Types of criminalisation

  • Criminalises sex between men
  • Criminalises sex between women
  • Death penalty
Sharia Law

The Iraqi Penal Code does not expressly prohibit consensual same-sex sexual relations. However, there have been numerous reports in recent years of non-state actors ordering the executions of men and women for same-sex intimacy.



The US Department of State Human Rights Report on Iraq states that the authorities relied on public indecency or prostitution charges to prosecute same-sex sexual activity. ISIS and other Militant groups executed persons who were accused of homosexual activity.

ILGA’s 2017 State-Sponsored Homophobia report indicates that Sharia judges have ordered the execution of numerous men and women for same-sex intimacy and that LGBT people have been subjected to violence by both police and local militias. LGBT people have also been targeted in ISIS-held areas in Northern Iraq.


Whilst the US Department of State Human Rights Report found no examples of prosecutions for sodomy, the report alleges that other criminal provisions have been used to prosecute LGBT individuals.

Statements by Public Figures


A former Government spokesperson, Ali Al-Dabbagh, when interviewed by the BBC in September on the recent reports of attacks on LGBT people in the country, gave his view on homosexuality: “It’s not by nature. It’s a behaviour.”

It’s not by nature. It’s a behaviour.

Ali Al-Dabbagh, Former Government Spokesperson

In March, following a number of reports suggesting LGBT individuals and ‘emos’ were being murdered in many cities around the country, the director of the community police of the Iraqi Interior Ministry, Colonel Mushtaq Taleb Muhammadawi, appeared to implicate the government and condone the violence: “Research and reports on the emo phenomenon has been conducted and shared with the Ministry of Interior which officially approves the measures to eliminate them.” According to one report, at least 45 individuals had already been killed by March 2012; whilst another placed that figure at 90.

According to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in 2012 Iraq established an inter-ministerial committee on LGBT rights in order to examine ways in which those rights could be better protected. The 2013 US Department of State Human Rights Report states that the committee released a statement declaring that gay people were “no different” from anybody else.

Persecution and Discrimination


In October, Ahmad Majed Mutairi, a 14-year-old, was brutally killed on video because he had ‘feminine’ looks.

In June, posters and banners supporting LGBT rights were anonymously put up in the streets of Baghdad. The campaign was lead by two NGOs: an anonymous local NGO in Iraq, and Sweden-based Iraquee. Amir Ashour, the President of Iraqueer, said: “The media rarely report on violence committed against LGBT people, and certainly never come out and condemn it. We did an investigation where we counted 220 killings of LGBT people across the country – and that’s just in 2017.”


The US Department of State Human Rights Report on Iraq stated that, despite repeated threats and violence against LGBT people, the Iraqi Government failed to properly prosecute attackers and protect victims. Furthermore, societal discrimination against LGBT people was common in employment, occupation, and housing. LGBT persons often faced abuse and violence from family and non-state actors, and remained at risk of honour crimes. For example, on March 1, a close family member killed a man purported to be one of two men shown in a gay-sex video circulated online.

In July, Karar Nushi, an actor, model and student, was stabbed to death in Baghdad because of his perceived sexuality. Local contacts reported that militia groups drafted LGBT “kill lists” and executed men perceived as gay, bisexual, or transgender.

In January, the group Asa’eb Ahl Al-Haq [a Shiite Islamist military movement, which is one of the main groups in the military coalition Hachd al-Chaabi, formed in June 2014 to fight against the Islamic State group] published a list of 100 people accused of homosexuality, who were threatened with death. Since then, some have been killed, others have fled the country, and a large number of them are now missing.


A joint report on Human Rights in Iraq by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights found that LGBT individuals continue to be exposed to violence: “Lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender persons (LGBT) continue to be targeted for violence, harassment, threats and intimidation on account of their perceived sexual orientation. UNAMI received reports of at least six murders that were motived by perceptions of sexual orientation. Many people who are LGBT informed UNAMI that they fear violence from family members, militias, members of the public, and from the authorities should their sexual orientation be revealed. A number of cases confirmed that they had been sexually and physically assaulted by police after their sexual orientation was disclosed”.


A report from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees includes statistics from a London based LGBT organisation that estimates there have been 750 killings of LGBT men and women since 2003. The report notes many accounts of persecution, including harassment, torture, ostracism by family members and society, and targeted violence. The LGBT section of the report concludes by suggesting LGBT individuals from Iraq may have a valid claim for asylum: “In light of widespread prejudice, traditional or tribal values of “honour”, potentially problematic legal provisions of the Iraqi Penal Code, and strong media bias against LGBTI individuals, UNHCR considers that LGBTI individuals are likely to be in need of international refugee protection on account of their membership of a particular social group, i.e., their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, since they do not, or are perceived not to conform to prevailing legal, religious and social norms.”

Legislative News


During its second UPR cycle, Iraq did not receive any recommendations related to the criminalisation of consensual same-sex activities between adults or protection of LGBT individuals from discrimination and violence.


During it first UPR cycle, Iraq rejected recommendations to decriminalise consensual same-sex sexual relations and hold those who commit violence against LGBT persons accountable. Iraq did, however, accept recommendations to address extrajudicial killings of sexual minorities and to re-establish a moratorium on the death penalty.

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