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Thursday, April 20, 2006

BBC : Gay Iraqis fear for their lives

By Michael McDonough BBC News website

"I don't want to be gay anymore. When I go out to buy bread, I'm afraid. When the doorbell rings, I think that they have come for me."

That is the fear that haunts Hussein, and other gay men in Iraq.

They say that since the US-led invasion, gay people are being killed because of their sexual orientation.

They blame the increase in violence on the growing influence of religious figures and militia groups in Iraq since Saddam Hussein was ousted.

Islam considers homosexuality sinful. A website published in the Iranian city of Qom in the name of Ayatollah Sistani, Iraq's most revered Shia cleric, says: "Those who commit sodomy must be killed in the harshest way".

Sistani's official website calls for gay men to be executed:


"The statement appears in Arabic section of the website, in a section dealing with questions of morality, but not in the English-language equivalent.

The BBC asked Mr Sistani's representative, Seyed Kashmiri, to explain the ruling.
"Homosexuals and lesbians are not killed for practising their inclinations for the first time," Mr Kashmiri said in a response sent via email.

"There are certain conditions drawn out by jurists before this punishment can be implemented, which is perhaps similar to the punishment meted out by other heavenly religions."

Mr Kashmiri added: "Some rulings that are drawn out by jurists are done so on a theoretical basis. Not everything that is said is implemented."

Violent attacks

Killings and kidnappings are widespread in Iraq, with much of the bloodshed being linked to sectarian tensions and the anti-US insurgency.

But homosexual Iraqis who have spoken to the BBC say they are also being targeted because of their sexual orientation.

Hussein is 32 and lives in Baghdad with his brother, sister-in-law and nieces.
He says his effeminate appearance and demeanour make him stand out and attract hostility.

"My brother's friends told him: 'In the current chaos you could get away with killing your brother without retribution and get rid of this shame,'" Hussein said, after agreeing to speak to the BBC only if his real name was not used.

A transsexual friend of his, who had changed names from Haydar to Dina, was killed on her way to a party in Baghdad about six months ago, Hussein said.

Gym terror:

Ahmed is a 31-year-old interior decorator who used to live in Baghdad with his boyfriend, Mazin.

Ahmed fled to Jordan nine months ago after Mazin was murdered outside a gym.

After his partner was shot dead, Ahmed hid in the gym toilets then slipped away and later flew to Amman, the Jordanian capital.

He says it was well known that they were a couple and Mazin was targeted because of his sexuality.

"I fled from Iraq because of the threat to my life, because I was a gay man," he told the BBC.

Ahmed also said that, before the gym shooting, he and a gay friend had survived a grenade attack and he still had fragments of shrapnel in his face.

The friend was killed a week later by gunmen who raided his house, he added.
Powerful militia Iraq's deputy interior minister Maj Gen Hussein Kamal told the BBC that he was unaware of any minority groups being specifically targeted for kidnappings and killings.

He also said he was unaware of the statement on Ayatollah Sistani's website calling for gay people to be killed.

But he added: "We do not condone vigilante action. We encourage the victims to inform the authorities if they are subjected to any attacks."

However, Hussein says gay people are afraid of the police.

The Interior Ministry is run by members of Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri), which is one of Iraq's country's leading Shia parties.

Sciri has its own militia, the Badr Brigades, and there are widespread concerns that large parts of Iraq's police force are under the control of such groups.

Hussein blames the Badr Brigades and other Shia militia for many of the attacks on gay Iraqis.

Saddam was a tyrant, but at least we had more freedom then " Hussein add"

Human rights group Amnesty International has focused most of its work in Iraq on the high levels of violence linked to the insurgency.

The organisation said it had no information on reports of anti-gay activities in the country.

"It is not an area that we have been actively looking at, but that is not to say that we will not look into the issue at some point," said a spokesman at the group's London headquarters.

But Hussein, Ahmed and gay activists outside Iraq say there is clear evidence that the situation has deteriorated dramatically for Iraqi homosexuals.

"Saddam was a tyrant, but at least we had more freedom then," said Hussein. "Nowadays, gay men are just killed for no reason."
Arabic interviews by Muhayman Jamil


U.N. agency confirms gay Iraqi's targeted for kidnapping and murder


13 April 2006 - Gay City News, New York

By Doug Ireland

A report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) has confirmed that gay Iraqis have been targeted for kidnapping and murder because of their sexual orientation.

