'Anonymous' No More: Qatari Doctor Comes Out, Country's First

Sunday May 29, 2022
Originally published on May 22, 2022

Nas Mohammed
Nas Mohammed  (Source:Independent, via Nas Mohammed)

Qatar outlaws homosexuality. "Same-sex relationships are outlawed and carry a punishment of several years in jail," reports The Independent. "Qatar is one of almost 70 countries identified by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association which criminalises consensual same-sex activity."

It is not surprising then to learn that when Qatar-born Nas Mohammed panicked when he realized he was gay. "I walked into a gay club and I knew I was 100 per cent gay," he tells The Independent. "I went home and cried — I thought my life is in crisis. I thought I was going to go to hell, my life is damned."

He adds: "That was the main thing. And then I thought about the risk of anyone finding out. I genuinely feared I would be killed if anyone knew."

Today, the 35-year old doctor has gone public about being gay and is taking legal measures to keep from returning to his homeland. "I do not wish to be anonymous," he says over the phone from San Francisco, where he now lives, and works as a physician. He is seeking asylum because he says he does not feel safe returning to the Gulf."

The Independent continues: "Nas understands the personal cost that will almost certainly result from going public. Any chance of reconnecting with his estranged family will be lost; his family could be publicly shamed, he claims, but likely to distance themselves from him even further. Any chance of returning home to Qatar ever again is unlikely."

His decision came with some major life changes. "I already lost everything — my citizenship, my family and my financial security in Qatar. For us to change things for LGBT+ Qataris, we need more people to come out. Referring to us by anonymous names without faces enforces the view that we are doing something wrong that we need to be ashamed of.

He continued: "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," he says defiantly.

Qatar's homophobic laws are being questioned in recent months with the upcoming World Cup later this year, arguably the biggest sporting event in the world. "Qatar has come under exceptional criticism, especially for its human rights treatment of migrant workers. And in recent months, there has been an examination of the country's law on homosexuality and treatment of its LGBT+ community. Doha has attempted to counter accusations by claiming it is a relatively progressive country in the region," writes The Independent.

"Tournament organisers in the Gulf have reassured that the country will welcome all the expected 1.5 million visiting football fans during November, regardless of their sexuality, have failed to satisfy critics abroad and — crucially — left LGBT+ Qataris furious that others could be accommodated for a month before normal restrictions return after the footballing circus moves on."

Nas tells The Independent that he's been in touch with many LGBTQ people in Qatar. "There's a lot of gay people in Qatar," says Nas. "I didn't realise how many people were gay in Qatar until I moved to the States. They were comfortable coming out to me."

But, he adds. "There's a lot of gay people in Qatar," says Nas. "I didn't realise how many people were gay in Qatar until I moved to the States. They were comfortable coming out to me."

Nas explained he grew up in a strict Muslim home, having learned the Quran by heart. But as a teen he began to have unexplained feelings and, without much access to the outside world, he didn't know what was going on.

"Nas says he could not confide in anyone, nor date. He speaks of gay conversion therapy centres operating in the country, and growing up where a "male, macho, righteous and misogynistic culture" is "celebrated". It was only on a trip as a medical student to Las Vegas, of all places, in his early twenties and the visit to a gay club that he was certain about his sexuality."

He eventually told his parents, who were "very upset." They wanted him to seek treatment. Instead Nas, who studied medicine, came to the United States for residency training in 2011. He returned to Qatar once in 2014 for a weekend and felt unsafe.

"It's time to give us rights, we need to be acknowledged and be honest about how we are treated. I don't think anyone can make a difference except Qataris," he says.