Shocking revelations and photographs have come to light on Twitter of an operation to ’round up’ young gay men in Sulaimania, Iraqi Kurdistan. It has shocked human rights activists and the progressive community on social media and the operation highlights how the rights of the LGBT+ community are under threat in the Kurdistan Regional Government controlled area. These concerns have also been raised in a US State Department report that was published as the incident in Sulaimani was taking place.
The Sulaimani police reportedly detained up to ten young gay men in a ‘joint operation’ with Sulaimani’s Asayish (security forces), publicly humiliating them by lining them up against walls with dog handlers present.
A police statement said the men were arrested for ‘creating chaos and performing immoral acts in public’, and that the ‘operation was ongoing’ and further arrests would continue. The young men were due to appear in court but it was not clear what charges were going to be brought against them, reported NRT on Friday.
LGBT+ rights groups in Iraq have slammed the actions as serious abuses of the men’s human rights. IraQueer, an LGBT+ rights group, called them “arbitrary actions” that represented a “direct violation of the human rights of people who are perceived to be LGBT+”.
“The arrests have no legal basis and claiming that LGBT+ people are a threat to the city’s security is misleading the public. This campaign will put LGBT+ residents of Sulaimani city and Iraq in an even more vulnerable position”, the group said.
Yeksani, a group working to “establish social freedom and rights of existence for the LGBT+ community in Iraqi Kurdistan”, appealed to the government to release the arrested men. “We are asking Kurdish authorities [under the Kurdistan Regional Government] to take immediate action against the unlawful arrests Asayish have made and to investigate the torture of LGBT+ youth by Asayish officers”, the group said on Twitter.
We are asking Kurdish authorities at @Kurdistan to take immediate action against the unlawful arrests Asaiysh have made and investigate the torture of LGBT+ youth by Asaiysh officers. These arrests have no basis and are direct violations of human rights.
— Yeksani (@yeksanii) April 2, 2021
Coincidentally, at approximately the same time that the ‘operations’ were underway against young gay men in Sulaimania, the US State Department had just published a report about human rights in Iraq (on 30th March 2021). It made particular reference to human rights abuses against the LGBT+ community in KRG.
The US report stated: “LGBTI individuals also faced intimidation, threats, violence, and discrimination in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR). LGBTI individuals reported they could not live openly in the IKR without fear of violence at the hands of family members, acquaintances, or strangers. Rasan Organisation for gender-based violence and LGBT awareness posted a video documentary in September 2019 about the impact of COVID-19 on LGBT individuals in the IKR. LGBTI individuals struggled to be accepted by their family members and the IKR community and disguised their identity from their families due to fear of violence, verbal abuse, and killing”.
Photo credit: Bzhar Dabagh