Domestic violence in Iraq a common issue which is usually practiced by men towards their women or their children. The violence doesn’t stop with the abusive father or husband but rather it passes from one generation to another as the children who got abused sometimes grow up to become abuse their own children or wives in the future.
According to a report issued by UNICEF, about 90% of children between the ages of one and fourteen years in Iraq are exposed to violence in various forms, in addition to a high percentage of women who are exposed to threats and death by their family or husband.
This blog focuses on how abuse can change the romantic choices of bisexual Iraqi women and here we ask the following question to our readers, do you think that the abuse the bisexual women get exposed to has a serious effect on their view of men and their romantic lives? IraQueer is happy to hear your answer about this.
Iraqi women who have bee directly exposed to violence during their childhood, or those who grew up in unstable homes where their mothers or older sisters were exposed to it, have a greater tendency, as they grow older, to be involved in unhealthy relationships with toxic men, compared to those who lived a stable childhood.
Lamis says, "I grew up in a house where love never existed. My father was harsh and violent, and he liked giving orders to me, my siblings, and my mother about everything and if we complained, we would be beaten up and humiliated. I lived like this my whole childhood, adolescence, and several years of my twenties.
My father was the first man I knew in my life and seeing him act the way he did affected the way I look at all the other men. As a bisexual, I tend to be more romantically attracted to men than to women, but my love life with men has always been a disaster.
Whenever a man approaches me, I get stressed because my mind and body have always related interactions with men with cruelty, violence, and hurtful words. For that I see myself unable even nowadays to find a male partner who I can feel good with. Whenever I get a chance to get close to a guy, my subconscious mind reminds me of the bad memories and the story ends with me walking away. I don't mean to act cold or moody, but I'm just afraid, actually, I’m terrified
I have not gotten enough love from men, and I do not know if I will ever be able to fight my fear ad experience a healthy relationship with a man. One thing I know for sure is that I will never accept to be treated the same way my father treated my mother.
Being exposed to violence is not going to change your sexuality, but it might stop you from building healthy relationships with the ones you are attracted to. I have a long way ahead of me to learn to trust men and believe there are good ones out there and that I have the chance to be with one of them. I have to believe that my father is not the best example of what a man could be and that he does not represent all men. We all deserve to heal from the pain we were exposed to and we deserve to ourselves the right and freedom to choose those who respect us and love us exactly the way we are"
Kali, who is an Iraqi activist from the LGBT+ community, has been living abroad after struggling with homophobia for years and finally making a decision to leave. He visits Iraq every now and then but his last visit, which was recent, has been completely different than his other visits.
He explains to us how homophobic and dangerous the environment has become in Iraq in a matter of months. All Iraqis from the community know by now that the Iraqi government has been trying hard to pass a law for criminalizing homosexuality. Although it has not been official, the government has in fact started practicing it and Kali is here to describe what he experienced in his last visit.
As someone who is used to visit Iraq from time to time, how do you find the situation different this visit compared to the situation in your previous visits?
The situation for those who work as activists is really hard. I’m connected to many people working for the LGBT+ community and also other people working for women’s rights in feminist organizations. They all agreed that even though the Law of criminalizing LGBT+ activist has not been passed, but in fact, it is being practiced on the ground, and most of who I know are being questioned when the police or security forces know they have an activity on the subjects mentioned.
Did you face any difficulties in the Iraqi airport when you entered or left the country?
No, I did not have any problem entering the airport. My gender expression is not very different from what is known in the Iraqi society as normal so I don’t face this kind of problems often, but so many of my friends have told me about how they were investigated in the airport. I personally was bothered by checkpoints between cities because I looked modern as they said.
How do you think the recent changes have affected your LGBT+ friends who live in Iraq?
As I said, my friends have been questioned, arrested and threatened because of being involved in queer activism. The community today is very vulnerable, and the risk of being arrested, killed, or tortured is higher than ever and working in activism has higher negative consequences.
