As the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has grown in size and power, harrowing accounts and evidence of the persecution of gay people have flooded the public sphere. Last month, openly gay Syrian refugee Subhi Nahas joined Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and an advocate for LGBT rights, to speak before the United Nations Security Council about the targeting of sexual minorities, which has reached unprecedented levels of brutality. Most recently, members of the self-professed caliphate executed nine men and a 15-year-old boy on charges of sodomy. People living under ISIS terrorism are in desperate need of support, but it's hardly an environment that allows for such mechanisms to develop, which makes the groundbreaking work being undertaken by IraQueer all the more incredible.
Founded by Amir Ashour, an Iraqi-Kurd living in Malmö, Sweden, IraQueer is likely the country's first organization dedicated solely to its beleaguered LGBT community. Aimed at improving the lives of queer Iraqis, it's an online forum for news and support, with the vast majority of volunteers and members residing in Iraq, with Ashour telling Haaretz:
“Our vision is to create a country where the LGBT community is recognized and enjoys its rights and responsibilities, a country where one’s sexual orientation and the person they fall in love with will not affect their lives.”
While the public nature of ISIS' persecution has attracted international attention over the past year, as in Syria, the situation was bad long before they took control. Things began to rapidly deteriorate for Iraq's LGBT community after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, according to Ashour. Islamist groups rose out of the political chaos and began targeting gay people, killing an estimated 200 LGBT people in 2012 alone. Today, these same groups have partnered with the Iraqi government in the fight against ISIS, giving them the freedom to continue persecuting sexual minorities.
Read the full article on Haaretz.