Iraqi gay discrimination “symptomatic” of country’s fate

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A gay rights group has accused the “Blair backed Iraqi government” of descending the country into an Iranian style religious dictatorship.

An investigation by OutRage reveals that parts of Iraq, including some Baghdad neighbourhoods, are now under the de facto control of Taliban-style fundamentalist militias who are enforcing a savage interpretation of Sharia law.

There are summary execution people for “crimes” of homosexuality as well as listening to Western pop music, wearing shorts or jeans, and in the case of women, not being veiled or walking in the street unaccompanied by a male relative.

OutRage’s Peter Tatchell said: “Iraq is sliding fast towards theocracy and is likely to end up similar to Iran. The power and influence of fundamentalist militias is growing rapidly.

“Two militias are doing most of the killing. They are the armed wings of major parties in the Blair-backed Iraqi government. Madhi is the militia of Muqtada al-Sadr, and Badr is the militia of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which is the leading political force in Baghdad’s ruling coalition. Both militias want to establish an Iranian-style religious dictatorship.

“The terrorisation of gay Iraqis by these Islamist death squads is symptomatic of the fate that will befall all Iraqis if the fundamentalists continue to gain influence.

“Under Saddam Hussein discrete homosexuality was usually tolerated. Since his overthrow, the violent persecution of gay people is commonplace.”

Earlier this year Iraq’s leading cleric, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, was reported to have issued a fatwa ordering the execution of gay Iraqis.

Wissam Auda, a member of Iraq’s Olympic tennis team, was allegedly executed last May after being ambushed by fundamentalist militias in the al-Saidiya district of Baghdad.

Nyaz, a 28-year old dentist who lives in Baghdad told the organisation that she is terrified that her lesbian relationship will be discovered, and that both she and her partner will be killed. They have stopped seeing each other. It is too dangerous.

She is also reportedly being forced by the fundamentalist Mahdi militia to marry an older, senior Mullah with close ties the Mahdi leader, Muqtada al-Sadr. If she does not agree to the marriage, or tries to run away, it is believed that Nyaz and her family will be

targeted for ‘honour killing’ by Sadr’s men..

Mr Tatchell said: “Gay Iraqis cannot seek the protection of the police. Iraq’s security forces have been infiltrated by fundamentalists, especially the Badr militia. They have huge influence in the Interior Ministry and the police, and can kill at will and with impunity.

“In the chaos and lawlessness of post-war Iraq, hundreds of young boys are being blackmailed into the sex industry. The sex ring operators lure the boys into having gay sex, photograph them and then threaten to publish their photos unless they work as male prostitutes. If their gayness was publicly revealed, the boys would be executed by the Islamist militias. They are trapped.”

One case study from the group reports on Wathiq, aged 29, a gay architect, who was kidnapped in Baghdad in March.

Soon afterwards, the Badr militia sent his parents death threats, accusing them of allowing their son to lead a gay life and demanding a £11,000 ransom. The parents paid the money, thinking it would save Wathiq’s life. But he was found dead a few days later, with his body mutilated and his head cut off.

A Foreign Office spokesman told “Iraq is a sovereign country with its own laws. On the British side we are in dialogue with the government about the need to be aware of human rights for all communities.

“They are a government in their own right, we are aware of these reports, but it has to be seen in the wider context, the general situation is an area of concern.

“We would condemn violence whoever it is aimed at, but they are a sovereign country with a constitution that says all Iraqis should be protected.”

OutRage is working to support its counterpart organisation in Baghdad, Iraqi LGBT, “These courageous activists are helping gay people on the run from fundamentalist death squads; hiding them in safe houses in Baghdad, and helping them escape to Syria and Lebanon. The world ignores the fate of LGBT Iraqis at its peril.

“Their fate today is the fate of all Iraqis tomorrow,” Mr Tatchell added.