Can you describe us your feelings of anxiety during your last visit?
Honestly, I never felt this way in Iraq before. I have had lots of issues with different people trying to attack me or trying to threaten me because of my mentality and my work but I never felt unsafe in a public space where there are so many people around with different genders, and backgrounds. This time, however, I felt the community members being watched, but maybe that’s just me feeling wrong because in Iraq things change between a day and a night.
What are the some things you will be more careful with in your future visits to Iraq?
I think in my next visit, I will make sure that I don’t express my gender in a public space or in a space where I feel that it’s not safe enough for me to do so and I will make sure that I also communicate with people I trust about this kind of subjects. I still can’t have fun in my own way and work as well but I need to be more careful generally and try to reach out to those who know more.
What do you advise LGBT+ members who live in Iraq to be careful of?
I would advise all my friends and my peers in Iraq to also be careful when it comes to gender expression. I’m not saying to look yourself down, you can still express yourself but just know the right time and place for that and also try to find peers like yourself maybe to share your feelings with because that always helps you create your own circles, and be basically be more secure.
What is Monkey Pox?
COVID pandemic has only ended a while ago when social media sites and news channels began spreading news about Monkey Pox so what is Monkey Pox?
Monkey Pox is one of the contagious diseases which means it can get transferred from one person to another and some of its symptoms could be headaches, high body temperature and muscle pain, followed by blisters appearing all over the body.
Currently, there is no cure or vaccine for Monkey Pox, but in most cases a person who suffers from it recovers without medications after two to three weeks of being infected.
Monkey Pox can be transferred between people during sex whether that was oral, anal, viganal sex, therefore it could get transferred between heterosexuals or homosexuals. Hugging, kissing, and touching the infected person could also transfer the disease. Other than that it could be transferred from the mother to her child during pregnancy or by mixing the blood of a person who suffers from it and another who is healthy. Everyone regardless of their age and sexual practices can get infected it and transfer it to another person.
Monkey Pox disease is not new and definitely didn’t start because of homosexual sex which is exactly the opposite of what has been reported by some news and what is supported and believed by some people.
According to the World Health Organization, the disease first began in the seventies and the first infection was when a nine-year-old boy had a close contact with animal fluids and thus began to be transmitted between humans until it was under control at that time. Back then the disease spread in ten African countries but later was stopped.
Why do people blame Monkey Pox on gay men?
Monkey Pox started spreading again during this year, and some people in several countries have linked it to homosexual sex this time, due to the high percentage of infections among homosexuals compared to the percentage of infections among heterosexuals.
The start of the attack against homosexuals was when two homosexual men in two different countries in Europe were reported to be infected. That is when the blame was directly placed on gay and on bisexual men who mostly have sex with people from the same gender.
This opened the space for homophobic people to attack gay and bisexual men and use this disease as a reason to frighten and criticize LGBT+ people.
This situation is similar to what happened during the spread of AIDS, which was considered by some as a punishment from God to homosexual people.
What about gay and bisexual men in Iraq?
As usual, homosexuals in Iraq also have been criticized and threatened as Monkey Pox started spreading.
Muqtada al-Sadr, an Islamic man and the leader of the Sadrist movement in Iraq, announced through his Twitter account that Monkey Pox is nothing but a punishment from God to homosexuals, and he called on them to change and fix themselves.
Muqtada al-Sadr also pointed out the importance of having a special day against homosexuality as a way to stand against LGBT+ people in Iraq.
These false news that have gotten spread between people can make a lot damage to the Iraqi LGBT+ community. If a person gets infected, even if they were not from the LGBT+ community plus not infected due to sexual practices, can get accused of being gay.
People are not ready to enter into a new cycle of fear and anxiety like the one caused by COVID. That pandemic alone put many LGBT+ people in dangerous situations as they were subjected to a lot of physical and/or emotional abuse along with a lot of isolation. Based on the horrible experience, we say, what if the existence and spread of Monkey Pox is all now blamed on LGBT+ people?
