My First Step
Humanity and human rights issues are my passion so is calligraphy, specifically Arabic calligraphy, so I got this idea of bringing these two together and introduce them to people in a unique way.
The idea that people have about the Arabic calligraphy is that it’s used to present quotes of prophets, Quranic manuscripts, or flirtatious poetry. My idea was to mix the Arabic calligraphy with new concepts like homosexuality, feminism, and even animals rights. I believe that mixing the Arabic calligraphy with such sensitive topics could make people more interested to view them and learn about them and that’s the whole point.
I got that idea a while before entering college but I had to give up on it shortly after due to the constant judgments I received. Back at that time, people’s opinions used to matter a lot to me and that used to be a big barrier, so I had to give up on my idea.
Two years later, I gave it a second try, so I dedicated enough time to improve my skills. Gradually, I started noticing an improvement and had better ideas in mind to present. And here I’m now, I’ve so many followers by my side who support me by sharing my art or sending me messages full of love.
Dealing with their hatred
The first time I received threats and criticism was back when I shared a full Instagram post about homosexuality. A lot of people blocked me while many others sent me threats using fake or real accounts. Even some people who I knew for years cut the connection with me after checking that post.
My family members follow my account so of course! They had a lot to say after seeing that post. Anyhow, I didn’t stop.
Starting from the day I shared that post, things took another turn and I had to deal with way more hatred than I used to. And after few other posts that support the LGBT+ community, I started receiving threats from several militias.
I won’t stop
Regardless of everything I have been through, I still have the motive to continue this time.
Many people from the LGBT+ community write me long beautiful messages that are full of love to express their happiness and appreciation for having me by their side.
A lot of them feel so forgotten by the ones around them. That’s why I focus on creating my art posts in Arabic while I focus less on the English ones. What I do is a way of telling all of them that homosexuality is part of our Arabic society and not something foreign that we need to be ashamed of.
Several people from the community discuss personal topics that they don’t have anyone to tell about. This feeling of safety that I give them makes them open their hearts to me even without knowing me well or, in some cases, knowing me at all. I’ve become friends with so many great people from different cities, ages, and sexualities and that always gives me the energy to continue.
Changing their minds
Through the art I present, I’ve been able to change people’s minds about homosexuality and that’s another reason why I still have the motive to continue.
In the past, many of my friends refused to talk or listen to someone who talks about homosexuality. Some of them used to use offensive words to describe homosexuals but they have changed a lot from that time. It took me a long time to change their minds about it, but I did it. One conversation after another, my friends accepted the idea, they educated themselves about it, and now they are way better than before.
Actually! Some of them even became allies while others realized they were homosexuals.
Art brings us a few steps forward
I believe that art could help us a lot in this journey of empowering the LGBT+ community and explaining to people, with facts, what homosexuality is.
Our eyes aren’t used to see the rainbow flag! Somehow, a lot of us gets shocked when seeing it in real life or in a photograph or a piece of art. But that shouldn’t be the case anymore because we can make some change by talking more often about homosexuality until one day, talking about it in real life or on social media becomes completely normal. And I think that art could be the easiest way to accomplish that.
I can handle the consequences
We are the first Iraqi generation to fight for LGBT+ rights so that definitely comes with consequences but I’m okay with that. Having my identity revealed by having my real picture on my Instagram account and having my bio mentioning that I’m Muslim isn’t easy neither safe but I have my reasons.
Giving up on these important details means that I’ll somehow lose part of my power. Having my personal information on my account is there to break the fear barrier that other allies and LGBT+ members have. Many of them can be inspired and empowered by what I’m doing and I hope that’ll enable them to start posting and educating others about homosexuality.
I’ve seen many positive changes already even from my straight friends! Many of them share my posts on their accounts and it feels incredible to see that happening.
It’s true that some of them delete what they share a few hours after, probably because of the judgments they receive from their own followers, but still, there’s a positive change happening here even if it’s small like this one.
Never stop fighting
My message to all the Iraqi allies and members of the LGBT+ community is to keep fighting until a positive change happens. Things aren’t easy because, as I mentioned, we’re the first generation to fight for it but together, we can make a better future for ourselves and the next generations.
To check out Saif's art and support him, follow him on Instagram: @saif0_0ali