Rights group calls on US to protect gay Iraqis

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A gay human rights group has reacted to a United Nations report that gay Iraqis are increasingly targeted for violent threats, kidnappings, attacks, and murder, by calling on the government to take action.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) has written to the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and called on the Bush Administration to take all appropriate measures to publicly condemn the escalation of violence against gay men and lesbians in Iraq and take all possible measures to ensure their protection.

In addition to the letter to the State Department, Paula Ettelbrick, executive director of IGLHRC, has issued the following statement, “IGLHRC is alarmed by the documented escalation of violence against gay people in Iraq.

“We call on the United States, political leaders around the world, and Iraqi authorities to take responsibility for speaking out and stemming the targeting of gay people for kidnapping and murder, and seeing that those committing these crimes are punished.

“The acts of violence within the Iraqi community are part of a larger pattern of violence that has arisen out of the current war and sectarian tensions. We believe it is the responsibility and obligation of the United States, considering its present involvement in Iraq, to protect and support the most vulnerable and marginalized populations being targeted for this violence.

“It has been well documented and observed that war, particularly one as chaotic as the one in Iraq, leads to targeting and violence against groups that are more marginalised. The rape of women being used as a weapon of war in Bosnia and the targeting of gay people in addition to millions of Jews during the Holocaust in Europe are only two such horrific examples. The violent atmosphere of war often provides cover for more personalized violence, such as that against LGBT people.”

“We are grateful to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for reporting on the targeting of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) people in Iraq for violence and abuse. We expect that the US State Department will condemn these acts as it recently has condemned homophobic acts in Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates.

“Whenever public leaders, whether political or religious, espouse homophobia one can expect an increase in violence against our community. Their calls for discrimination or murder of LGBT people create an atmosphere of impunity, as police and the public in general get the message that they won’t be punished for kidnapping or torturing someone who is gay. By the same token, the leaders who condemn such brutality have the power to stop it.

IGLHRC will diligently follow up on these reports and offer whatever strategic assistance we can to Rainbow for Life, the Iraqi LGBT group cited in the UNOCHA report.”

The report was made by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.