During a night out in Doha earlier this year to celebrate his 32nd birthday, the ex-Qatar Airways flight attendant claims he was wrongly accused of being a male prostitute. As a result, the airline terminated his employment and deported him from Qatar.
Originally from Indonesia, Gilbert Ignatius relocated to Doha in 2016 to work as a cabin crew for Qatar Airways. He worked through the pandemic and the FIFA World Cup before everything in his life abruptly changed on May 14.
Gilbert claims that he celebrated his birthday at the luxurious Mondrian Hotel in Doha with a small group of friends before heading to another hotel at approximately 11 p.m. when the celebration was unexpectedly cut short.
Gilbert told the I newspaper that when a security guard first came up to his group, he informed them that members of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Qatari police wanted to speak with them.
The CID officers took them to a security room where they wet-wiped Gilbert’s face without his consent. Gilbert and his friend were wearing tinted moisturizer, which the police perceived as suggesting malfeasance, as the wet wipe revealed.
After Gilbert was brought to the police station, the guards implied that he was a male prostitute.
“The first thing they asked me was, ‘how much do you earn every night? How much if you f*** him and how much if he f*** you? I know what you’re doing,’” Gilbert recounted to the i.
Gilbert claimed the officer had smacked him across the face after he argued his innocence. It appeared from the police report that Gilbert’s possession of a leather belt and purse from the upscale French fashion label Hermes was additional proof of his wrongdoing.
Gilbert attempted to get consular assistance by speaking with the Indonesian embassy, but his request was turned down. He allegedly heard from an officer that he “has no rights” in Qatar.
Upon searching Gilbert’s phone, the authorities discovered images of him attending a pride event in Bangkok—in their opinion, additional proof that Gilbert was a prostitute. Gilbert was forced to sign an Arabic-language document before being allowed to leave, even though he couldn’t read it.
The following day, Qatar Airways seized Gilbert’s passport and suspended him from the company.
Gilbert was left stranded in Doha until June 4, when a representative of Qatar Airways drove him to a border post close to Saudi Arabia. There, the police took his passport and informed Gilbert that he was going to be deported.
Gilbert was told he could never return to Qatar after being deported and given only three days to pack up his belongings.
“I need this story to be heard all over the world,” Gilbert says. “LGBTQ people need to know what trap is waiting for them there. I don’t want this to happen to other people.”
According to the US State Department, consensual same-sex relationships between men can result in lashings, long prison terms, and deportation. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar.
Due to its association with LGBTQI+ rights, rainbow-themed merchandise is still prohibited in Qatar.
In the past, Qatar Airways has come under fire for how it treats its employees, particularly its cabin crew, who are subject to surveillance and curfews every night at the housing that the company provides.
Gilbert says he still experiences anxiety related to what happened earlier this year, despite finding a new job with Jetstar Airways.