The Role of the LGBTIQ+ Community in the Ongoing Demonstrations in Iraq

Since the beginning of August, a number of demonstrations erupted across different Iraqi cities which are demanding for a lot of reforms and change but focusing on wanting a secular state where religion is separated from the decision making and law issuing processes; Iraq and Iraqis are at a crossroads where all people and resources will be needed in rebuilding and reestablishing the country. 

The protests that start with asking for basic services have been massively growing, and including all kinds of people from human rights activists, to students, to journalists, and workers. Women and men from different backgrounds have been demanding immediate and drastic reforms.  

The LGBTIQ+ community just like the rest of the Iraqi population have been actively involved in the protests, and despite the fact that they have been an invisible part of the protesters; members of IraQueer and many many other LGBTIQ+ individuals have been going to every demonstration to show that they want to be actively involved in leading Iraq towards a brighter and a more inclusive future.

Despite what you think you know about the LGBTIQ+ community, we can’t deny the fact that the LGBTIQ+ community has the potential to be an active agent in determining the situation today. And they have been demanding for equal rights for all people regardless of their occupations, religious backgrounds, political affiliation, sexual orientation, and social status. 

Socially speaking, the LGBTIQ+ people just like the rest of the individuals in the society posses a diverse range of potentials and skills that can be invested and used to build a stronger social, economical, political, educational and medical systems in the country; and by forcing them into living a double life with the fear of being persecuted by family members, friends, the government agencies, and/or militias; we’re not only stopping them from living up to their full potential, but also directly affecting the country’s productivity and growth. 

It might be easier to ignore and violate other people’s rights when we don’t know them, but we need to face the fact that those individuals are not strangers to all, and they might be our siblings, parents, friends, colleagues, or simply acquaintances. 

The majority of people use their religious beliefs to justify their unaccepting behaviour and even in some cases their verbal and physical violence against the LGBTIQ+ individuals claiming that their God and religion view homosexuality as a sinful act that is punished by God. And that has been one of the biggest threats to the LGBTIQ+ community in Iraq as in a lot of cases, these reasons were used to cover the killing of that community. But acting upon the statements that are made by some religious leaders and believers that encourages the “purification” of the society from the LGBTIQ+ community goes directly against the very fundamental core foundation of most of the religions; and that is to encourage peace and non-violence. 

The freedom of believing in a religion is an important human right, but it can not be forced on people especially in such a diverse and culturally and religiously rich society as the one in Iraq. The right to believe in a religion needs to be practiced in each belieber's personal life, and should be protected and recognised just like the right of humans to love and be intimate with who they want. 

Legally, there’s no law in the Iraqi constitution that criminalises homosexuality, but that did not stop the violations and persecution of the LGBTIQ+ community by police forces, and militias. The Iraqi government has the obligation of protecting all of its citizens regardless of their background, and there needs to be clear legislations and laws that protect the citizens including the LGBTIQ+ individuals, in addition to activating the already existing laws like articles 14,  15, and 37 that clearly protect the rights and dignity of all individuals.  

The violations and the killings of the LGBTIQ+ people that are taking place publicly and clearly in Iraq whether in the cities that are controlled by ISIS or the other big cities like Baghdad that are supposed to be controlled by the government go directly against Iraq’s commitment towards the international human rights treaties like the

 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

  and other human rights treaties that have been ratified by the Iraqi governments. And the international community needs to hold Iraq accountable and take tangible actions to ensure the safety of the LGBTIQ+ community and other groups that might be persecuted. 

The latest historic briefing at the united nation that focused on the situation of LGBTIQ+ in Iraq and Syria represents a very positive, but also a very late step that needed to be taken years ago. And the international community needs to realise that the violations against the queer community in Iraq and Kurdistan region didn’t start with ISIS.

The LGBTIQ+ individuals are standing for the rights of all Iraqis regardless of who they are. The LGBTIQ+ people demand a better life, education, employment, freedom, services, equality, and most importantly the right to life for everyone no matter what background they have. The LGBTIQ+ community needs to enjoy the same rights as everyone else, and that needs to be recognised now.

Human rights and equality are only valid when everyone can enjoy them, not when they’re only applicable "sometimes", and for only a certain group of people.. That's when human rights turn into human privileges.