On November 15, 2021, Yeksani received a report that two gay men were arrested and sexually assaulted by Asaiysh (local security forces) at Hawary Shar Park, one of the biggest and most popular parks in the city of Slemani in Iraqi Kurdistan, weeks prior. After working closely with sources, we were able to reach one of the detainees and take statements.
During the afternoon of November 4, 2021, Rebaz* got in touch with a man he had met on the popular gay dating app Grindr. After exchanging some messages, they decided to go on a date. After meeting, they decided to drive and walk around the city while getting to know each other better. At 8 P.M. the same night, they strolled around Hawary Shar Park, where his date asked if he wanted to kiss him. Initially hesitant, Rebaz told his date that the park looked too empty and something did not feel right, but he still agreed. Fearing that somebody would see them, his date guided him to the closest restroom.
Rebaz reported to Yeksani that about a minute after they walked in, they heard loud knocking on the bathroom door of groups of men shouting “what are you doing in there?” demanding they open the door and walk out. Panicking, they walked out of the bathroom and saw a group of four Asaiysh officers. Rebaz reports that both he and his date were insulted and physically assaulted by the officers as soon as they walked out, and threatened that if they take them to court, they will be put in prison for 15 years.
The two men were separated by the officers and investigated. Rebaz reported that one of the officers, who finished investigating his date, walked up to him and demanded that he walks him to his car. He got in the shotgun of the car with him and investigated him, asking questions about how LGBT+ people meet each other while going through his personal phone. Fearing for his safety, Rebaz shared information about Grindr with the officer, which he then installed on his phone. Rebaz reported to Yeksani that shortly after the conversation, the officer started running his hand up and down his body while holding and touching his groin area with the other, vulgarly talking to him.
@DMI_KRG @masrour_barzani @KRG_DFR anything to say about this blatant violation of people's rights? The asaysh is a rogue and unaccountable security force, acting besides the rule of law and judicial authorities. https://t.co/vBFHcDdrjZ
— Paula Garcia (@PaulaMoGarcia) November 16, 2021
“As he was touching me, he told me that what I was doing is more fun on a bed with an older man. He asked me if I liked big penises. I ignored his question, but he kept on repeating until I said yes. He demanded that I turn the car on and told me where to go, making me drive around the park all while touching my body and telling me that I had a firm body and that I needed someone like him to satisfy me.”
Rebaz recalls that near the reception area of the park, the officer got out of his car and told him that he will leave him alone, smirking at him and telling him “let’s see how you’ll make it up to me.” Shortly after, his date was also let go and joined Rebaz in the car, saying that the same officer who got out of his car had used his (the date’s) phone to send a message to himself, and was staring at his behinds. Rebaz helped his date get home. The day after this, on November 5, 2021, his date messaged him, telling him that the Asaiysh officer had texted him and demanded sexual relations. Fearing that the same would happen to him, Rebaz changed his phone number and deleted all his social accounts.
* Name has been changed to protect the confidentiality of the person
Asaiysh Security Forces are well known for mistreatment of civilians, often beating and abusing them on arrest sites. On April 1, 2021, Asaiysh started an operation to arrest gay men, but the operation was quickly halted after international awareness was raised by civic groups. According to sources, they conducted physical tests on detainees, which is a human rights violation.
A trans woman reported to Yeksani that she had been sexually assaulted when she was apprehended by police, they forced her to cut her hair and told her “you’re a man, act like one”, and told her that if they put her with other men, they will rape her. Later, high-ranking officials laughed at her and asked her “which one of us do you want to have sex with?”
Another gay man reported to Yeksani that he was put in detention after Asaiysh arrested him, and while he was in detention, they threatened him that if he shares information with civil rights organizations regarding his arrest, he will “face consequences.”
Homosexuality is not illegal per Iraqi Penal Code, but certain articles within the penal code are misused to unfairly detain LGBT+ individuals, one of them being article 393, which is actually about rape and non-consensual sex, but is enforced even if there is consent between two people of the same sex due to a misinterpretation. Other articles that could be enforced are 400 and 401.
“While the Iraqi law does not have any specific punishments for homosexuality, personal bias and corruption even affect the law. Most of the lawyers and judges find loopholes in the Iraqi laws that they can twist and use to prosecute members of the LGBTQI+ community as they please, because heterosexism is a thing, and so is conflict of interest. Worst of all, there is no one willing to address this dangerous scandal in Iraqi law,” said Zhiar Ali in a self-published article highlighting intersections between Iraq Penal Code and the LGBT+ community
A report by ILGA Asia mentions that not only being gay is legal in Iraq, but LGBT+ people inherently have the right to practice their lives in safety based on Articles 14, 16, and 22 of the Constitution which guarantee equality for all Iraqis regardless of their sex, gender, expression, ideologies, ethnicities, religion, and belief.
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