Imperiled Iraqi gays may be among those trying to get to EU via Belarus

It is dangerous to be gay in Kurdistan / collage by Vlad Rubanau, Euroradio
It is dangerous to be gay in Kurdistan / collage by Vlad Rubanau, Euroradio

Most migrants trying to cross over to the EU are Iraqi Kurds. While some go looking for a job and a new life and seldom bring their whole families, others run from certain death.

Azver, 21, is a university student dreaming of getting to Europe one day. In Kurdistan, he’s in mortal danger, and that’s why he’s asking us to change his name. Unfortunately, he can’t use the “Belarusian road” to the EU.

“To leave, you need to have money, lots of it. The legal paperwork alone costs $4000, and you need way more. It is big money most of us don’t have. Yes, some people sell their cars, houses, and shops, but these are the well-off people, unlike most. That’s why I don’t know if I ever manage to get out of here.”

Azver tells us there are LGBTQ+ people among those fleeing from Iraq. They could be killed back home – by their own family, no less. Of course, not many take the “Belarusian road,” but these are the people who absolutely cannot go back. Frequently, even in Europe, it’s hard for them to breathe easily.

“I know a man. He’s 34. He’s gay and unmarried. When his family found out he liked men, he went to Sulaymaniyah [a city in the east of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. – Euroradio] and then to Belarus, where he crossed over to the EU. Then, his family came to Europe and proclaimed they were going to kill him for being gay,” recounts Azver.

Среди тех, кто бежит из Ирака в Беларусь, — геи, которым на родине грозит смерть
Despite homosexuality not being a criminal offense in Iraq, no one is truly safe from vigilantism / TheDailyBeast

There are lots of stories like this one, says Azver. LGBTQ+ people have to run to save their lives. Lesbians are also at risk. “They may get killed, too,” he adds.

Many have to live a double life to stay safe. According to Azver, a taxi driver he knows has a wife and kids, but still, “he told me he loved having sex with men.”

“If I found out my kids were the same, I would not let them stay in this country. I’d send them to Europe so they could live.”

Azver has a boyfriend, and they’re both afraid of what the future brings. If they could, they’d go to Europe. Azver dreams of becoming a pilot. But to do this, they need money, h says again.

Legal migration is also an option. According to Azver, though, it’s next to impossible. No international organization can help the Iraqis in a situation like that.

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