This week’s verdict against Rasan represents an alarming escalation in the assault on the LGBTQ+ community in Kurdistan. The NGO Directorate’s report, alleging Rasan’s promotion of homosexuality, prompted the court to dissolve the organization, exposing the systemic nature of the attack on the LGBTQ+ community. This marks a significant rollback in LGBTQ+ rights in Kurdistan and a worrisome trend of increasing encroachments on personal liberties and targeting of LGBTQ+ individuals and organizations, impeding progress towards equality and inclusion.
Individual freedoms and activism in Kurdistan have regrettably been increasingly stifled in recent years. In Spring 2021, the Security Police (Asayish) of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) arrested and prosecuted dozens of gay men in Sulaymaniyah. Initially, they rationalized the arrests by claiming homosexuality was punishable under Iraqi law. They later shifted their stance, stating that the arrested individuals were involved in prostitution, and finally resorted to the nebulous phrase “acts contrary to public morality”.
The Sulaymaniyah court’s dissolution of Rasan, an LGBTQ+ organization, is a poorly justified decision that conspicuously mirrors the judiciary’s bias against the LGBTQ+ community. This judgment relies on non-existent legal provisions in Iraqi law. For instance, the claim that “any propaganda for homosexuality is punishable under Iraqi law” and “is against the Iraqi constitution” is inaccurate. Moreover, the authorities argue that Rasan’s activities defy public morality, a term conveniently invoked to legitimize their infringements on the rights and freedoms of the LGBTQ+ community.
Islamist and conservative factions appeal to the notion of “family ties”, asserting that homosexuality endangers the family institution. Even members of secular political parties in the National Assembly leverage the populist catchphrase “protecting the family from dissolution” to thwart LGBT activism in society.
These tactics employed by authorities, Islamists, and conservative politicians not only perpetuate discrimination and marginalization, but they also undermine the bedrock principles of equality and human rights. They overlook that LGBTQ+ individuals, like all members of society, are entitled to the same rights, dignity, and freedom. It’s crucial to challenge the unwarranted targeting and persecution of organizations like Rasan.
Upholding justice, inclusion, and respect for human rights necessitates the recognition and protection of individuals’ rights. Suppressing LGBTQ+ activism under the pretense of public morality or family preservation is a backward step, stalling progress towards building a society that values diversity and ensures equal opportunities for all.