Hadja Lahbib in Qatar this Wednesday: “My message will also be to defend LGBT rights”

“My diplomatic appointments have been confirmed, so I will be able to have a frank discussion,” said Ms. Lhabib (MR), on the sidelines of a European event at Egmont Palace.

Seven European teams which had planned to wear the colorful “One Love” armband in favor of inclusion and against discrimination gave up on Monday in the face of the threat of “sports sanctions” from the International Football Federation (FIFA), an announcement which sparked a number of outraged reactions.

“It’s a FIFA decision, I don’t have to interfere, so my message will be political. It will be to defend human rights, LGBT, to defend minorities, to talk about women’s rights”, as well as the labor law, underlined the head of Belgian diplomacy.

She said she was shocked by recent remarks by Khalid Salman, a former Qatari international and 2022 World Cup ambassador, who called homosexuality “mental damage” on German public broadcaster ZDF.
The Minister sees her visit to Qatar as a way of supporting the pursuit of human and labor rights reforms, of “maintaining a critical dialogue which will allow Belgium and Qatar to move forward”.

“We can criticize this World Cup, but it is not us who decided it, this decision was taken 12 years ago, and it is open to criticism. Now, it has allowed progress in labor law, but we have to pursue them, that’s the whole point of going there,” added the minister, who is to meet workers on site. “A victim compensation mechanism is already in place, we have to see how to go further.”

At first, the government had considered sending the minister only in case the Red Devils reached the semi-finals, but the government as a whole finally gave the green light for a presence from the first match. It was not appropriate to make the delivery of a diplomatic message dependent on sports performance, according to Ms. Lahbib.

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