FIFA’s shame, collusion with authoritarian governments

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has slammed FIFA, accusing it of “rewarding tyranny”, after its decision to award the next two football world cups to Russia and Qatar respectively:

“Awarding the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Qatar and Russia is a big mistake. Both countries have poor human rights records. They restrict freedom of expression, the right to protest and press freedom. Journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders are often victimised.

Russia and Qatar also deny equality and human rights to their LGBT citizens.

“Qatar punishes homosexuality with imprisonment and lashes. It treats women as second class citizens. Russia has banned Gay Pride marches for many years and does not protect LGBT people against discrimination in employment and housing.

“Gay players, coaches, referees and fans could be at risk of arrest or violence at the 2018 or 2022 matches. Giving the World Cup to these two harshly homophobic countries is an insult to LGBT people everywhere. It alienates and excludes.

“FIFA has decided that sport should come before human rights. It has rewarded two countries that violate international humanitarian values. This sends the wrong signal.

“Sport should never be allowed to trump human rights. FIFA has put corporate and geo-political interests before the rights and welfare of the people of Russia and Qatar,” said Mr Tatchell.

Nigeria “unfit” to host 2014 Commonwealth Games

Left to right: Mike Hersee, Peter Tatchell, Davis Mac-Iyalla and Rev Stephen Coles

Human rights abuses disqualify the city of Abuja

LGBT athletes, officials and spectators at risk of arrest & violence

Gay delegation meets 2014 Chief Executive in London

London – 3 August 2007

“It would not be right for the 2014 Commonwealth Games to be held in Nigeria, given the country’s appalling human rights record, including its systematic persecution of lesbian and gay Nigerians,” said Davis Mac-Iyalla, founder and leader of the gay Christian group, Changing Attitude Nigeria.

“Nigeria’s homophobic oppression is a violation of the Commonwealth Games ethos of equality, humanity, peace, unity, cooperation and understanding. Unless Nigeria radically improves its human rights record, it should be ruled out of consideration as a host for the 2014 Games,” add Mr Mac-Iyalla.

Mr Mac-Iyalla was speaking immediately after leading a delegation which met Mike Hooper, Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation, at the CGF headquarters in Piccadilly, London, on 3 August 2007.

The delegation presented the CGF with an 11-page report setting out why it should reject the bid by the Nigerian city of Abuja to host the 2014 Games.

The report, which is entitled “Abuja’s Bid – Sins of Omission”, was authored by Mr Mac-Iyalla and Mike Hersee, both members of Changing Attitude Nigeria, the Anglican church pressure group which campaigns for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights.

Mr Hooper agreed to present their report to the President of the Commonwealth Games Federation, Michael Fennell, later this month.

The final decision on which city will host the 2014 Games will be taken in early November.

As well as Davis Mac-Iyalla and Mike Hersee the delegation to the CGF included Peter Tatchell of the British gay human rights group OutRage!, and the Reverend Stephen Coles, a member of the General Synod of the Church of England and Vicar of St Thomas’, Finsbury Park, London.

“Abuja’s bid to be the venue for the 2014 Commonwealth Games should be rejected on the grounds of Nigeria’s long history of anti-gay discrimination,“ added Mr MacIyalla.

“Homophobic discrimination violates one of the CGF’s core values, equality. Unless Nigeria swiftly calls a halt to the victimisation of LGBT people, Abuja should be ruled out of the running.

“In many Nigerian states, the maximum penalty for sex between mutually consenting adult men in private is 14 years in prison. In states that have introduced Sharia law, it is death by stoning.

“Violence against LGBT people in Nigeria has increased dramatically, in the wake of attacks on gay people by the Anglican Church of Nigeria and attempts by the Nigerian government to introduce sweeping new anti-gay laws. This legislation would have banned same-sex marriage, gay organisations and churches, safer sex advice for gay men, and the advocacy of gay human rights. Backed by the Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, the anti-gay bill only failed because it ran out of legislative time when the general election was called earlier this year. We fear the bill may be revived. Nigeria is a very threatening, intimidating place for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” added Mr Mac-Iyalla.

