All Americans are relieved that the U.S., led by Commander in Chief President Barack Obama has concluded the unwanted Bush War in Iraq. But for Gay (LGBTI) Iraqis there is no relief, just a desperate reality as they seek refuge from their hopeless displacement.”
By Melanie Nathan, Dec 15, 2011.
With the lowering and return of the American flag, finally off Iraqi soil and the ecstatic familial greetings of soldiers returned, the Bush Iraq War is one that will always be regretted, regardless of how history chooses to paint it. Iraqi gays have suffered with all Iraqis, yet not only as a result of the regime now gone, nor only collaterally to American bombing with all the brutal nuances of that particular war, but with additional adversity imposed through being ‘outed’ by militias including direct brutality by religious fanaticism and the sectarianism that has taken hold of post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.
While none will debate the imperative demise of Saddam Hussein, many Iraqi gays (which I use fully inclusive to mean LGBTI) may well have preferred that brutal reign to what they have been faced with since.
Trillions of dollars, blood, guts, limbs and lives all attest to the mayhem and provides the context for the added persecution.
With the war, the quiet non-disclosure and occasional homophobic targeting gave way to a voracious endeavor by militias with a lawlessness created by war, who unleashed their violence against gays in unprecedented fashion.
Gay Iraqis had to run and they are still running.
Dan Littauer, Executive Editor of Gay Middle East, told me: “While under the dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein’s secular Ba’ath party LGBTI people lived under an unwritten rule akin to a “don’t ask don’t tell policy,” but in post Saddam Iraq this has become nearly impossible.”
LGBTI Iraqis fled in multitudes to Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and other countries, now only to be caught up in local revolutions that have caused them further risk and at times violence.
Now with the Americans gone, nothing has changed for LGBTI Iraqis and the peril persists as it has done for the past nine years with no promise of a solution other than memos and speeches.
Just last week President Obama issued a groundbreaking memo elucidating progressive LGBTI foreign policy, where asylum seekers would find a friend in America. Yet there has been no information indicating the specific plans to help the gay people who have been so severely impacted by the U.S. war on Iraq.
It would do little good to leave the solution in the hands of NGO’s that are barely able to function in such dire of conditions.
It has been estimated that over 750 LGBT people have been killed since the U.S. led invasion to Iraq with thousands more suffering violence, discrimination and abuse on a daily basis.
It is virtually impossible for displaced gay people to return home because once outed they face so called “honor” killings by families and communities who unless are seen to “solve” the problem of a so called “deviant” family member, face shame, diminished social standing and job prospects. These policies could be enforced even upon relatively open-minded families by the watchdog militias which are apt to take the “law” into their own hands.
“The United States and its allies surely must take some responsibility for this situation and ought to help rectify it; it is only logical following the ideas expressed by Secretary Clinton herself in Geneva last week,” asks Littauer.
The LGBTI displaced Iraqis are ongoing victims of this regrettable war; we must ensure they are not lost and forgotten.
Below is a moving video which touches on the issues and showcases the work of Gay Middle East, under its Executive Director, Littauer, who with a team of dedicated grassroots writers from throughout the Middle East have been working on an ongoing basis to document the plight of Iraqi LGBT refugees.
Iraq’s unwanted people from Gay Middle East on Vimeo.