Taking Raqqa with Pride: 'Queer militia' raises gay rainbow flag in IS stronghold

Taking Raqqa with Pride: 'Queer militia' raises gay rainbow flag in IS stronghold
Blog: A newly formed 'queer militia' is defiantly raising the rainbow flag in the heart of Islamic State militants' so-called caliphate in Syria.
2 min read
26 Jul, 2017
A rainbow flag flies amongst the rubble in Raqqa [Twitter/IRPGF]
Stonings, rooftop executions and a deadly shooting at a nightclub in Orlando - LGBT communities in Syria, Iraq and around the world have suffered countless atrocities at the hands of Islamic State group extremists.

What a sweet irony it is, then, to see the rainbow flag flying proudly in the heart of the militants' self-declared caliphate, Raqqa.

A fierce new force has emerged, determined to literally and figuratively smash the facists.

Meet The Queer Insurrection and Liberation Army - or TQILA (pronounced "tequila") - the first LGBT paramilitary unit created to fight the extremists.

Announced on Monday, the queer contingent is a part of the International Revolutionary People's Guerrilla Forces, formed of volunteers from around the world fighting with Kurdish forces against IS in northern Syria.

Just as the force's all-female fighting unit - the YPJ - has empowered women in a society where they are consistently marginalised, now its LGBT brigade is spearheading a sexual revolution, not only in IS territory where homosexuality is punishable by death, but also in a region where homophobia is deeply entrenched and in some places criminalised.

And where better to stick a bright pink flag emblazoned with a black AK-47 machine gun than in caliphate capital Raqqa, where the world's attention has turned following IS' defeat in Iraq's Mosul.

A statement posted by IRPGF on Twitter said TQILA's members "have watched in horror as fascist and extremist forces around the world have attacked the queer community and murdered countless of our community members citing that they are 'ill', 'sick' and 'unnatural'.

"The images of gay men being thrown off roofs and stoned to death by Daesh was something we could not idly watch," the statement said, using an Arabic term for IS.

And with a striking slogan, "Shoot back! These faggots kill fascists", TQILA are ready to make a stand.

As the group's spokesman Heval Rojhilat put it: "As Queers from and currently in the Middle East… one of the most radical acts we can do is to announce our existence to people and governments who have and continue to claim that we do not exist."

Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab