Argentina’s former president Mauricio Macri has sparked controversy with his opinions about the LGBT+ community in Qatar, assuring that "there is plenty of homosexuality" in that Arabic country but "they do not flaunt it nor make an issue of it."
Macri went on to say there is “no problem” for non-heterosexuals in the country, where he has just spent the last month watching the World Cup thanks to his role as president of the FIFA Foundation.
"In Qatar they’re evolving very fast and there is a great deal of homosexuality, they [homosexuals] live there, I’ve been with several of them and they tell me there’s no problem," the 2015-2019 head of state told the TN television news channel.
Qatar has come under sustained fire over its human rights record, its treatment of foreign workers and stance on women's and LGBT+ rights.
Former Qatari international and World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman sparked outrage earlier recently after calling homosexuality "damage in the mind" in an interview with German broadcaster ZDF.
Human Rights Watch even accused Qatar of detaining and abusing LGBT+ people in the run-up to the World Cup, allegations furiously denied by the government in Doha.
Addressing restrictions of human rights in the region, Macri explained: "Many things have been written historically which have not changed but are no longer applied in practice. There is a rule which says that a father has the right to kill his daughter if he finds that she has lost her virginity but that no longer applies, those are things which exist in history but they have been evolving a lot."
"Just three years ago in those countries women could not drive nor go out at night nor work. They’re evolving and one must understand that they are cultures and that it is really like travelling to another world. Let’s be fair, they did not have the freedoms there are today 15 years ago – we’ve been evolving and so have they and they believe in freedom," he summed up.
Several media outlets have reported first-hand accounts of gay Qataris, who claim undercover operatives target and detain LGBT+ people, before pressuring them for information on other members of their community.
Macri also said that the scarf he was pictured wearing regularly would be raffled off. It was given to him by Argentina’s Ambassador in Qatar Guillermo Nicolás during the match against Saudi Arabia.
"I had brought some [team] shirts with me but in the first week my children took them all away so I thought that I had to have something. Running across the ambassador in the stadium, I abused my status as an ex-president to tell him that his scarf was very nice and that he had to lend it to me and so he did. I wore it for every match where I always was, suffering, weeping, all the emotions," he affirmed.
The ex-president dubbed those who accused him of jinxing the team as "bobos” (imbeciles), blaming government leaders for “bullying” behaviour. But he claimed the jibes did not affect him.
"They are really idiotic but if truth be told, after all they have said and done, it does not affect me but this bullying and attacking those who think differently is very wrong," he maintained.
"It’s a horrible message that somebody in power does this. It’s the most sinister culture of power we have and it comes from the top," he denounced.
Finally, the ex-president recounted that he was a bundle of nerves watching the final against France, revealing that he and French President Emmanuel Macron had wished each other "good luck" prior to the clash.
"There was never a final as exciting as this one. When it went to extra time, I had a private meeting with Macron, who is a friend, when we wished each other luck politely enough but when I saw everybody in the VIP box going to congratulate him as the winner, I said: 'That’s not fair.'"
He concluded: "It had been a walkover and an exhibition of football and suddenly we were where we were and I wondered how these things could happen. It was an injustice, [Lionel] Messi deserved it and all Qatar and all those who weren’t playing against him wanted him to win."