Gays and lesbians targeted in Iraq

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A television documentary will tonight highlight the plight of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Iraq.

As already featured on, an Observer investigation to be broadcast tonight on More4, will show how the “honour killings” of homosexuals in Iraq is being justified by laws in the country which call it immoral.

Last March, printed an investigation by exiled Iraqi poet Ali Hili, of the Iraqi LGBT group and Outrage’s Middle East spokesman, which claimed that death squads are targeting homosexuals and transsexuals are being burned and beaten to death in Baghdad.

The murdered Iraqi men are “usually discovered with their hands bound behind their back, blindfolds over their eyes and bullet wounds in the back of the head”, Mr Hili asserts.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani issued a fatwa against lesbian and gay people on his website, which has caused a surge in homophobic violence both in Iraq, and in Muslim communities in the UK.

The cleric, who was nominated by Iraq for the Nobel peace prize in 2005 answered the question ” what is your judgement on sodomy and lesbianism?” with the words “forbidden. Those involved in the act should be punished. In fact, sodomites should be killed in the worst possible manner”.

It has since been removed but critics claim it may have been too late.

Worrying, reports suggest that the militant wing of fundamentalist group The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) has taken this instruction to heart. “Evidence we have received from our underground gay contacts inside Iraq suggests intensified homophobic abuse, threats, intimidation and violence,” said Mr Hili.

He feared that the Badr Corps, the militant wing of the SCIRI might be taking what little law there currently is in the troubled country into its own hands.

“Intimidation, beatings, kidnappings and murders of gays have become an almost daily event,” he claims. He said that many gay people had been forced to go into hiding for their own safety. Men in contact with OutRage had described feelings of terror and restrictive, desperate living conditions. One man writing on an internet blog describes his feelings of despair: “Sometimes I think there is no way out. I wish I was dead, but I am alive”.

“Gay Iraqis are living in fear of discovery and death,” said Mr Hili.

A gay human rights recently 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.

The film is scheduled to feature in More4 News tonight at 8pm.