- April 22, 2016
In October, HRC in partnership with the LGBT Freedom and Asylum Network (LGBT-FAN) and the National LGBTQ Task Force, launched a new guide titled Stronger Together: A Guide to Supporting LGBT Asylum Seekers to build the capacity of organizations working with LGBT asylum seekers. Recently, HRC met with M (who wished to remain anonymous), an asylum seeker from Iraq, to speak about his experiences and the importance of sharing our stories.
Post submitted by M, a gay asylum seeker in the U.S. from Iraq.
As a young man growing up in Iraq, I always knew I was gay. However, it was not something anyone spoke about.
It took me until my junior year in college to fully understand what being gay meant and to accept whom I am and I was very lucky in that aspect. I never took part in the LGBTQ+ community in Iraq because of the risks.My social background, and my profession, made it difficult to even come close to coming out. LGBTQ people in Iraq are harassed, extorted, discriminated against and harmed.
I was told repeatedly that being LGBTQ+ is a “sin” and that it is “wrong” in Iraq. To this day I have not come out to my family. They know I am seeking asylum in the U.S., but I cannot tell them why. When I was in Iraq this was to protect my safety, but now it is to protect them.
There are many documented stories about campaigns levied on the grounds of restoring so-called morality. These campaigns embolden people to harass and attack LGBTQ people and to continue to subjugate them. Some LGBTQ people, like me, continually question their sexuality and do not come out. All of this adds to misunderstanding of LGBTQ people both in and out of the community.
I decided ultimately to leave Iraq, leaving behind a successful and promising career in the finance business where I worked for foreign investment companies. The violence against LGBTQ+ people and the advance of the Islamic State meant that it was not a question of if but of when. Coming from a wealthy and politically active family put my life in greater danger because having a gay son would not have went easily with the extended family circle who are obsessed with their public image.
In the U.S., I am fortunate to have more opportunities and chances to make a difference. I continue to be involved in the financial and political community in Iraq through meetings and conferences held in the Washington, D.C. area. I am also a member of IraQueer, a registered non-profit organization working to raise awareness for and about the LGBTQ community in Iraq and the Kurdistan region. We empower the community through providing information, spreading awareness, offering support and training and sharing painful and heartbreaking personal stories.
Despite the hardship of leaving my family, I know that it is something that I had to do. While I am thousands of miles away, I will not forget about my fellow LGBTQ Iraqis who have to suffer through abuse and mistreatment by their families, the government and the militias. I know what it's like to live in constant fear of losing your life and I do not want younger generations to go through the same suffering. Through IraQueer, we hope to show people in Iraq that they are not alone.