Homophobic Iraqi cleric calls on British and US ambassadors to be expelled for supporting LGBT+ rights


A UK embassy tweet in support of LGBT+ rights in Iraq has sparked furious calls for British and US ambassadors to be expelled from the country.

On March 3, the British embassy in Iraq tweeted in praise of IraQueer, an advocacy organisation that is “leading Iraq’s first LGBT+ movement”.

“We recognise the significant work IraQueer has done to advance the rights of homosexuals,” the tweet read. “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.”

Homosexuality is not illegal in Iraq but discrimination is widespread and LGBT+ people and are frequently victims of vigilante justice and honour killings.

The tweet was promptly deleted but it sparked controversy among Iraqi conservatives, in part because it came amid a campaign to discredit anti-government protesters, according to The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

It caught the attention of the radical Shi’ite cleric Jawad Al-Khalisi, who launched a furious homophobic tirade against the embassy on March 8, five days after the controversial tweet was posted.

He urged clerics and intellectuals to condemn “the behaviour of the sinful British and American embassies for their call of deviation”, and called for the immediate expulsion of the British and US ambassadors from Iraq, describing them as “aggressors”, and claiming that their embassies promote “obscenity and homosexuality”.

Al-Khalisi denied that the Iraqi government recognised the rights of homosexuals, saying that the both embassies have “violated Iraq’s sovereignty” when they tried to attribute this “offence” to the Iraqi government.

The tweet by the UK embassy in Iraq was seen by MEMRI before it was deleted

MEMRI noted that the Iraqi government issued no denial or confirmation on whether it has recognised the rights of the LGBT+ community.

However, several Iraqi Twitter users have shared a report that Iraq submitted to the UN which 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”.

The report further states that Iraqi domestic law actually protects “the rights and freedoms of all persons, including the right to life and to physical integrity”.

Stephen Hickey, the British ambassador to Iraq, did not respond to any of the criticism on Twitter and has made no indication that he plans to leave the country amid the rising tensions.