and radio is all controlled by the government.

The younger generation knows about it thanks to the internet, but still, you can’t be yourself.

You will go to jail or face death if someone finds out you are gay.

Gay exists – but everyone is scared to talk about it.

An escape to the UK

It was a very hard decision to move to a different country, even though I knew I could be myself in UK.

I lived my whole life in my home country.

I have my family and friends who I do love, even if they won’t support me if I come out.

It’s not their fault to not accept me or other people because of their sexuality. It’s the way they’ve been raised and it’s hard to change that in a blink of an eye.

It will take time.

Relief

It’s hard to explain that feeling of being yourself and not having to consistently lie about who you are.

Since I’ve come here, everyone is so supporting and, after almost three years, I have people and friends around me.

And having a supportive husband is everything I could ask for.

I consider my friends as a family and I’m so lucky to have them, especially those from the local LGBT community.

Right and wrong

I’m not afraid to come out – but I know the consequences if I did.

I know what my family will go through and how they will blame themselves. They will think it’s their fault that I am who I am.

I know what I’m going to say next contradicts what I believe in or what I’m saying.

But I always say that if you visit another country you have to respect the rules and the laws even if it’s not right.

You can’t just go there and break them. If you did, you have to accept what will happen.

I’m not saying we have to keep silent. I think everyone should speak out.

I blame FIFA for giving Qatar the rights to host, when they know that human rights there are not respected.

But this is a great opportunity to focus the light on the human rights there.

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