What had only been lines on a map, forbidden and dangerous, were places that had come alive, places that I could now see with my own eyes.
I was in Baghdad in mid-2009 for my second time. The post-surge trip introduced me to places I had only heard of in stories — what then seemed like fables — told to me by Ali Hili, the director of Iraqi LGBT, a London-based human rights group working with gay men in Iraq, and by other gay men I had met in Baghdad two years earlier.
Ali told of walking the reedy banks of the Tigris in Baghdad, a place he said, where gay men laughed, cruised, and picnicked together in the days before the US invasion changed everything. The recent horrors reported out of this city, for gays and ordinary citizens alike, made it hard to believe such a time ever existed.
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