"Being gay is not acceptable
anywhere in the Arab world, not just Iraq. Arabs are still very conservative and
that'll take decades to change - if ever."|
"However," he continues, "there is little official reaction to homosexuality in
Iraq so far as I know and I was unaware of any law pertaining to anything gay.
If Saddam has indeed threatened death for homosexual behaviour, then I do not think
it will be enforced."
"To be honest, I haven't witnessed or even heard about much overt gay abuse in Iraq,"
explains Zoo of a complex, repressive social landscape where people turn blind eyes
or are more likely to use such homophobic edicts as a weapon against political
opponents, rather than to target queers.
So though it's hardly a homo haven and no one wants a death threat hanging over
them, Iraq probably isn't the all-out homo hell some might like to paint, and
is certainly no where near as fearful as many other Arab states like Saudi Arabia.
"In fact, there is even a place I know of in the heart of Baghdad," says Zoo,
though keen not to disclose too much and put others at risk. "You can't really
call it a cruising ground. It's just a very public area where you find all kinds of hotels and businesses. If you walk around and look, chances are someone will soon look back."
No need to drop a bomb on Saddam then?
"I don't like Saddam and neither do most Iraqis," claims Zoo, "but I think any
attack on any country is an outright disaster because the only victims of war are
the ordinary people. And this view has nothing to do with my sexuality. Nobody
can predict whether or how the regime will change but even if it does, Iraq won't
turn into a paradise overnight - not for anyone."
"Actually," agrees Sahib who runs global online community GayArab, "I would certainly
say Iraq is no worse than other Arab countries. Since the Gulf War, the Iraqi civilian
population is rarely allowed internet access but of the few gay Iraqis I've encountered,
none have mentioned anything about abuse."
"There are though surely no 'gay human rights' in the Arab World," he continues. "Gays
are treated from good to bad depending on the situation and what country they are in
at the time. Some Arab states are more lenient than others with less chance of social
abuse, or punishment by law, if found out."
So what is it to be Arab? And how grounded is Arab homophobia in fundamentalist Islam?