Iraqi leaders Sadr and Amiri bash gay pride flag-raising ceremony

The rainbow flag was raised as part of the International Day Against Homophobia – and immediately resulted in a homophobic backlash in Iraq.

The rainbow flag, commonly known as the gay pride flag or LGBT pride flag, is seen during the first Gay Pride parade in Skopje, North Macedonia June 29, 2019 (photo credit: REUTERS/OGNEN TEOFILOVSKI)
The rainbow flag, commonly known as the gay pride flag or LGBT pride flag, is seen during the first Gay Pride parade in Skopje, North Macedonia June 29, 2019
(photo credit: REUTERS/OGNEN TEOFILOVSKI)
The leaders of Iraq’s two largest political parties, Muqtada al-Sadr and Hadi al-Amiri, slammed the decision by several European diplomats to raise the gay pride flag in Baghdad. The rainbow flag was raised as part of the International Day Against Homophobia, and immediately resulted in a homophobic backlash in Iraq. European countries, the EU and the US have committed to fighting homophobia – and flag raisings have become part of that struggle.
Sadr, who has blamed COVID-19 on same-sex marriage, slammed the flag raising in Baghdad. He called the LGBT community “psychos who are mentally sick” and encouraged “Islamic” flags to be raised at the embassies of the UK, Canada and EU.
Amiri, head of the Fatah Alliance, called for the expulsion of European ambassadors who took part in the flag raising. “What the European Union mission and British and Canadian embassies did in Baghdad with the gay flag is an outrageous and improper act that violates the customs, traditions and ethics of Iraqi society,” he said. Amiri is a leader of the Badr Organization, who once served alongside Iran’s IRGC during the Iraq-Iran war.
Amiri said that in Iraq today it was important to condemn transgressions of Islamic rulings, and he demanded that the government, with its new prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, take immediate action to expel the “morally depraved ambassadors.” He said that these ambassadors do not have the honor of their countries, they had violated the “holy month of Ramadan” and that they disregard the feelings of Muslims, Al-Alam media reported.
Usually these Iraqi political leaders, who double as demagogues and heads of armed militias, slam the US, but the pride flag has raised their ire to a new level.

THE IRAQI committee on foreign relations rushed to bash the gay flag raising as well. In a May 17 statement, the committee condemned the raising of the “flag of homosexuality in the embassy of the EU mission” and said that it was a violation of the values, norms and religious beliefs of the people. It called on the Iraqi Foreign Ministry to prevent these kinds of violations occurring in the future.
Another Iraqi politician said that the flag violated the nature of diplomatic missions that are supposed to respect the beliefs of the host country. They are supposed to observe values, traditions and etiquette of the country they are in. The Europeans were being “insolent and provocative” during the “blessed month of Ramadan.”
Iraqi members of parliament said homosexuality “contradicts the conscience of humanity,” is a form of the “erosion of civilization" and is “incompatible with the laws of the universe and common sense.”
Sabah al-Saadi, an MP who has previously slammed US President Donald Trump for visiting Iraq, called for harsh measures against the European Union. “Kadhimi must take the strongest measures against the EU and UK and Canada."
Many other Iraqi members of parliament rushed to condemn the EU for violating the moral values of Iraq. Many of these same MPs have not been outspoken about the murder of 500 protesters in Iraq over the last five months or the neglect of infrastructure and polluted water that has led to sickness among children in Basra schools.
Iraqis are often not united on many issues, but many of the political blocks in parliament slammed the raising of the flag. It appears that those parties closer to Iran bashed the flag raising the most, perhaps using it as an excuse to try to erode the role of Western countries in Iraq.
Not all Iraqis were opposed, however, with several tweeting support for the flag. But others felt that it was important to embrace diversity of belief and said that therefore the flag should not be raised out of respect for Iraqis and their dislike of the flag. By this logic, diversity means embracing intolerance, because intolerance is also a value. None of the embassies involved tweeted messages against homophobia from Baghdad.
Kadhimi has recently met with an EU delegation – now he must weigh what to do next.