By Merrite Johnson
Daesh’s crimes against queer Iraqis (or people perceived of being queer, or not sufficiently adhering to traditional gender norms) have been well-documented, including harassment campaigns, arbitrary executions, and forced disappearances. These crimes were also a tactic for building popular support for Daesh’s rule.
Since the UN voted last year to create an international team to investigate crimes Daesh committed in Iraq, human rights advocates including the Global Justice Center have called repeatedly for the team to follow international laws and standards as they investigate all crimes, not just those of terrorism. Earlier this year, GJC published its analysis of Iraq’s national laws, which are woefully insufficient for achieving justice for victims of genocide, crimes against humanity, and gender-based violence. If Daesh crimes are going to be prosecuted in domestic Iraqi courts, there is a very real danger that these venues will shut out LGBTQ Iraqis from seeking justice.
But Daesh isn’t the only group responsible for violence against LGBTQ Iraqis. A report published earlier this year by IraQueer found that 96% of LGBTQ respondents in Iraq have faced some form of violence over the past three years, and there have been documented killing campaigns against queer people in Iraq every year since 2003—well before the arrival of Daesh. The Iraqi government has completely failed to protect its queer citizens from harassment and violence; even worse, state forces have been active participants in targeted anti-LGBTQ violence alongside conservative militias.
If the international community really is committed to justice, it must ensure not only that queer voices are included in Daesh prosecutions, but also that the Iraqi government is held to its obligations under human rights treaties like the Convention Against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Now is the time to take action to prove that justice for queer people is not optional.