Urgent: Stop the KRI Parliament from passing a law criminalizing LGBT+ citizens and banning Queer activism
Rudaw News Agency published yesterday that the Kurdish Parliament is planning inside the parliament to legislate a law prohibiting homosexuality in Iraq and banning any kind of activity “promoting” queer community rights. The draft of the anti – LGBT+ legislation was submitted yesterday – The 4th of September 2022 and 50+ signatures were already collected.
The proposed law entails two parts:
1. Prosecution for up to one month minimum and a year maximum of queer activists and organizations.
2. A fine of minimum 500K IQD and maximum 5M IQD for anyone breaking the law.
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. Kurdish officials have always advocated for Kurdistan region as a relatively safer environment for LGBT+ people and label Kurdish region as more progressive than the rest of Iraq, yet such laws are being drafted and voted on in the parliament.
The passage of this law will put LGBT+ Iraqis generally and Kurdish LGBT+ member specifically at great danger as it will allow the government to be legally protected when committing these crimes against the community. Such a law will also put LGBT+ advocates and allies in danger reducing the already limited spaces available to LGBT+ advocacy inside Iraq and threatening the young queer movement in Iraq. It will also leave the community members with no choice but to seek immigration.
The lives of LGBT+ Iraqis and especially the Kurdish ones are on the line. We call on allies in the Kurdish government and the international community to act immediately. We urge the international community including the United Nations, European Union, Embassies, and International Organizations to put pressure on Iraqi Kurdistan government to refrain from passing this law.
We also call on Iraqi LGBT+ people and all Kurdish activists to join the fight for queer rights in Iraq. IraQueer is dedicated to advocating for LGBT+ Iraqis and we need to step up as a community to fight these attacks.
If you have questions, please reach out to: firstname.lastname@example.org
What is the idea of dating apps?
Dating apps seem like good tools for people who are interested in dating and relationships. These apps ease the whole process of looking for a partner. They are good for shy people who usually are terrified of making the first move and they are a fast way to connect to other people and decide whether or not to spend more time with them.
Tinder might be the most popular dating app, but there are other apps too such as Bumble, Her, Grindr and many more.
Some of these apps are available to heterosexuals as well as to members of the queer community while some others are used exclusively by the queer individuals and are considered their private space.
The danger that surrounds the Iraqi queers who use dating apps?
Queers in Iraq are exposed to a greater danger if they use dating apps compared to heterosexuals. If your sexuality and preferences are mentioned in your bio and one of your friends or relatives finds your account, you will be in a big trouble.
The majority of teenagers and adults living in Iraq who use dating apps do not feel fully comfortable using them and the fear becomes even more if they were members of the queer community. That is why, many people tend to put fake profile pictures or give wrong location until they spend some time knowing the people they are talking to.
Kareem is a queer person from Iraq and he comes to tell us about his personal experience with dating apps. Kareem says that he started using dating apps about ten years ago, and he has been using various types of apps since then including Grindr, Hornet and Tinder.
He explains, “From my point of view, I see that some of these apps are helpful so I use them when I’m bored to get to meet new people. Sometimes, I end up making new friends with the people I talk with on these apps so we share our Instagram accounts and we stay in touch.
As an Iraqi who lives inside the country, I say that it’s pretty scary to fully show yourself and be yourself on dating apps. You always have to keep a little bit of you hidden until you fully understand what kind of person you are dealing with.
If you ask for my advice, then I ask everyone is to stay away from Grindr because it has an extremely toxic environment. The majority of its users are judgmental and they are obsessed with criticizing each other. Hearing criticism over and over again will affect your mental health negatively and makes you hate how you look and how you feel about yourself.
Personally, I think that Tinder is one of the best applications that queer people can use in Iraq. Although it is not exclusive for the queer community, but you can still make it as queer as possible through the app settings as you can choose “females only” or “males only” to avoid any encounter with heterosexuals.
