Iraqi model and actor Karar Nushi was reportedly brutally stabbed to death in Baghdad over his looks, Iraqi News reports.
Nushi, who was a student at Baghdad’s Institute of Fine Arts, was found dead in the street on Monday, several hours after he was reported missing. According to Iraqi News, sources said Nushi’s body bore signs of torture.
Friends and mourners on social media say Nushi was killed because of his appearance, which included long blonde hair and proclivity towards tight outfits. He was also reportedly planning on taking part in a male beauty pageant.
As Iraqi News notes, extremist groups, including Shia and Sunni Islamist groups and ISIS,have historically targeted young Iraqis over their “immodest appearances” and sexual orientations.
“There has not been real information saying that Karar was gay,” Amir Ashour—who runs the Iraq/Kurdistan LGBTQ human rights organization IraQueer—told the Daily Beast. “It’s an assumption whoever killed him made based on how he looked.”
But Ashour said it’s undeniable the LGBTQ population faces an existential threat in the region.
“I think in Iraq most of the murders that have happened against queer people, or people perceived to be, have been because of their appearance,” Ashour told the Beast.
“The problems of the LGBTQ+ community did not stop with ISIS, and are not going to stop with the elimination of ISIS,” he continued. “The Iraqi government has been announcing that ISIS is being defeated and the caliphate is collapsing, and the international community saw ISIS throwing people thought to be gay off the tops of buildings, and thought that was the worst thing facing us.
“But in reality we’ve been facing an organized killing campaign since 2006, and that’s not going to stop with the elimination of ISIS,” Ashour said. “The first enemy of LGBT people in Iraq is the government itself. Not only are they not providing protection for us, but they are directly involved in violating our rights.”