The Iraqi queers seem to face pressure and stress from multiple sides. It’s not only about their fear of people’s reaction or judgment about their sexuality. Queer individuals in Iraq, just like the rest of Iraqis, share the same daily stressful life. Lack of jobs, political problems, and war are all reasons that cause anxiety and kills the hope in their hearts. The Iraqi queers are forced to adapt to this environment in addition to the need to adapt to the people’s mentality that rejects them. Queer people, just like everyone else, need someone to listen to them or advise them but that isn’t available to the majority of them. That lack of support leads to depression that can push some of them to suicide.
My first person to interview is Lizu who is a 19-year-old lesbian girl. Lizu says, “My suicidal thoughts don’t come from me rejecting being queer, rather it comes from the rejection I face from the society. It’s me against the society, religion, and culture.” Lizu explains that her pressure comes almost from every direction. Her family, relatives, society, and religion, all put pressure on her in addition to the fear of the unknown and the fear of someone knowing about her sexuality which can put her in many troubles. The good news is Lizu has beaten her suicidal thoughts by reading about the subject and building healthy habits like having a consistent routine of sleep and eating time. Other than that, she says that her friends are providing her with a lot of support that keeps her going.
Ayman, who is a 22-year-old gay man, tells me that his suicidal thoughts have come from the time when he was religious because religion says that queer people shall burn in hell. Other than the pressure Ayman got from religion, the fear of his parents knowing about his sexuality and the fear of the unknown put tremendous pressure on him. Thanks to his best friends, he has beaten his suicidal thoughts and is currently having a more peaceful mindset. He says that having someone to talk to helps a lot in reducing the stress and calming the person and that is what he advises everyone to try to have.
Ethan, who is a 29-year-old gay man, tells me his story of fighting his suicidal thoughts. He says, “My suicidal thoughts started a short time after my colleagues found an evidence about my sexuality when I was around 22 years old. They deliberately isolated me from the rest of the students and told everyone not to have any contact with me whatsoever, even my best friends who have always trusted me, had to stay away from me to protect themselves and their reputation. Also, every time I face homophobia from my family, friends, co-workers, or read about it on social media, I feel like an alien, a being that doesn't have a place in this world and has no right to exist in it, back when I was 22-23 I received help from a psychiatrist and it helped me through the worst of my suicidal episodes, I still I get them, yet to a less extent.” He tells me that his suicidal thoughts come back as he faces pressure from his family, friends, or relatives and then go away for a while. The support he gets from his gay friends and his hope of having a better tomorrow are the reasons that keep him going. He says that providing a guidance counselor or a suicide hotline service that is open 24/7 would highly help to prevent self-murder among queer individuals.
Ahmed is a 25-year-old gay man who was 16 years old when he realized that he was gay. Only then he knew how little support is provided to him and other queer people. Ahmed’s fear of the society, his relatives, and the religious people around him have been causing him daily stress. For that, his suicidal thoughts aren’t completely gone, rather they come and go. He tells me that getting support whether from a family member, friends, or NGOs would offer so much help to the Iraqi queers and help to reduce the number of suicide in the country.
Hate is what the majority of the Iraqi queers find themselves surrounded with even when they isolate themselves, they don’t seem to be able to avoid troubles. Queer people are hated because of who they are and that makes the whole problem worse. It’s not a certain word or an action to avoid saying or doing to make things better for themselves and that leads to self-hatred which brings depression. As a queer person you need to keep in mind that life is constantly changing which means that the current stress you are dealing with is eventually going to vanish. Stay strong and remember that if things are bad for your generation, you must work hard to make the next generation more understanding and supportive.