My advice to everyone, no matter what city you live in, is to not go out on a date with someone who you do not know much about. First, you need to spend some time trying to understand their mentality and their view of the queer community. Only then, you can think of taking the next step.
Just because you exchanged Instagram accounts or Facebook accounts or talked for a while, doesn't mean that you can trust them. People can be really different in real life compared to how they look like online.
I made such a mistake when I matched with a guy on a dating app a while ago, I added him on Instagram and we talked for a month. I thought a month was enough for me to know him well so I went out with him on a date.
I was shocked because the guy was completely different from the person I spoke to on the app. He turned out to be a homophobe even though he was a member of the queer community. He kept telling me how I deserve to be killed for being queer and for supporting the queer community.
That experience was terrifying and helped me learn a good lesson. That is why I advise you to be careful because dating apps are available to everyone so you can’t reveal the whole truth of a person through them.”
Iraq does not believe in the idea of dating apps
Iraq is still considered a conservative country so Iraqis who live in it are still unable to express themselves freely. They are still controlled by their family, tribe, and religion. All these can end anyone's life at any moment.
Up to this day, even heterosexuals can’t use dating apps openly. They won’t even find support from their families if they got into a problem with someone they met on dating apps.
It’s even harder for members of the queer community to solve any problems related to dating apps and that’s why being extra careful is the best thing to do.
Different people have different opinions about dating apps as some think they are totally healthy and helpful in finding good partners while others think of them as means for entertainment or even free spaces for criticism.
Dating apps come with some risks that IraQueer likes to shortly mention for the sake of educating people.
Some people tend to use dating apps to get information about other users then end up blackmailing them. This alone can put people’s lives in huge danger. Also, dating apps are one reason that pushes people to be shallower by teaching them how to judge other by their looks only. One other risk of using dating apps could be the risk of developing depression and having low self-esteem as a consequence of hearing bad judgments from strangers over and over.
In the end, it is up to the individuals. They are free to choose whether to use dating apps or avoid them. IraqQueer cares about the safety of the queer community, and for this we advise you to think carefully before talking about your orientation with people you meet on these apps. Avoid giving full confidence to anyone and make sure to not meet them unless you have enough information and understand of who they really are.
The Iraq News Agency published today that the Iraqi Parliament’s legal committee is organizing a movement inside the parliament to legislate a law prohibiting homosexuality in Iraq and banning any kind of activity related to the queer community. Individuals like Muqtada Al Sader tweeted earlier a proposal for a day dedicated to fight against homosexuality. Official legal experts claimed that a 2001 law punishes homosexuality with death penalty. This proposed law constitutes another attack by Iraqi officials on the LGBT+ community. For nearly two decades, LGBT+ Iraqis have been the victims of rape, torture, and murder. The Iraqi government did not only fail to put an end to these crimes but has actually committed many of them through police forces and armed groups. Iraqi officials have continuously used LGBT+ people to spread fear amongst Iraqis and distract them from the real problems facing Iraq including the failure to form a government and the failure to provide the most basic services for Iraqis. The passage of this law will put LGBT+ Iraqis at great danger as it will allow the Iraqi government and armed groups to be legally protected when committing these crimes. Such a law will also put LGBT+ advocates and allies in danger reducing the already limited spaces available to LGBT+ advocacy inside Iraq and threatening the young queer movement in Iraq. The lives of LGBT+ Iraqis are on the line. We call on allies in the Iraqi government and the international community to act immediately. We urge the international community including the United Nations, European Union, Embassies, and International Organizations to put pressure on Iraq to refrain from passing this law. We also call on Iraqi LGBT+ people to join the fight for queer rights in Iraq. IraQueer is dedicated to advocating for LGBT+ Iraqis and we need to step up as a community to fight these attacks. If you have questions, please reach out to: email@example.com In Solidarity, IraQueer Team.
