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European embassies raise LGBTQ flag in Iraqi capital to mark International Day Against Homophobia

The Pride flag was raised in the capital Baghdad [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 May, 2020

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The representatives of Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union in Iraq marked the International Day Against Homophobia by raising the LGBTQ flag in Baghdad.
The colourful LGBTQ flag was raised in Baghdad on Sunday to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, prompting both praise and backlash online.

The move was spearheaded by the Canadian and British embassies in the Iraqi capital, along with the European Union Delegation.

“Together with @CanadainIraq and @UKinIraq, today in Baghdad we join EU Delegations worldwide in raising the rainbow flag to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia and highlight the rights of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender people”, the European Union Delegation to the Republic of Iraq said in a tweet on Sunday, which was also translated into Arabic.

The tweet showed the flag flutter alongside the the flags of the EU, Canada and Iraq in Baghdad, prompting a barrage of tweets both in support and opposition to the historic move.

“I hope that Iraq will someday be a tolerant place for all Orientations and genders , a very good step,” one Twitter user said.

“Wow, there are people speaking on behalf of the Iraqi people as if they were asked personally asked. Leave people alone and learn to accept those that are different from you,” another user said.

However, the raising of the LGBTQ flag triggered backlash on the social media platform, with many suggesting it contradicted the values of the local community.

“U must respect the values & traditions of this community. #Hint: when we reject these actions that's not mean we're inhumane,” one user said.

Read also: 'We are human and we have rights': LGBT activists speak out across the Middle East

“Raising the flag of homosexuals in Iraq and in the month of Ramadan in particular is a disregard for moral values ​​and a flagrant violation of the Iraqi constitution,” another said.

“This is very disrespectful to the culture of Iraqi people and you can’t encourage tolerance by being disrespectful,” one user added.

There is no direct legal provision in Iraq banning same-sex intimacy but the law criminalises extra-marital sexual relations and does not provide for same-sex marriage.

LGBT rights are non existent in the Iraq, where homosexuality, transgenderism, and cross dressing are highly taboo among Muslims and minority Christians alike.

In 2016, Human Rights Watch [HRW] welcomed a statement by influential Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr urging an end to violence against gay and gender non-conforming people.

Sadr said people should dissociate from homosexuals but "not attack them”.

"He should ensure that those in the ranks of the militia under his command, the Peace Brigades [Saraya al-Salam], obey the order and should hold accountable commanders who do not," it said.

"While Sadr is still a long way from fully embracing human rights for LGBT people, his statement shows that he understands the importance of stopping abuses against them," HRW deputy Middle East director Joe Stork said.

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