U.S. urges Qatar to be patient and tolerant with World Cup fans
The U.S. ambassador to Doha has urged Qatar's police and authorities to be patient, tolerant and transparent in managing more than a million soccer fans expected to visit during the month-long World Cup, he said on Tuesday.
"We want to make sure that law enforcement ... is in the right place. We want to make sure that in the ministries there is a level of patience and tolerance for what the world brings when you invite the world to your country," Timmy Davis told reporters at the U.S. Embassy in Doha, describing his discussions with Qatar's authorities as "vibrant".
Tournament organisers have not publicly clarified their approach to policing during the competition, and the U.S. Embassy and others have told fans they could face punishment for behaviour that would be tolerated elsewhere.
According to Qatar's legal code, freedom of expression is restricted, homosexuality is illegal and sex outside marriage is outlawed. Public drunkenness can incur a prison sentence of up to six months and some things considered benign elsewhere, like public displays of affection or wearing revealing clothes, can be grounds for arrest.
"When you host a global event like this and you invite the world to come, you need to be open to the world and you need to be transparent in the ways that you're going to take care of visitors," said Davis, who officially started his posting in Doha on Sept. 13.
Organisers have told diplomats and police from qualified countries they intend to show flexibility for fans who commit relatively minor infringements, Reuters reported last month.
Organisers already intend to relax Qatar's strict laws limiting the public sale of alcohol, and will allow beer to be served near stadiums a few hours before matches kick off.
"Change is part and parcel of hosting people from all over the world ... in a big burst like a World Cup, Davis said.