Article Title:Nocturne for Iraq
Author or Credit:Craig Young
Published on:18th March 2008 - 10:32 am
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Story ID:5713
Text:As the US Iraqi War quagmire continues, the misery of LGBT Iraqis is also compounded. So, what is the historical context here? Ironically enough, Iraq was the only Muslim majority Middle Eastern state to decriminalise homosexuality, in 1974, but that was under the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, which lasted thirty five years. His Baathist secular nationalist regime tolerated no political pluralism, and he mercilessly crushed any individual or movement that was seen to challenge his authority. Things began to unravel when Iraq became entangled with neighbouring Iran, in a bloody conflict over ownership of the Shatt al Arab waterway, which acts as border territory between the two nations. Ominously, Saddam's regime used chemical weapons on two fronts, against the Kurdish communities of Salmanniya and Halabbja in the North, killing thirty thousand civilians; and against Iranian soldiers across the contested battlefield. In 1990, Saddam's egotism and megalomania almost became his undoing, as he presided over the invasion and occupation of Kuwait. Due to US intervention, the invasion was repelled, but Saddam's regime was left in place, albeit weakened. However, it still maintained enough authority to put down rebellions from Southern Shia Iraqis and sporadic CIA-led assassination attempts and coups throughout the nineties. In 2003, the United States intervened again, and Saddam was finally overthrown, ultimately to be executed. Unfortunately, Iraq's troubles didn't end there. Precisely because Saddam and his Baathist dictatorship had tried to suppress potential challengers, there was no civil society which could provide the basis for democratic transition. In Southern and Central Iraq, Moqtadr al Sadr's Shia networks builton the prestige of his martyred father, who had resisted Saddam, andprovided an opportunity for restoration of law and order, and partial restoration of destroyed infrastructure. Ironically, in Sunni Central Iraq, the displaced Baathists were replaced by al Qaeda-allied militia. Unfortunately, both Sunni and Shia Islamist movements are not renowned for their openness to sexual minorities, so apart from the dangers of suicide bombing and sectarian violence, lesbian and gay Iraqis face the possibility of 'disappearance' if they are caught cruising, to resurface mutilated or decapitated several days or weeks later, usually at the hands of the rival religious factional paramilitaries. It's a bleak vista, with no ready resolution in sight. Recommended: Tim Cribb: "Out in Iraq" DNA 51 (April 2004): 66-68. Craig Young - 18th March 2008    
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