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LGBT community struggles for recognition, rights in Iraqi Kurdistan

Due to the strong conservative culture in Iraqi Kurdistan, the LGBT community faces a difficult situation, but there are some signs of growing acceptance.
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ERBIL, Iraq — "My mother left the can of petrol in the room and gave me a lighter. As she stepped out, she said with a stern face, ‘I want to see flames coming from your body when you come out of this room.'" For 13-year-old Hawre, this was heartbreaking, as his only “crime” was being gay.

Hawre's face drops as he recalls the incident from 2002 in a quiet corner of a cafe in Sulaimaniyah. Things are not as bad as they used to be for Hawre, despite occasional degradation and humiliation that he and other gay individuals face from family members and strangers. Most of his friends have accepted him, his family has finally come around and made peace with his sexual orientation, and jobwise he is doing well in the media industry in this corner of the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq. Hawre said he knows about 30 other people who are gay and their suffering continues, often in silence.

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