NYT: Gays Hiding Like Terrorists in the New Iraq

An article in the NYT describes Iraq in the mid-80’s to early 90’s as a relative gay “paradise” compared to what it has become.

BaghdadThen: “Abu Nawas Boulevard, which hugs the Tigris River opposite what is now the Green Zone, became a known promenade for cruising. Discos opened in the city’s best hotels, the Ishtar Sheraton, the Palestine and Saddam Hussein’s prized Al-Rasheed Hotel, becoming magnets for gay men. Young men with rouged cheeks and glossed lips paraded the streets of Mansour, an affluent neighborhood in Baghdad. ‘There were so many guys, from Kuwait, from Saudi Arabia, guys in the street with makeup,’ said [Activist Ali] Hili, who left Iraq in 2000. ‘Up until 1991, there was sexual freedom. It was a revolutionary time.'”

Now it is a place where long-haired men chop off their hair for fear that religious extremists will force them to cut it and eat it, and a place where, although a fatwa against them has been lifted and extreme violence has ebbed, they still live in fear:

“They described an underground existence, eked out behind drawn curtains in a dingy safe house in southwestern Baghdad. Five people share the apartment — four gay men and one woman, who says she is bisexual. They have moved six times in the last three years, just ahead, they say, of neighborhood raids by Shiite and Sunni death squads. Even seemingly benign neighborhood gossip can scare them enough to move. ‘We seem suspicious because we look like a cell of terrorists,’ said Mohammed, nervously fingering the lapel of his shirt. ‘But we can’t tell people what we really are. A cell, yes, but of gays.'”

Gay Retreat to Shadows in New Iraq [nyt]

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