Rainbow Six Esports, the collective responsible for organizing and covering any official Rainbow Six Esports events, has published a response to recent controversy following its decision to hold the Six Major 2022 in the United Arab Emirates.
After the announcement, fans were quick to make their disappointment known. Chief among the complaints was the nation's legalized and institutional homophobia. While the exact laws vary among the Emirates, it's common knowledge that homosexuality—with emphasis on homosexual relations, among other things—is both illegal and punishable by death. This upset several fans of the franchise who claimed to host the event in a nation with such legislation flies directly in the face of inclusion.
The statement was published via the verified Rainbow Six Esports Twitter account on Tuesday, Feb. 22.
"We want to stress that the safety and wellbeing of our event’s participants and staff is always our primary concern, and we are proud of what Rainbow Six Siege represents as a world where diversity, inclusion and acceptance are at its core." The statement read, "With that in mind...we have taken the decision to move the Six Major of August 2022 to another Rainbow Six Esports region."
When explaining what led to the decision to hold the event in the UAE region in the first place, the organization insisted that it was the product of "extensive discussions with our local teams in the region, the UAE government, and our local Esports partener." All parties involved allegedly committed to host "an event in which anyone, of all gender identities, sexual orientations, cultural backgrounds, or other individual traits, would be included and welcomed."
It should be noted that, in Abu Dhabi, the Penal Code forbids "sodomy" and "cross-dressing"—the former of which is punishable by up to 14 years in prison. These laws are regularly enforced with one of the most recent and highlighted incidents being a raid on a same-sex wedding celebration where over two dozen individuals were arrested.
According to NBC, those arrested faced "government-ordered hormone treatments, five years in jail and a lashing." While the treatments were later disregarded, all 26 participants did receive a five-year prison sentence.
Mohammed bin Nukhaira Al Dhahiri, Minister of Justice in Islamic Affairs, was quoted by the Khaleej Times saying, "There will be no room for homosexual and queer* acts in the UAE. Our society does not accept queer behavior, either in word or in action."
This incident is far from an outlier for the region with similar situations occurring as recently as 2017 throughout the UAE against both citizens of the nation and visitors to it.
The organization reaffirmed its commitment to "developing and structuring our competitive activities in [Middle East and North Africa]" through local competitions and activations.
"The MENA region has been fast evolving into a key video game hub in the world, and we are humbled by the level of engagement, support, and dedication of both our local fans and the talented staff of our MENA teams and Abu Dhabi development studio," the statement continued.
The new destination for the Six Major in August 2022 has yet to be announced.
*Note: the use of "queer" in the quote above has been left in for the sake of integrity, despite its clear derogatory intentions, as well as to draw attention to the discrimination of all members of the LGBTQ+ community and avoid centering homosexuality, exclusively.