On the 17th of May, 1990, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that homosexuality was no longer considered a mental disorder after years of classifying it as one and after years of violence against the LGBT+ community.
Starting on the 17th of May, 2005, many countries around the world celebrated the day which was first recognized as the “International Day Against Homophobia”. Later, both “transphobia” and “biphobia” were added to the title of the day name and people started referring to it with the acronym “IDAHOBIT”
The 17th of every May is an important date for hundreds of people because they get to use the day to raise awareness on the discrimination and violence that bisexuals, gays, lesbians, and transgender people experience on a daily basis.
How Did It Go In Iraq?
International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia has been celebrated in Iraq before and it didn’t go so well. On the 17th of May, 2020, in the capital city of Iraq, Baghdad, the Canadian, UK, and European Union embassies raised the rainbow flag to celebrate this special day. It didn’t take too long until the news was spread everywhere and everyone was commenting on what happened. Different news channels and social medial platforms were busy with what the embassies did. Some people were happy and proud while the majority totally rejected such a behavior.
Based on Alex MacDonald report on Middle East Eye, not a long time after raising the rainbow flag, Iraqi politicians expressed their disapproval of such actions by describing homosexuality as a “mental illness” or by explaining that Iraq is against the concept of homosexuality even if the Iraqi law doesn’t consider it illegal. “On Sunday evening, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that homosexuality went against “the noble morals of all divine religions" and said all missions in Iraq had to "adhere by the laws of the country and to follow diplomatic norms."”
Iraq remains on the list of homophobic countries and remains a dangerous place for LGBT+ people to live in or visit. Threats follow LGBT+ Iraqis everywhere inside the country! They could lose their lives, freedom, or homes if the wrong people knew about their sexualities.
It’s not only about the laws of Iraq or the homophobic politicians! The problem is bigger than that and it lies in the way that Iraqi families define and judge homosexuality. Iraq is mainly controlled by traditions and religion while the law doesn’t have much to say about the discrimination the community faces and that raises the question of what families are allowed to do to their kids if they turned to be homosexuals, bisexuals, or transgender? And what would the Iraqi government do if any cases of murder or violence happen against these LGBT+ individuals?
The majority of Iraqi families are supported by tribes ('ashira) and there are tens of different tribes in Iraq that have their own rules to guarantee that their beliefs keep passing from one generation to the other.
These tribes, in some Iraqi territories more than the others, have more power than the government which means they get to decide on how a person from the community gets punished. Some might get killed while others might be forced to get married. And the stories differ from one tribe to another. We can say that homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia exist in all these tribes and that makes violence against LGBT+ people so common and normal.
No wonder that the number of homophobes is still high in Iraq! Children who are still only a few years old find it fun to make silly jokes about homosexuals or transgenders. Usually, parents teach their kids to be homophobic and to express their hatred in the ugliest ways possible.
The whole matter of killing or threatening people just because they identify as LGBT+ isn’t seen as a mistake. Kids are taught from an early age to hate everything that they find unfamiliar and that hatred grows with them until they get to an age where they are able to express it with both bullying and violence.
And here in a country like Iraq, the problem is this bad because there’s no one to stop the homophobes. From one side, the government doesn’t provide any protection to the LGBT+ community and from the other side, families that have a tribe’s support can do what they want to the ones who stand against their tribal traditions and therefore can express their hatred freely without any consequences.