The Kurdistan Regional Government is considering a bill that would make it illegal to advocate for LGBT rights. The bill would impose fines or prison sentences on LGBT activists who “promote“ homosexuality. The bill has been condemned by human rights groups, who say it would violate the rights of LGBT people in Kurdistan.
On June 8, Iraqi MP Aref al-Hamami told the state-run Iraqi News Agency that there is a parliamentary movement to legislate a law “banning homosexuality” in Iraq. Iraqi politicians called for the expulsion of the EU, Canadian, and British Missions after raising the Pride flag to mark IDAHOBIT just two years before.
Amir Ashour, an LGBT+ rights activist and founder of IraQueer, told The New Arab:
“This law would be against Iraqi and international laws which guarantee equal protection for all citizens regardless of their sexual orientation. Iraq recognized this in 2020 in their submission to the UN!”
On September 4, Ismail Ali Taha, an MP for the Kurdistan Islamic Union, proposed a bill, which criminalizes LGBT+ advocacy in the KRI. If this law passes, individuals and groups who are advocating for LGBT+ human rights in KRI can be: 1) prosecuted for up to one-month minimum and a year maximum; 2) fined a minimum of 500,000 and a maximum of 5 million Iraqi Dinars.
The bill would make it illegal for any individual or organization to speak up for the human rights of gay individuals. It would also ban any media coverage of LGBT issues, and would make it a crime to hold any events or rallies in support of LGBT rights.
Taha told Rudaw in an interview that he noticed the LGBT+ issue being discussed by numerous media agencies and organizations locally, which is why he decided to propose a bill that requests banning gay rights advocacy. As of September 6, 76 MPs supported the bill.
IraQueer, an Iraqi LGBT+ organization formerly led by Ashour, published a statement on their blog:
“This proposed law constitutes another attack by Iraqi officials–this time the Kurdish ones–on the LGBT+ community. For nearly two decades, LGBT+ Iraqis have been the victims of rape, torture, and murder. The Iraqi and Kurdish governments did not only fail to put an end to these crimes but has actually committed many of them through police forces and armed groups.”
Muqtada as-Sadr, whose parliament bloc won the most votes in October last year, posted about the LGBT+ issue multiple times, calling homosexual desires a deviation and labeling it a paraphilia. In fact, he is so opposed to it that he thinks there should be a day against homosexuality. He compared it to incest, he blamed the coronavirus pandemic on gay marriage, and called monkeypox “homosexual-pox.”
Human Rights Watch released a report on LGBT+ lives in Iraq. The report is based on interviews with more than 50 LGBT Iraqis. It documents the abduction, torture, and killing of LGBT people in Iraq, and the failure of the Iraqi government to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators.
“The Iraqi government has failed to hold accountable members of various armed groups who in recent years have continued to abduct, rape, torture, and kill lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, with impunity. The 86-page report, “‘Everyone Wants Me Dead’: Killings, Abductions, Torture, and Sexual Violence Against LGBT People by Armed Groups in Iraq,” documents cases of attempted murder of LGBT people by armed groups primarily within the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), which are nominally under the prime minister’s authority.”
–Human Rights Watch
On the KRG’s website, the government prides itself on “promoting peaceful coexistence” and calls the Kurdistan Region a “safe haven”, but the local LGBT+ community is losing trust in the government and could no longer consider Kurdistan a safe space if such law would pass. The LGBT community in Kurdistan is already facing significant challenges. There is very little public support for LGBT rights, and many people in the region are openly hostile toward LGBT+ people. This bill would further marginalize the LGBT community in Kurdistan, and would make it even harder for them to live in Iraq.
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