Omar is a 28-year-old gay Iraqi who now lives in Lebanon. “My boyfriend was killed in February 2017,” he said. “We had been together for two years, and he was my only support system. Shortly after that, I had to escape to save my life.”
Omar and his dead partner are far from alone. Ninety-six percent of LGBT+Iraqis have faced some form of verbal or physical violence, the first ever study of LGBT life and experience in Iraq has found.
In 2017, more than 220 LGBT+ people were killed in the country, the survey estimates. Since 2003, the study says there have been annual “killing campaigns” in Iraq aimed at LGBT+ people.
Omar’s experience is one of 257 LGBT+ Iraqi testimonies that form the basis of Fighting for the Right to Life: The State of LGBT+ Human Rights in Iraq.
The report was compiled by advocacy group IraQueer and a partner group that wishes to remain anonymous for safety reasons. The year-long research project also spoke to 11 government officials or employees, 16 religious leaders, and 201 members of Iraqi society, and sought to glean information about Iraqi LGBT+ experiences between
2015 and 2018.
IraQueer is the first and only LGBT+ organization focusing on Iraq and the Kurdish region. It was founded in 2015.
Amir Ashour, founder and executive director of IraQueer, told The Daily Beast: “This survey is the first of its kind in Iraq. Statistics about the LGBT+ community in Iraq have never been shared as far as we know. This number might sound small when compared to other studies in countries like the U.K. But for a country like Iraq, where any kind of public participation can lead to facing violence and potentially death, this number is positively surprising.”