Gilbert Ignatius had been enjoying his high-flying career and the cosmopolitan life in Doha, until Qatari authorities questioned his lavish lifestyle.
In May 2023, 32-year-old Ignatius, who had spent six years working as a flight attendant for Qatar Airways, was celebrating his birthday with friends in a restaurant at The DoubleTree by Hilton in Doha, when a security guard told the group that authorities from the national police’s Criminal Investigation Department wanted to see them.
A report from LGBTQ+ media outlet Advocacy said that the group were taken to a room by the hotel’s entrance. There, the officers took a swipe off Ignatius and some of his companion’s faces using wet wipes, where it was found that they had been wearing tinted moisturizer.
The officers then confiscated their mobile phones and identification cards, and took them to a police station.
Ignatius was interrogated and questioned about his lifestyle, in particular, how he could have afforded luxury brand bags, accessories and clothing on a flight attendant’s salary.
According to Ignatius, the officers accused him of being a sex worker and proceeded to ask how much he earned every night.
Ignatius told Business Insider that he came from an affluent family in Indonesia, and that he earned a diploma from South Metropolitan TAFE in Perth, Australia.
When Ignatius told officers that he had purchased the luxury items before he started working for Qatar Airways, he was allegedly slapped in the face.
Ignatius was later released and able to return to his company-provided accommodation just before the 04:00 curfew that Qatar Airways imposes on its flight attendants.
The following day, Ignatius said that the airline confiscated his passport and he was told he could not leave his accommodation. He was then given three days to pack up and return to Indonesia. Ignatius was eventually terminated from the company on June 4, 2023.
Now based in Indonesia and working for Jetstar as a flight attendant, Ignatius said the ordeal left him traumatized and he sought counseling due to the emotional stress of the incident.
According to Human Rights Watch, Preventive Security Department forces in Qatar had “arbitrarily” arrested LGBT people in 2022 leading up to the FIFA World Cup event. Those arrested were subjected to detention without charge, solitary confinement, and withholding access to legal counsel.