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Iraqi political leaders have called for the expulsion of foreign diplomats from countries whose embassies flew the rainbow LGBTQ Pride flag on Sunday to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, or Biphobia.
The European Union, the World Bank, and the Canadian and United Kingdom embassies raised the Pride flag on Sunday, sparking condemnations from political leaders who argued that the flag is counter to longstanding Iraqi cultural and religious values.
Although homosexuality is not criminalized in Iraq, the subject is considered highly taboo, prompting the Iraqi Foreign Ministry to issue a statement saying homosexuality is in opposition to “the noble morals of all divine religions” and said that all missions in the country needed to “adhere to the laws of the country, and to follow diplomatic norms.”
Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr — an influential figure in the majority Shia Muslim nation who is often considered the spiritual leader of the Saairun party, which constitutes the largest party in the Council of Representatives of Iraq — condemned homosexuality as a “mental illness” and called on Iraqi embassies in European countries to raise the flags of Muhammed and Jesus in response, reports the online news website Middle East Eye.
Sadr has previously blamed the homosexuality for the spread fo COVID-19, saying the virus is punishment from God for the legalization of same-sex marriage.
Parliamentary leaders took turns puffing their chests and posturing in response to the controversy. Hadi al-Ameri, the leader of the Badr Organization and the Fatah party, which is part of the governing coalition, called for the expulsion of diplomats from the country in response.
Ammar al-Hakim, a cleric and the leader of the Wisdom Party, another member of the country’s governing coalition, also decried the displaying the Pride flag. Deputy Speaker Bashir Haddad, of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the Religious Affairs Committee, and others issued similar condemnations, reports Kurdistan24.
The Islamic Dawa Party, one of the groups in the opposition bloc, issued a statement saying raising the Pride flag in the capital was especially offensive during Ramadan, when Iraqis are supposed to be “closer to God.”
The hashtag #No_To_LGBT_Flag_In_Iraq trended on Twitter, especially among supporters of Sadr, as did a graphic showing a rainbow flag being burned.
Amir Ashour, the executive director of the LGBTQ organization IraQueer, told the Rudaw news network that political leaders are wrong when they attempt to brand homosexuality as something “foreign” to Iraq.
“We believe that diversity exists everywhere. The recognition of the LGBT+ community in Iraq, an important and valuable part of the society, is not a western export,” he said.
Other liberals expressed their support for the flag-raising and said that political leaders were being hypocrites for getting angry at the Pride flag while saying nothing about the ongoing repression of anti-government protesters.
“They do not respect the traditions and customs of the state, because some of the clergy and the state are disrespectable, thieves and killers,” tweeted Ahmed Fawzi, an actor and researcher with the Albasheer Show, referring to extrajudicial kidnappings and killings of LGBTQ people that have been carried out in Iraq by various militias — including those affiliated with Sadr — over the past two decades.
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