This week, human rights activist Scott Long published a powerful essay on his blog, a paper bird, exploring the Islamic State’s (ISIS) highly publicized use of violence, and focusing in particular on sexuality-based violence and the “‘gay’ killings” that have been widely reported in Western media. The piece offers a deep analysis oriented around two core questions: What do we recognize in the victims of this violence? And what do we understand about the perpetrators? In probing these questions, Long identifies a troubling tendency to talk about the violence of the Islamic State in a way that reflects Western understandings of identity rather than the reality experienced by people on the ground. “We perceive the perpetrators, like the victims, largely in relation to ourselves,” writes Long. “When our enemies murdered gays, it was clear-cut evil. When our friends stood accused, the case was merely confused. It’s a discourse about us; its ability to affect Iraq is therefore limited.”
For an insightful consideration of LGBT violence in Iraq, especially under ISIS, read the full essay here.