US politicians raise plight of gay Iraqis

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Two openly gay members of the US Congress have written to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urging the State Department to investigate reports of violent persecution of LGBT people in Iraq.

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin and Congressman Barney Frank wrote in the letter that they were very concerned by reports that “Iraqi homosexuals have been systematically persecuted in Iraq under a violent campaign led by Islamic groups and militias.”

The Iraqi people, they wrote, had adopted a constitution that guaranteed “life, security and liberty” for everyone yet this does not seem to have been the case for LGBT Iraqis who live in constant fear of execution.

Baldwin and Frank asked Secretary Rice to raise the issue and express her concerns to Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani, while urging the Iraqi government to step up its protection of LGBT Iraqis and stop these senseless attacks by militias.

The letter mentioned news reports that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the chief spiritual leader of Iraqi Shia Muslims, issued a fatwa, or religiously-inspired legal pronouncement, in October 2005, calling for death for all gays and lesbians in “the most severe way possible.”

While the fatwa was eventually removed from Sistani’s website, it was never revoked, and the fatwa has led to the deployment of anti-gay death squads by the military arm of the Supreme Council for the Islamic revolution in Iraq.

As a result there was a surge in violence against LGBT Iraqis in 2006.

A report by the Institute for War and Peace also documented that religious courts are now believed to exist in Iraq where homosexuals are sentenced to death and executed under the supervision of clerics.

Iraqi LGBT, a London-based human rights group, said that twenty-six of its members have been killed in Iraq since 2003, including the murder of two minors, eleven-year-old Ameer and fourteen-year-old Ahmed, who were forced into child prostitution in 2006.

In April of this year, Iraqi LGBT said that eight additional murders took place in 2007, while several other gay activists were arrested and tortured.

The letter urged Rice to use every available diplomatic tool to engage with the Iraqi Prime Minister and President and to call on the Iraqi government to crack down on the systematic persecution of LGBT Iraqis.

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