Iraq prisoner amnesty does not extend to gays

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

A draft bill before the Iraqi parliament would grant an amnesty for as many as 5,000 prisoners, yet excludes those convicted of homosexual “crimes.”

Ali al-Dabbagh, a spokesman for the country’s government, said the bill had been sent to the parliament’s Speaker yesterday.

Iraqis being held by the Americans are also excluded, alongside those charged with terrorist offences, rape and adultery.

While homosexuality is in itself not illegal in Iraq, several laws are used to persecute gay people.

Laws against loitering, indecent exposure, spreading “dangerous diseases,” committing and indecent act in public and making “indecent” advances are all used.

However, of much more pressing threat to gay Iraqis is the actions of militia groups.

The Mahdi Army, one of the many armed groups, is loyal to firebrand fundamentalist Shia cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr.

It has been involved in the torture and execution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Iraqis and many other Iraqis, especially women, who do not conform to its harsh interpretation of Islam.

The Badr militias have also kidnapped and executed people for being gay or trans.

The United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) reported last year that armed militias have been targeting gay people:

“Armed Islamic groups and militias have been known to be particularly hostile towards homosexuals, frequently and openly engaging in violent campaigns against them,” UNAMI reported.

“There have been a number of assassinations of homosexuals in Iraq.”

The targeting of gay people is just another example of the chaos of daily life in the country.

In the absence of a strong police or army force, the militias rule the streets.

There are summary execution people for “crimes” of homosexuality as well as listening to Western pop music, wearing shorts or jeans, and in the case of women, not being veiled or walking in the street unaccompanied by a male relative.