In the Iraqi TV show “From Reality” which aires on Hona Baghdad TV, the main topic of the latest episode that aired last week focused on homosexuality.. The TV program that is hosted by the presenter Ali Athab hosted three guests. In addition to one trans person, and a lesbian. 

 

Background Information

 

Both the transperson and the lesbian described their struggle growing up in conservative surroundings where they weren’t able to feel and be who they are, and despite the fact they both tried changing themselves, the didn’t succeed. The transperson said that she always felt different and that she always felt like a girl even though she was born in a male body. The lesbian on the other hand who was born in the 70s said that she’s been always attracted to girls, but she thinks this “act” is a sinful but it’s too late for her to change.

The three guests were, Amr Al-Bayati who is the director of the scientific of the religious Iraqi office. Dr. Haider Al-Dahwi who is a specialist in psychological sciences and the director of the cultural studies center is the second guest, and third guest is Dr. Ikhlas Al-Obaidi who’s a specialist in family medicine. 

The three guests had very similar opinions regarding homosexuality.

Al-Dahwi said that his definition of homosexuality is “based on” all the other existing definitions, and he defined it as “An abnormality in an individual’s behaviour, who tries to get sexual satisfaction in an illegal way” .. He also said it’s a result of a series of abuses and rapes that kids go through growing up in their families whether by parents, uncles or other members. Or it could because of certain sports like swimming.

Amr Al-Bayati represented religion on the show, and shared his knowledge of what religion thinks of homosexuality. He echoed that it’s an abnormality, and he said that from a religious point of view homosexuality is a sin that should be punished. He later emphasised on the point that religion would never accept the killing of LGBT+ individuals, and said that those who kill those individuals should be punished by the law. Al-Bayati didn’t have a clear opinion about why a person would grow up homosexual. 

Ikhlas Al-Obaidi also described homosexuality as an abnormality which could be because of genes, or hormone malfunctions especially during pregnancy which influences the unborn baby. She said that “These are purely medical problems” and they could be treated if there was a will.

Their “solution” for this “phenomenon” varied from simply giving advice, to spreading awareness through mosques, to being punished by the law. 

 

 

IraQueer’s Response

 

We at IraQueer believe in freedom of speech, and we are impressed by the fact that this show unlike other shows about homosexuality finally used the right Arabic words for homosexuals, and although all people involved in this discussion clearly condemned the killing of LGBT+ people which we fully support and stand behind, we have several points that raise a great deal of concern and worry in our opinion.

It’s outrageous that a TV channel presents a topic from a clearly homophobic point of view. Talking about these questions while providing inaccurate information is unacceptable and a clear indicator of how this show, and other similar ones want to actively shape and direct people’s thinking towards a certain direction which rejects diversity based on the fear of unknown, based on the shame that comes with talking about topics that are taboo, and most importantly, based on the lack of proper and accurate knowledge regarding sexuality in general, but specifically homosexuality and other sexual identities.

It is unacceptable for a show host to say that say random sentences and pretend that they are facts, like saying that Lebanon criminalises homosexuality when it is actually the exact opposite. It is unacceptable for show hosts to keep referring to “research studies” that “prove” homosexuality to be a mental illness that is resulted because of rape, without mentioning these researches or  making sure these studies are updated and include the accurate information. 

It is unprofessional and very bias to host three “professional” guests who clearly share similar opinions, and not hosting one person who could have impartial and different point of views. These go against the ethics of journalism and media.

It’s terrifying and unacceptable for individuals who are specialised in psychology who have taken an oath to practice their knowledge with integrity and impartiality to classify individuals as mentally ill purely based on personal opinions and outdated resources, and completely disregard the last few decades of research and break throws that clearly states that homosexuality is not a mental illness which is a fact supported by WHO, AMA , LPS, APA, and AAP. This directly violates all the ethics and the laws that regulates the practice of medicine, and there should be consequences to these unethical practices. Such individuals should not be allowed to practice medicine or psychiatry as they don’t only not help, but they directly damage the mental health of individuals, and shape public opinions which could also directly harm psychological health of individuals whom already live in fear and are already deprived of other accurate resources that could provide them with the proper knowledge. 

Bringing two members from the LGBT+ community in Iraq who have no clear or enough knowledge of their sexualities because general lack of sexual education among the all population in the country, and putting them on TV and get them attacked by four individuals who keep telling them that they are sinners, they are making mistakes, that they are mentally and physically abnormal, and that they should be treated. That doesn’t only represent verbal and psychological abuse, but also sends a message to every other LGBT+ individual in the society, and the general public that homosexuality is an abnormality, and provides the public with inaccurate information that has no social or scientific basis. These are clear violations of different human rights’ articles. 

The Iraqi/Kurdish society is a religious society that is build on certain traditions and values, and anyone who doesn’t accept these values should accept that others follow them, which should also apply on those who follow those traditions, as they need to respect and give space to those who have different points of views and identities to be who they are. 

Calling against killings campaigns of LGBT+ individuals is a very important step towards the right direction, but publicly spreading inaccurate information, and spreading shame and fear among the LGBT+ community is unacceptable. Not only media outlets need to take a better stand on that, but also the local governments and decision makers need to take a clear stand about these issues and hold those who violate human rights accountable. Whether it’s armed groups who kill others because of their differences, or psychologists and therapists who abuse their positions and lack knowledge, and malpractice, or media outlets and journalists who provide the public with false information. Iraq has committed to different human rights treaties that should ensure a much higher standards of human rights application inside the country.