Homosexuality in Qatar is illegal, therefore, life in the Gulf state was not easy for Dr Nas Mohammed who had to constantly hide who he really is. However, the 35-year-old has now come out in the open and may have just become the first Qatari man to declare publicly that he is gay.
It is to mention that same-sex relationships in Qatar are outlawed and carry a punishment of several years in jail. The Gulf state is also one of the almost 70 countries identified by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association which criminalises consensual same-sex activity. Moreover, besides the illegality, the social pressure on any Qatari suspected of being LGBTQ+ are many. They face social shamming, permanent ostracisation from friends and family, the threat of violence or worse.
But, despite all this Dr Mohammed made the decision to come out in the media. “I do not wish to be anonymous,” he told The Independent in an exclusive interview. The 35-year-old, who now lives in San Francisco and works as a physician, said that for his own safety, he has no other choice but to seek asylum in the United States.
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Dr Mohammed told the media outlet that he understands the personal cost that will almost certainly result from going public. He said that any chance of reconnecting with his estranged family will be lost, and his family could be publicly shammed. Any chance of returning to his home in Qatar is also unlikely, he added.
However, Dr Mohammed also insisted that he made the right decision. “For us to change things for LGBT+ Qataris, we need more people to come out,” he said. The 35-year-old added, “I would like to share my views with my name, as a physician and as a Qatari citizen that still has parents and siblings in the country. They need to know I am one of their own and am not a ‘western agenda’ as they refer to us.”
According to The Independent, among many charges levelled at LGBT+ Qataris is one which claims that they are “pawns” of the west, trying to force “abhorrent” views on an established religious, conservative culture. But this is strongly denied by gay Qataris who argue that they merely want to seek acceptance from their own country.
Dr Mohammed revealed that when he was living in Qatar, it wasn’t until his early teenage years that he started getting “boy crushes”. But this left him confused rather than certain of his sexuality. “I didn’t have the internet; there were no gay public figures. I was really confused – I didn’t know what was going on.”
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He said that he could not confide in anyone, nor date. He grew up “extremely religious”. It was only on a trip as a medical student to Las Vegas in his early twenties and a visit to a gay club that he was certain about his sexuality.
Dr Mohammed left for the US in 2011, initially to do residency training, but has since worked there and returned only once to Qatar for a weekend. By coming out now, the doctor hopes to bring “visibility” and end the “cycle of denial”, not only for LGBT+ Qataris but all those living in the nation.