Iraq: harsh backlash hits sexual, cultural dissidents

Iraq's parliament has passed a law criminalizing same-sex relations, with a punishment of 10 to 15 years in prison. An earlier draft of the law had proposed the death penalty as punishment. The new law also includes prison terms for people who "promote homosexuality" or prostitution, and for those who "intentionally" act "effeminate." (TNH)

Just as the law was being approved April 26, Iraqi TikTok star Om Fahad was shot dead outside her home in Baghdad. Om Fahad, whose real name was Ghufran Sawadi, won nearly half a million followers for sharing videos of herself dancing to pop music. In February 2023, she had been sentenced to six months in prison after a court found that her videos contained "indecent speech that undermines modesty and public morality." (Al Jazeera, NDTV)

There have been other such assassinations of social-media influencers in Baghdad in recent years. Noor Alsaffar AKA "Noor BM," a young TikToker with hundreds of thousands of followers, was shot dead in September 2023. Tara Fares, a fashion model and Instagram star, was gunned down in September 2018. (Al Jazeera, BBC News, CNN)