A safe space for LGBTI’s in Iraq

Rasan Foundation has been active in Iraq for 14 years, working on improving the acceptance of LGBTI’s. They work in extremely dangerous situations, in a country where the language literally does not have words like ‘lesbian’, or ‘gay’. In 2018, Give a Damn is supporting Rasan to improve the safety of LGBTI’s in Iraq.

In Iraq, the subject ‘LGBTI’ is an extremely sensitive one. There are no laws protecting LGBTI’s; in fact, discrimination and violence against LGBTI’s is encouraged. Torture and murder are commonplace, and there is no protection offered by the state. An LGBTI-community such as we know in The Netherlands does not exist. Rasan is the only organization in Iraq that publicly voices support of LGBTI’s. The organization is registered as a women’s rights organization, because it is not possible to register as an LGBTI organization in Iraq.

It is extremely difficult for Rasan to receive outside financial support, due to the strict (international) banking regulations with regards to money transfers to Iraq, due to it’s status as being unsafe. Fortunately we have managed to find a way to transfer money to Rasan;  they certainly do need it.

A long-term focus, as well as project design that takes into account local values and traditions, is essential if you want to be successful in supporting LGBTI’s. Rasan has a variety of approaches and services, including psychosocial and legal support. When requested, they bring LGBTI’s in contact with each other, supporting small scale community building for peer support in difficult contexts. Rasan is also committed to increasing understanding of LGBTI issues, and support from the heterosexual community, for example through public campaigns (using art, film and theater). Rasan also works with agencies that have direct contact with LGBTI’s, such as police, security services, imams, and teachers. These agencies are often part and parcel of the threat to safety that LGBTI’s experience, and are thus also an important target when looking for solutions.

Give a Damn is supporting Rasan to set up a project in Sulaimanyah, in the Kurdish region of Iraq. Sulaimanyah is known as a city that is more developed on social and cultural fronts. As part of this project, Rasan will be researching the needs of LGBTI’s, to develop a better understanding of their challenges. That is essential, as there is very little information available about the LGBTI community, much less their needs. This information will help Rasan to design appropriate projects and activities to assist the community. Further, Rasan will be working on the development of a vocabulary for LGBTI that is non-discriminatory and non-threatening, in order to tackle the issue of there being no (positive) vocabulary available. The support will also be used to work carefully on community building and identify allies such as imams, police agents and policymakers.

We are very proud that we are able to support this fantastic, brave organization in 2018, and wish Rasan every success!