While Amir Ashour was growing up in Iraq in the early 2000s, he knew homosexuality existed but he didn’t know much else about it.

“Aside from my personal feelings wondering ‘why am I attracted to this person?’ when I was 10 or 11, I had my first experience when I was 16 or 17,” he said recently. In his teens, most of what Ashour heard about homosexuality was that LGBTQ people did not exist in Iraq before the U.S. invasion.

Born in Baghdad, Ashour predominantly grew up in Sulaymaniyah, in the country’s Kurdish region. Although most people around him never talked about their sexuality, he let it known among his closest friends at school and university, as well as in activist circles, about his interests for men. READ FULL

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