A few days ago, the University of Kufa announced that its College of Engineering held a seminar under the title “The Psychological Impact of Homosexuality on The Student in The Academic Behavior” as a way to remind mothers and fathers who attended the seminar about the importance of keeping their kids away from any websites, applications, and cartoons that include the topic of homosexuality, or as called in some parts of the news “Deviation”. As it is mentioned in the seminar, homosexuality is a soft war against our societies specifically the Muslim ones.
How do children and teenagers in Iraq learn about homosexuality?
It is important to point out that Iraqi educational system lacks the educational curricula that discuss the topic of homosexuality in a scientific manner. Also, our educational centers lack the teachers who can respond to their student’s questions about such topic properly.
So how do children and teenagers learn about homosexuality? Most often, children and teenagers learn about homosexuality through warnings and intimidations of their mothers and fathers. A result of that would be creating a negative picture about homosexuality and about the word itself. This is why we see that some children, teenagers, and even adults, in some cases, use the word "homosexual" as a way to offend each other and express the existence of a problem or an illness.
Another way for children and teenagers to learn about homosexuality is through their electronic devices. We all see the huge numbers of children who walk around carrying electronic devices through which they are able to watch hundreds of videos, read posts, and follow certain individuals who might teach them wrong information on topics such as sex, homosexuality, and others. Unfortunately, many are now learning about sex through pornography and about homosexuality through social media accounts that distort the image of the LGBT+ community and directly link homosexuality with moral decay.
The hatred that children learn to hold against homosexuality and homosexuals does not go away. As these kids grow older, their desire to express that hatred grow with them and push them to look for any opportunity to express it. The problem is that some of them end up realizing that the closest people to them are from the LGBT+ community. Perhaps their brothers, sisters, or closest friends are gay. Or even worse, these children might grow older and realize that they are gay and that is when they start hating themselves or fearing that someone knows about them.
How come our educational centers in Iraq divide science into two parts, one that it teaches to students with pride, and one that it associates with moral decay?
There is a great number of universities in Iraq that include various university departments and specializations from which teachers, engineers, doctors, nurses and many others graduate every year.
The curricula in these educational centers are based on purely scientific foundations and laws that came from experiences, research and studies. The question is, how can universities that believe in science refuse the fact that homosexuality is scientifically proven to not be a mental illness? What is the difference between someone who argues that one plus one equals three and someone who says homosexuality is an illness!?
Linking homosexuality to genes, environment and psychological state is not based on any scientific basis and spreading wrong information among students only makes things worse.
What if the son, daughter, relative of one the speakers or attendees is an LGBT+ person?
LGBT+ people are literally everywhere as they are members of the Iraqi families. We often don't think about it this way because we don't hear about their numbers and we all know why, it's impossible for LGBT+ people to show themselves in public when their lives are in danger.
How do you imagine that the daughters and sons of attendees or speakers would feel if they were LGBT+? How much fear do you think they carry knowing that their mothers and fathers are the ones who spread hatred against them and urge others to hurt them?
What are the risks of holding seminars like this in Iraq?
Iraq suffers from countless problems. Therefore, holding such seminars that spread hatred does not make things any better in the country.
Iraqi fathers and mothers need to educate themselves about homosexuality by depending on scientific facts, and they need to learn to accept differences and accept different points of view, because they will not be able to raise happy and open-minded generation if they are not able to accept their own kids as they are. Iraq needs mothers and fathers who give unconditional love to their kids and encourage them to be proud of themselves.
The internet, magazines, newspapers, TV, and radio are all media means that aim to communicate with a specific audience. Iraq, like other countries around the world, uses these means to convey news to the Iraqi citizens..... Our question is, to what extent can we rely on the media and its news in a country like Iraq?
In one way or another, media affects our views as well as our opinion about our lives and the lives of others around us. Media, also, changes our level of acceptance or rejection of certain events that take place inside and outside the country. Plus, it constantly changes the angle in which we look at what is around us and perhaps sometimes makes us become extremists as we reject any differences that we notice.
Constant exposure to content that imposes negative opinions about a group of people often increases the likelihood of spreading hatred against them and this is exactly what the Iraqi media has been doing against the Iraqi LGBT+ community.
Imagine that the media can persuade women to use a specific face cream or men to choose a razor from a particular company by constantly sharing advertisements that either speak positively about a product of a particular company or speak negatively about a product of another company. The situation gets worse as we realize that media affects not only what we want to buy, but also things that have a greater impact on our lives and the lives of those around us, such as sexual orientation, religion, political tendencies and many more.
An important point to mention is that not all the information we get from the media is wrong but we have to be careful when choosing our source of information to avoid forming wrong opinions.
Does the Iraqi media address the subject of homosexuality and the LGBT+ community?
Iraqi media gives full space and freedom to anyone who wants to speak negatively about the LGBT+ community even without providing any supervision to determine whether the information being published is true in the first place.
We all can see that it’s easy in Iraq to spread rumors about the LGBT+ community but it is difficult to defend the community and to correct the wrong ideas that are already spread about it. While haters are free to say what they want to say about the LGBT+ community, those who want to defend and help the community end up being threatened, insulted, or even dead.
One of the ways in which the Iraqi media negatively affects the Iraqi LGBT+ community is by spreading misconceptions that have no scientific basis. One of the worst misconceptions against the LGBT+ community is that sexual orientation can be changed and controlled. In other words, a gay man who is attracted to men chooses to be like that, and if he had morals, he would have chosen to be attracted to women. For this reason, we see that many of the LGBT+ individuals are blamed and forced to change.
Other than that, the Iraqi media uses harsh and disrespectful words to refer to the LGBT+ community, which in turn makes it normal and acceptable to offend the members of the community. The Iraqi media visualizes the LGBT+ community in a negative way and spreads hate speech. Doing that does not only normalize violence and hatred against LGBT+ people but also teaches Iraqis that it is necessary to kill or violate any LGBT+ person.
In addition, the Iraqi media often associates sexual orientation and the LGBT+ community with topics of pedophilia or with prostitution and moral decay. Doing that creates an image in people's minds that LGBT+ people have sexual obsession and that all their relationships happen to fulfill their sexual needs but never based on love. That could be a reason why most mothers and fathers reject their LGBT+ daughters and sons and they go ahead to either kill them or force them to get married.
As we mentioned previously, frequent exposure to the news that carry a huge amount of hatred against the LGBT+ community in addition to the lack of freedom given to organizations and activists to raise awareness about sexual orientation leads to having generations that think of violence as a way to save the Iraqi morals and values.
Understanding what sexual orientation and gender identity mean as well as understanding the meaning of human rights and freedoms can contribute to reducing cases of violence, suicides, and forced marriage.
Iraqi parents, Iraqi schools, and Iraqi media may not support homosexuality or the freedom of choice but let’s keep in mind that the Internet makes it easier for us to educate ourselves and understand such topics in a scientific and correct way. Reading and spreading awareness by relying on trusted sources can make a huge positive impact on our Iraqi mentality.
"Disfigured" is a word that might be used by some Iraqis to describe a person with special needs. Hearing this word causes huge pain so what if the person with special needs identifies as part of the LGBT+ community while living in a homophobic country like Iraq? The pain seems to be even worse.
People with special needs are the ones who suffer from physical or mental impairment. Sometimes, they are born with the impairment while some other times the impairment is a result of an accident, an injury, or a disease.
Iraqis with special needs rarely live in a healthy environment where they are truly comfortable and accepted since the majority of them are surrounded by people, including adults, who often tend to avoid them or abuse them. In addition to that, people with special needs who live in Iraq struggle with a government that does not provide them with medical services that would enable them to live in a good condition.
