Qataris wear pro-Palestinian armbands amid World Cup symbol row

The FIFA World Cup, hosted by Qatar, serves as the stage for a number of political and human rights conflicts.

 A worker carries One Love armbands, which are banned by FIFA at the World Cup Qatar 2022, in Utrecht, Netherlands November 23, 2022.  (photo credit:  REUTERS/STAFF)
A worker carries One Love armbands, which are banned by FIFA at the World Cup Qatar 2022, in Utrecht, Netherlands November 23, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/STAFF)

A handful of Qataris wore armbands featuring a pro-Palestinian design at the Japan-Germany World Cup match on Wednesday, according to photos posted on Twitter, amid a row over political symbols that are permitted at soccer's main event.

The armbands bore the black-and-white design of the keffiyeh scarf that is synonymous with the Palestinian cause and were an apparent response to players and officials protesting FIFA's move to sanction players who wear the "OneLove" arm band on the pitch.

Reuters confirmed the Twitter photos with stadium eyewitnesses.

Protests against FIFA

Nearby, Germany's Interior Minister Nancy Faeser sported the OneLove armband, which features a multi-colored striped heart that promotes inclusion and opposes discrimination.

Last week, seven European teams abandoned plans to wear the armband onto the pitch after FIFA threatened them with sanctions.

 German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser is seen wearing the OneLove armband in Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar, on November 23, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/KAI PFAFFENBACH) German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser is seen wearing the OneLove armband in Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar, on November 23, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/KAI PFAFFENBACH)

Ahead of the kickoff on Wednesday, Germany's players placed their hands over their mouths during a team photo in protest of the move by FIFA.

Japan went on to defeat Germany 2-1.

The World Cup shines light on LGBT+ rights in Qatar

Qatari officials have appeared increasingly vexed by what they see as unfair criticism of the decision to award Qatar World Cup hosting rights, especially by German officials including Faeser.

The World Cup, the first to be held in a Middle Eastern country, has focused a spotlight on LGBT+ rights in Qatar, where homosexuality remains illegal but some queer residents say they have more freedoms than their peers across the region.

A few highly publicized incidents of security officials preventing ticketholders wearing pro-LGBT+ rainbow designs from entering World Cup stadiums added fuel to the debate over which political symbols are permitted at the games.

Israel-Qatar relations are put to the test

The tournament has also buoyed pro-Palestinian sentiments among some locals, especially in response to the Qatari government's decision to allow direct flights from Tel Aviv for the World Cup as well as a delegation of Israeli diplomats to handle logistics.

A soccer ball is seen on the check-in desk before the first direct commercial flight between Israel and Qatar for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar, at Ben Gurion International Airport, near Tel Aviv, Israel, November 20, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)A soccer ball is seen on the check-in desk before the first direct commercial flight between Israel and Qatar for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar, at Ben Gurion International Airport, near Tel Aviv, Israel, November 20, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)

An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 Israeli fans are expected to visit Qatar during the month-long tournament.

Israelis are usually prevented from visiting Qatar, which does not officially recognize Israel, setting Palestinian statehood as a condition for recognition.