Mike Hersee, co-author of the report to the CGF, said:

“There will be many lesbian and gay athletes, officials, spectators and reporters at the Commonwealth Games in 2014. They could be at risk of arrest and violence if the Games go ahead in Abuja.

“The Nigerian government must scrap its anti-gay laws and crackdown on homophobic hate crime in order to ensure that Abuja is a safe, welcoming place for gay and lesbian participants. Without these changes, Nigeria is not a suitable country in which to hold the 2014 Games.”

“Other human rights commentators have recently suggested that Abuja’s bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Games is in conflict with the core values and stated aims of the CGF, but this is the first time a Nigerian organisation has put the case so comprehensively,” concluded Mr Hersee.

Davis Mac-Iyalla is visiting the UK until 6 August, after a tour of churches in the US.

“OutRage! is supporting Changing Attitude Nigeria. We urge that Abuja is not be accepted as the host city for the 2014 Commonwealth Games unless the state and federal government agree to improve Nigeria’s human rights record, including an end to the state-sanctioned persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Nigerians,” said Peter Tatchell.

“Davis has done a magnificent job exposing the victimisation of gay people in Nigeria – a victimisation that is incited and endorsed by the Anglican Church of Nigeria and its leader, Archbishop Peter Akinola.

“Earlier this year Mr Mac-Iyalla was forced to flee Nigeria and seek exile in a nearby African country, due to threats to kill him.

“These threats were prompted by his public condemnation of homophobic discrimination and violence in Nigeria, and by his public witness as an openly gay Christian.

“Davis is a truly remarkable, courageous man. He is taking a defiant stand in support of gay human rights, despite the serious danger that he could be murdered. We salute him,” said Mr Tatchell.


Davis Mac-Iyalla, Director of Changing Attitude Nigeria
+44 (0) 7948 237399 (until 6 August)
+228 993 7680 (in Africa)

Mike Hersee, member of Changing Attitude Nigeria and co-author of report
+44 (0) 1582 895422
+44 (0) 7890 475889

Reverend Stephen Coles, Member of the General Synod of the Church of England and Vicar of St Thomas’s, Finsbury Park.
+44 (0) 20 7359 5741

Times: Come out to play

“The image this silence projects is that being gay is bad,” David Allison, from OutRage!, the gay rights pressure group, said. “The will isn’t there (to come out). Until someone makes a stand, there’s no incentive for anyone to take on the issue, but it would take an enormous amount of courage.”

Justin Fashanu destroyed by homophobia

“Justin’s death is a tragedy. He was a sincere, warm-hearted person who was destroyed by homophobia, Christian fundamentalism, and a lack of support from fellow football players and managers”, according to Peter Tatchell of OutRage!, who knew Fashanu from the early 1980’s.

Tatchell recalls: “We met at the London gay nightclub ‘Heaven’ in 1982. I had been selected as the Labour candidate for Bermondsey, and he had recently transferred to Nottingham Forest for £ 1 million. We became close friends for the next ten years.

“Even though he was not open about being gay in the early 1980’s, we went out together to nightclubs, parties, family celebrations and public events where Justin was the guest of honour. He knew the press might be there. It was almost as if he was challenging the tabloids to expose him.

“In the early 80’s Justin often phoned me, and we frequently discussed the problems he was having at Nottingham Forest and his difficulties in coping with his homosexuality.

“The pros and cons of coming out were a frequent subject of conversation. Although I helped him come to terms with being gay, it was only a temporary respite. When his football career went on the slide, he turned to evangelical Christianity. In the long-term, that caused him immense grief.

“Justin was very distressed by his treatment at Nottingham Forest. He felt that Brian Clough treated him badly and never gave him proper support. Not surprisingly, his on-the-pitch peformance nose-dived.

“Becoming a born-again Christian screwed up his life. He became very confused and unhappy abour his sexuality. While publicly proclaiming Christian celibacy, he resorted to furtive gay sex. That made it impossible for him to have a stable gay relationship.

“He was devastated when his brother John publicly denounced him after he came out. Justin never got over that betrayal”.