According to an article published in 2021 on “Nas” website, the percentage of Iraqis with special needs reached up to 13%, which translates to more than five million people. Among these millions, Hassan comes forward to tell us his story of being a gay person with special needs.
Hassan is a 19-year-old Iraqi guy who lives in Babil with his family of seven that he describes to be as religiously and tribally strict as all the other families that live in villages.
To understand Hassan's story, we need to go back in time several years, specifically to his childhood. Although Hassan was in good health and did not suffer from any disease when he was born, he got diagnosed with a very rare disease called “Retinoblastoma” when he was only two years old. His illness led to the extraction of his left eye and the removal of some muscles and bones of his face, so he ended up with one eye and a face that looked quite different compared to other kids his age.
Living with one eye caused Hassan a lot of abuse by kids in both his neighborhood and school. Hassan says, “I was suffering on a daily basis so I thought several times about quitting school and staying home to avoid the pain, but somehow I was able to continue regardless of my suffering. Despite the difficulties I dealt with during my school years, I survived, I graduated, and I got enrolled in the College of Pharmacy.
The illness I suffered from as well as the way my face looked after the surgery were not the only differences I had compared to others around me. During my teenage years, specifically at the age of fourteen, I started noticing the happiness and excitement I would feel when I dress and act like a woman. Plus, I never really got attracted to the opposite sex.
At first, I thought these feelings were the result of the trauma and the abuse that I had been subjected to throughout my life. I was thinking about it all the time so I decided to search it online and eventually I learned about sexual orientation. I read about homosexuality, transsexuality, and all the other classifications that I never knew about before.
I learned about my sexual orientation as well as about the fact that other people had the same desires as me and after all, I was not alone or odd. Realizing these things gave me a great sense of belonging and allowed me to look at things from a completely different angle.
My teenage years were extremely difficult and messy since I was trying to understand, accept, and build myself from one side while I was being violated by my family to be who they wanted me to be from the other side.
My father, along with my other family members, hated my feminine side, so they tried their best to change me by abusing me. They used to tie my hands and legs, beat me, then lock me inside a room in the house for days or sometimes weeks. Despite my need for seeking help back at that time, I chose not to do anything about it because I was too scared.
None of that violence happened because of my sexual orientation rather it happened because of a haircut that I used to have, a face cream that I used to buy to treat my acnes, or for buying a certain type of shampoo. Doing any of these things was enough for my family to hurt me.
When I turned seventeen, another phase in my life began as I had my first mobile phone which I used to make friends on social media. Some of them stood by my side and we became good friends while others bullied me and did not accept me. One day, my father looked through my phone and became suspicious about my sexuality that is also when the violence got worse. As things got worse, I came to the conclusion that I will never be able to change my family so I had to do whatever it takes to keep myself alive and safe.
Luckily, I can say that things started getting better as I became a university student. I am no longer spending a lot of time around my family so I am dealing with less violence and problems. Life is also way better in college compared to how my life was during school although I still hear a lot of criticism about my feminine appearance. ButI am no longer hearing bullies and jokes about my eye and this is good for me.”
IraQueer is interested to know more Iraqis with special needs from the LGBT+ community to share their stories with others from inside and outside the community to raise awareness about the importance of accepting differences of all kinds.
Mental health services encompass a range of services that are meant to address anything from an isolated or a daily mental health challenge to long-standing mental illnesses. They include modalities like support groups, medication, therapy and many more. People who provide these services include social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists. These different services are often provided by different professionals. While psychotherapists are equipped to provide psychotherapy, most of them are not qualified to prescribe medication. Likewise, while psychiatrists are qualified to prescribe medication, most of them are not trained to provide psychotherapy.
