Rainbow flag over baghdad: eu sets a sign against homophobia

The EU raises the rainbow flag in the Iraqi capital Baghdad and provokes a scandal. Iraq’s government is outraged.

Controversy over rainbow flag in the Iraqi capital (but here only a symbolic image) Photo: Ralph Peters/imago

"Great. Brave. Overdue," shout some; "Scandal!" scream others: On the International Day against Homo-, Bi-, Inter- and Transphobia, the European Union, this stronghold of enlightenment, raised the rainbow flag on Sunday – and not just at home in colorful Brussels, but in the middle of the capital of Iraq: at the EU representation in Baghdad.

Now one could smile at this as a small act of self-assertion of this tolerant Occident that has become an institution. But composure is lost on some powerful people in Baghdad when it comes to how others should live and love: The Shiite cleric Muktada al-Sadr spoke of an "aggression against the law and the religion of Iraq".

Sadr had already not distinguished himself as a homo-friend during the Corona crisis. Same-sex marriages were one of the reasons for the pandemic, the cleric recently tweeted in all seriousness (who otherwise reacted very responsibly to the corona virus, by the way, and early on called on people to pray at home).

The Iraqi government is also outraged. The rainbow flag offends the religious feelings of many citizens and contradicts the values and social norms of the predominantly Muslim country, the Foreign Ministry officially declared.

Hardened fronts

The religious feelings? This makes one wonder: doesn’t discrimination against LGBTQ+ also hurt one or two feelings of those who don’t conform to the prevailing sexual morality and social norm in Iraq? How do those who live underground because of their sexual orientation feel?

In the end, the fronts probably remain hardened. The rainbow flag in the sky over Baghdad has certainly not convinced anyone of anything. But the clash between the West and the Islamic world, which has almost been forgotten, was brought home once again by the action.

However, one question remains unanswered: What do our EU partner governments in Hungary or Poland, which are at least not completely averse to homophobia, have to say about this, since the EU representation in Iraq’s capital also speaks on their behalf?

Perhaps the borders are not quite as clear-cut between the Occident and the Orient as some people sometimes seem to think.

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