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LGBTQ people try to keep their sexual lives hidden to escape death

8/16/2019 1:17:10 PM

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Zubaida Nihad Shlier
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SULAIMANI — Lana Omed, a 21-year-old lesbian from Suliamani, faced violence from her parents when she decided to stay with her girlfriend instead of marrying a man of their choosing.

“My parents beat me when I refused to get married to the man they wanted,” Omed said.

LGBTQ people in the Kurdistan Region have little protection from family, tribal authorities, or community members. Once their sexual orientation is known, family, neighbors, and the authorities are often complicit in abuse against LGBTQ individuals according to Outright International, an NGO that campaigns for the rights of that community.

“When they learned about my relationship, they started to treat me like a slave by not letting me go out and keeping me in the house and not letting me to go to university,” said Omed, who no longer lives with her parents.

“When they found out about my relationship, they beat me so hard that I was so close to dying and my entire body was in pain.”

Outright International has also warned about instances of violence against people who appear not to conform to traditional gender norms and cultural morals.

“My relationships did not continue because of cultural norms. This is because people think that ‘same-sex marriage’ is an immoral attitude,” said Mawlud Alrawi* who is 24-year-old transgender man from Sulaimani.

Mainstream Islamic religious teaching views homosexuality as immoral and, according to some interpretations of Islamic law, it can be punishable by harsh penalties, including flogging and hanging. However, some have offered for more liberal interpretations.

Religious scholar Saman Muhammad, who works at the Abu Baker mosque in Sulaimani, said that, “it’s legal according to the Islamic law in case the person feels like a boy and wants to marry a girl while the person is physically a girl.”

“This means that the Islamic law deals with what you feel inside, not with the physical appearance,” he added.

There are no statutes in the Iraqi Penal Code that say one way or the other whether same-sex relationships or marriage is legal or not among consenting adults. However, since Iraq is an Islamic country and Islamic law generally views same-sex marriage as illegal, the authorities tend to defer to that thinking when dealing with cases involving same-sex relationships.

However, a number of statutes in the Iraqi Penal Code are used to prosecute members of the LGBTQ community, including ones that cite “immodest acts.” However, the greatest danger comes from vigilante violence and the fact that there are few legal protections from discrimination in Iraq for LGBTQ individuals.

Bakhan Hama who is a coordinator in Rasan Organization, which is an organization that campaigns for gender equality in Iraq, said “the lawyers in our organization informed us in the beginning that according to the Iraqi panel code that same sex marriage is not illegal.”

“However, religious thought controls the way the people and the government think since Iraq is an Islamic country,” she said, adding that having family and a relationship is very important for LGBTQ community, just like for those who identify as straight.

“I wish one day my country and my family will give me the freedom to make my own decisions,” said Omed.

(NRT Digital Media)

 

*Editorial note: this person’s name has been changed for their protection

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and or those quoted and do not necessarily reflect those of NRT.