Iraq’s repressive government has instructed all media platforms to stop using the words ‘homosexual’, ‘homosexuality’ and ‘gender’.
The ban was announced by the Iraqi Communications and Media Commission on the basis that these terms are dangerous to societal values and public order.
The media was further ordered to instead use the term “sexual deviance” as a replacement for ‘homosexuality’.
The ban, announced by the Iraqi Communications and Media Commission, cites concerns about safeguarding societal values and public order. Those platforms that violate the directive will be fined.
Suppressing Freedom of Expression
Aya Majzoub, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, strongly condemned this directive, characterising it as an assault on freedom of expression under the guise of upholding “public morals.”
“Banning the word ‘homosexuality’ and insisting that media, including social media, use ‘sexual deviance’ instead is a dangerous move that can fuel discrimination and violent attacks against members of the LGBTI community,” said Majzoub.
Impact on Gender-Based Violence and Discrimination
Majzoub also highlighted the concerning implications of this ban, emphasizing that it showcases a troubling disregard for combating gender-based violence.
At a time when there is an increasing number of crimes against women and girls in Iraq, the ban and the demonisation of the term “gender” raise significant concerns about the government’s commitment to addressing such issues.
Urgent Call for Reversal and Human Rights Protection
Amnesty International has called for an immediate reversal of the decision, asserting the necessity of upholding freedom of expression and non-discrimination for all individuals, irrespective of their gender or sexual orientation.
The ban on LGBTQ+ terminology not only stifles expression but also risks perpetuating discrimination and violence against marginalized communities, said the organisation.
Challenges Faced by LGBTQ+ Individuals in Iraq
LGBTQ+ individuals in Iraq face harassment and prosecution under morality laws. The country has a grim history marked by executions, mob violence, and “honour killings” targeting queer individuals.
Amnesty International has voiced concern over the increasing criticism of LGBTQ+ rights by political parties in Iraq, with recent incidents of burning rainbow flags and baseless claims blaming homosexuality for the spread of disease.
Crackdown on Online Content and Threats to Human Rights
Recent months have seen an intensified campaign by the Ministry of Interior to curb “indecent content” online, resulting in the prosecution of numerous individuals.
Amnesty International has also expressed alarm over the reintroduction of two draft laws in Iraq’s Parliament, warning that if passed, these laws could further curtail freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.