News & Resources

Iraq’s Gay Community Under Siege

Gay and “emo” youths in Iraq are in serious danger: between 14 and 40 youths have been murdered in recent weeks – many bludgeoned with cement blocks in an allusion to the traditional stonings meted out to the “impure.” A Human Rights Campaign blog post by Kate Norland, director of the IRAP chapter at the University of Pennsylvania Law school, describes the recent killings and IRAP’s efforts to help LGBT refugees, and all refugees in danger, reach safety.

Emo stands for “emotional hardcore,” and these youths are easily identified by “their tight black clothes, skull printed t-shirts, piercings, and daring hairstyles that signify an ironic punk or hipster aesthetic in the United States.” The emo and the LGBT communities – which are frequently conflated into one – have been facing intensifying persecution and threats from the Iraqi government and militias.

The Iraqi Ministry of the Interior issued a statement on February 13 describing “emo” youths as devil worshippers and granted the Ministry’s Social Police authority to “eliminate” them. While the government recanted this position a month later, this message understandably prompted many youths to shave their identifiable hairstyles and hide at home.

Meanwhile, a Shiite militia in Baghdad targeting the LGBT community distributed a hit list with 33 names and home addresses with the message: “if you do not stop this dirty act within four days, then the punishment of God will fall on you at the hands of Mujahideen.” Other fliers refers to gay men with nicknames such as “Mohammed the Flower” and state: “Reform your behavior, stop being gay, or face deadly consequences,” and “Your fate will be death if you don’t quit doing this. Punishment will be tougher and tougher, you gays.”

These stories highlight the critical importance of resettling Iraqis persecuted because of their sexual orientation – both in Iraq and in neighboring countries. The blog post features a video of Ahmed, a gay Iraqi man resettled in the United States with IRAP’s assistance. Ahmed was a medical student in Iraq when he was forced to flee because his uncles found out he was gay, and wanted to kill him to restore the family honor. In the country he fled to, he was arrested by religious police, and raped in prison by a guard.

IRAP is committed to helping other Iraqis, like Ahmed, find safety in the United States.

See the full post here.