Three gay Iraqis are set to join the Gloucestershire Rainbow Day march through Gloucester city centre on Saturday.
Ali Hili, who co-ordinates Iraqi LGBT, a gay help and information group in Baghdad and London, will be joined by two other Iraqis who have fled their home country as hard-line insurgent groups started targeting gay men, many of whom have been murdered.
Expected to attend are Ibba Alawi, a former employee at the British Embassy in Baghdad, and Dr Haider Jaber who fled from Iraq two years ago after being viciously beaten.
While Dr Jaber was able to flee, his partner Ali was murdered. “They didn’t even send the body to the family to have a grave or a flower garden – they said he didn’t deserve it because he was an animal,” Dr Jabar said.
Mr Hili will be giving a talk on the desperate plight of gays in post-Saddam Iraq at the Coach and Horses in the afternoon, following the gay pride march. He will be replacing Peter Tatchell whose keynote speech to the International HIV-AIDS conference in Toronto has been moved forward, meaning he will not be able attend as he is flying to Canada that afternoon.
“I am very disappointed that I will not be at the first gay pride in Gloucestershire,” he said. “But I hope to come to Gloucester later in the year.”
Gloucestershire Rainbow Day is being backed by the Gloucestershire County Council, the Gloucester City Council and the police.
“Gloucestershire County Council fully supports fairness and diversity for all its staff and residents of the county,” said county councillor Alan Pearce.
“We are proud to have recently acquired Stonewall accreditation and will be flying the Rainbow flag on 12th August to show the Council’s support for ongoing work to increase understanding and acknowledgement of the gay lesbian bisexual and transgender communities in Gloucestershire.
Rainbow Day chair, Chris Marsh said that the event had received fantastic support from all sectors from the local community.
“We are lucky in this country to have laws giving equality to gay men and women,” he said. “But while there is more to do – including winning the hearts and minds of everyone, we should not forget those in countries who are forced to live deep in the closet.
“It is a privilege to welcome our friends from Iraq and, while we are disappointed that Peter Tatchell is unable to be with us, I am sure that Ali Hili will open more that a few eyes as to the current plight of gay Iraqis.”