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'Pride' event opens with Iraqi activist

Copenhagen Pride and Studenterhuset are presenting LGBT-themed events, lectures, and parties this week

Amir Ashour, the founder of Iraq’s first and only organization for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community, opened Copenhagen Winter Pride Week Tuesday 2 February with a speech about the situation for the Iraqi queer community after Saddam Hussein, as well as the intricacies of running an activist organization in a dangerous and hostile territory.

Now based in Sweden, Ashour runs ‘IraQueer’ with a group of young volunteer activists, working to increase visibility both within and about the Iraqi LGBT community by making personal stories, information and news available in Arabic, Kurdish, and English.

”Systematic, organized, and very public killings put the queer community at great risk, in a place where they have no protection,” explained Ashour Tuesday at the event, which had University Post attendance.

Raising awareness

According to Ashour, the situation in Iraq is extremely dangerous. Together with his team he hopes to raise awareness about the situation and provide a human face to the queer community in Iraq.

IraQueer also provides small training events for individuals in Iraq and support circles for up to 5-6 people, usually held at individuals’ houses or in coffee shops. In addition, Ashour and IraQueer are working to help those seeking asylum in the queer community around the world, but the amount of time refugees must wait before even being granted a meeting is alarming.

UCPH student Mihaela Yordanova: “It’s cool to be able to attend events about the issues outside of Denmark, especially with all the refugee stuff going on.”

According to Ashour, ”privileges that should be a basic human right are something that some people spend 5-6 years chasing”. Despite the devastating situation facing the LGBT community in Iraq, Ashour has hope that things are changing: ”If we can do it in Iraq, so can the international community,” he says.

First of many Winter Pride events

Amir Ashour is just one of many LGBT activists scheduled to make an appearance during Winter Pride Week; events will be held every day this week.

”We expect it to be huge; everyone is invited,” says head of communication for Copenhagen Pride Thomas Rasmussen, ”I hope that by using Studenterhusent as a platform, Copenhagen Pride and the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) will be able to enjoy a closer cooperation in the future as well.”

According to Rasmussen, Thursday 4 February will be the week’s biggest event. From 15:00 to 16:30, students will have the opportunity to meet the US ambassador to Denmark, Rufus Gifford, in Studenterhuset, as he signs his new autobiography. Then from 17:00 to 18:00, the famous activist Harvey Milk’s nephew, Stuart Milk will discuss the importance of price within the international LGBT movement. Both events will be free and public.

On Saturday 6 February the Official Winter Pride Party 2016 will be held in the music venue Vega from 22:00 to 04:00.

”It’s cool to be able to attend events about the issues outside of Denmark, especially with all the refugee stuff going on,” says UCPH student Mihaela Yordanova, ”I think there is a really interesting connection.”

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