In a March 3, 2020 tweet, the U.K. Embassy in Iraq welcomed the Iraqi government's decision to acknowledge the rights of the LGBT community and commended the role of a local human rights organization that contributed to the development. "We recognize the significant work IraQueer has done to advance the rights of homosexuals. We welcome the recent recognition by the Iraqi government of the right of individuals to live, regardless of their sexual orientation. Live and let others live," said the tweet.
The U.K. Embassy tweet.
The tweet sparked controversy among Iraqi conservatives, who often view gays as sexual deviants and call for their persecution. The tweet, which was later deleted from the embassy's Twitter account, came amid a campaign by pro-Iran clerics and militias to discredit the anti-government protesters who took the streets of Baghdad and cities throughout the Shi'ite-majority south of Iraq since October 2019, calling for a new political system.
As part of this campaign, adversaries have accused young protesters of sedition and even tried to link them to the U.S. and Britain to delegitimize them. Clerics such as Muqtada Al-Sadr often slam the protests as being rife with "nudity, promiscuity, drunkenness, immorality, debauchery... and non-believers." Hence, Iran-backed clerics and militias used the U.K. Embassy tweet as an opportunity to claim that the U.K., the U.S., and the protesters were seeking "to demoralize" the Islamic nature of Iraqi society.
A day after the tweet, pro-Iran social media users shared a video claiming that IraQueer, the organization that the U.K. Embassy tweet commended, is a "secretive" organization that receives funding from the U.K. for the purpose of "demoralizing Iraqi society and corrupting its conservative Islamic values." According to its official website, IraQueer is "Iraq's first national LGBT organization," was founded in March 2015, and is connected "with Iraqi and international partners." Local reports indicated that the organization is based in the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq.
Screenshots of the video that claims IraQeer is receiving funding from the U.K. to "demoralize" Iraqis.
Commenting on the U.K. Embassy tweet, Shi'ite controversial cleric Jawad Al-Khalisi, who believes in Iran's velayat-e faqih ("Guardianship of the Jurists"), called on March 8 for the expulsion of the British and U.S. ambassadors from Iraq, describing them as "aggressors," and claiming their embassies promote "obscenity and homosexuality."
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In his tweet, Al-Khalisi called on clerics and intellectuals to condemn "the behavior of the sinful British and American embassies for their call of deviation." He further denied that the Iraqi government recognized the rights of homosexuals, saying that the both embassies have "violated Iraq's sovereignty" when they tried to attribute this "offense" to the Iraqi government.
Cleric Jawad Al-Khalisi's tweet.
The Iraqi government issued no denial or confirmation on whether it has recognized the rights of the LGBT community, however social media users in Iraq exchanged excerpts from the sixth periodic report that Iraq submitted to the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on August 5, 2019.
Under Article 3 Paragraph 12 of the covenant, the report indicated that "Iraqi law has no provisions that discriminate against persons of any specific category on the basis of sexual orientation or gender, and it does not sanction or approve the use of violence of any kind against them. Indeed, domestic law protects the rights and freedoms of all persons, including the right to life and to physical integrity."
The report further highlights that Iraqi authorities are committed to holding accountable those who use violence against LGBT community. "To guard against impunity, the Iraqi courts investigate all violations committed against any category of persons. It should be noted, moreover, that private prosecutions in cases of murder are unacceptable and that persons who commit such offences are liable to punishment under the law."
Iraq report submitted to UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
In July 2017, local reports said that the pro-Iran Asa'ib Ahl Al-Haq militia, which is part of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), was behind the torture and murder of Karar Noshi, an Iraqi actor and model who was often mocked on social media for his androgynous looks and who some suspected was gay.
Iraqi actor and model Karar Noshi.