Therapy also called psychotherapy or counseling, is a process of working with a licensed professional, in person or online, to identify and resolve the emotional, behavioral, and psychological problems someone has. Therapy offers people a safe space to talk about their difficult emotions and feelings, their mental health, and their painful life experiences like war, divorce, childhood trauma, abuse, death of a close person, and many more hard experiences that a person alone can’t deal with or heal from. Therapy can be used alone or combined with medication and other modalities.
Mental Health Services are for everybody, and they are a great tool that people can use at any point in their lives to help themselves find peace, function better, and heal from beliefs and ideas that cause them pain and fear.
Throughout several generations, Iraqis have been through many tragic events including wars, poverty, economic instability, threat of militias, homophobic and transphobic crimes. Some of these events might have ended but their effects and memories remain in people’s heads. All these negative memories cause people to be more violent, depressed, and suicidal. That’s why mental health services are extremely important as they give people a chance to process their negative experiences to understand why they behave in a certain way or feel a certain feeling.
Seeking services like therapy isn’t always going to be fun or easy. During your therapy sessions, you might experience feelings like anger or sadness. These feelings come back as you talk with your therapist about the painful emotions that you might have been hiding for long years. With that being said, you have to be able to distinguish between a good and a bad mental health professional. A good mental health professional will not make you feel sad or guilty intentionally rather they will walk with you through the painful details of a certain experience then give you tips on how to overcome it and heal from it. A toxic mental health professional, however, is going to blame you for the way you feel and try to change you. Keep in mind that not all mental health professionals are qualified as some of them could be licensed, well known, and have years of experience but still fail to understand their patients.
Some mental health professionals might cause you more pain by being judgmental or unethical. Having that experience with a person you think of as a supporter might give you a negative impression about mental health services in general. When a mental health professional is unqualified, they usually use their personal beliefs to judge their patient so if that therapist’s beliefs stand against homosexuality, they will for sure blame the patient for their sexuality, make them feel guilty, and try to change them. Our advice is to take some time to choose your therapist or psychiatrist and be careful with the personal details you share with them in your first few sessions.
Seeking mental health services could be quite expensive and even with that, Iraqis struggle with unqualified mental health professionals who get paid huge amounts of money. We are not stating that all Iraqi mental health professionals are unqualified but a certain percentage of LGBTQ+ Iraqis continue to struggle when looking for therapists and psychiatrists who know how to separate their religious beliefs and social views from their duty to be professional and helpful to their patients.
In 2020, IraQueer made a survey that included over 240 Iraqis from the LGBTQ+ community who come from different cities. Part of the survey covers the subject of mental health to know how many have sought mental health services and how their experience was. Some of the ones who visited psychiatrists or psychotherapists mentioned that they refused to visit a professional in the cities they live in so a person who lives in Najaf, for example, preferred to go to a service provider located in Baghdad rather than visiting one in Najaf. Visiting a service provider in the same city the LGBTQ+ individual lives in can put them in danger and bring troubles.
Noor is an Iraqi lesbian and one of the 240 Iraqis who filled our survey. She describes her experience by saying, “At some point in my life, I felt the need to visit a psychiatrist with my girlfriend so we chose one who was well known. We assumed he was going to be professional and supportive but things didn’t go well at all. During our session with him, he asked me to kiss my girlfriend in front of him and gave me hints that he wanted to have sex with me.”
“I only agreed to visit an Iraqi psychiatrist because I thought he was an LGBTQ+ ally. The psychiatrist wasn’t an ally neither as good as I expected him to be. I went to his clinic and as we were talking, he opened his cabinet, took out some pills, and advised me to use them. When I got home, I searched on Google for the ingredients, usage, and effects of these pills. It turned out they were used to cure homosexuals and turn them straight or as some like to call it “normal”, said a gay Iraq man.
Another guy was asked by his psychiatrist to visit him home and another who was advised to pray and read Quran to heal from homosexuality and become straight.
As an Iraqi LGBTQ+ person, have you ever had unpleasant experience with an Iraqi mental health professional? You can write your experience and send it to us to help us get a clear picture of the situation inside Iraq.