This U.N. report, released April 10 by the UNOCHA‘s IRIN news and information service, described the widespread increase in kidnappings for ransom and the subsequent killings of university professors and teachers—350 in the past five months alone—and quoted Iraqi Interior Ministry official Ra’ad Hassan as saying that “roughly 50 kidnappings take place countrywide every day.”

Hassan also told the U.N. office, “Since January, the number of kidnappings has increased unabated, along with attacks and threats against certain communities.”

The U.N. report said that Iraq’s gay community is one of those targeted “for reasons other than ransom money,” and said that one local non-governmental organization reported that “members of Iraq’s small gay community had received more than 70 threats from kidnappers in the past two months, while 12 have been killed.”

The U.N. report quoted Mustafa Salim, spokesman for a local Iraqi gay organization called Rainbow for Life, as saying, “We’re trying to help these people, but it’s getting very difficult, and our organisation has been targeted twice since last month. We know for certain that those killed were targeted because of their sexual preferences.”

This U.N. report reinforces this reporter’s earlier exposé of the systematic campaign of kidnapping and murder targeting Iraqi gays following the death-to-gays fatwa issued last October by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani , spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shi’ite Muslims (“Shia Death Squads Target Iraqi Gays,” GCN, March 23-29).

That attributed the sequestrations and killings of Iraqi gays to death squads of the Badr Corps, the Iranian-financed military arm of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the country’s most powerful Shi’ite political group.

While the U.N. report does not mention the Badr Corps—no doubt for political reasons having to do with a desire not to offend Shi’a religious and political authorities—it does confirm that Iraqi gays are under serious and organized attack,

In this week's issue of the famous French investigative-satirical weekly Le Canard Enchainé, an article by David Fontaine reprises and credits GCN report on the anti-gay Iraqi death squads


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Shia death squads target Iraqi gays -- U.S. indifferent


23 March 2006 - Gay City News -- New York's largest gay weekly newspaper

By Doug Ireland

Following a death-to-gays fatwa issued last October by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, death squads of the Badr Corps have been systematically targeting gay Iraqis for persecution and execution, gay Iraqis say. But when they ask for help and protection from U.S. occupying authorities in the “Green Zone,” gay Iraqis are met with indifference and derision.

“The Badr Corps is committed to the ‘sexual cleansing’ of Iraq,“ says Ali Hili, a 33-year-old gay Iraqi exile in London who, with some 30 other gay Iraqis who have fled to the United Kingdom, five Years ago founded the Abu Nawas Group there to support persecuted gay Iraqis (Abu Nawas was a great 8th century classical poet of Arab and Persian descent who is known throughout Middle East cultures, and is famous for his poems in praise of same-sex love.)

Said Hili, “We believe that the Badr Corps is receiving advice from Iran on how to target gay people.” In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been carrying out a lethal anti-gay pogrom against Iranian gays, notably through entrapment by Internet -- and this tactic has recently begun to be used by the Badr Corps in Iraq to identify and hunt down Iraqi gays.

The well-armed Badr Corps is the military arm of the Iranian-backed Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the powerful Shia group that is the largest political formation in Iraq’s Shia community, which was head quartered in Tehran until Saddam Hussein‘s fall. The SCIRI’s Badr Corps is trained and commanded by former Iraqi army officers.

The Ayatollah Sistani, the 77-year-old Iranian-born cleric who is the supreme Shia authority in Iraq, is revered by SCIRI as its spiritual leader. His anti-gay fatwa (available on Sistani’s official website) says that “people involved” in homosexuality “should be killed in the worst, most severe way of killing.”

Speaking by telephone from London, the Abu Nawas Group's Hili said that “there is a very, very serious threat to life for gay people in Iraq today. We are receiving regular reports from our extensive network of contacts with underground gay activists and gay people in Iraq -- intimidation, beatings, kidnappings and murders of gays have become an almost daily occurrence. The Badr Corps was killing gay people even before the Ayatollah’s fatwah, but Sistani’s murderous homophobic incitement has given a green light to all Shia Muslims to hunt and kill lesbians and gay men.”

Hili says,”Badr Corps agents have a network of informers who, among other things, target alleged 'immoral behavior'. They kill gays, unveiled women, prostitutes, people who sell or drink alcohol, and those who listen to western music and wear western fashions.

"Badr militants are entrapping gay men via internet chat rooms. They arrange a date, and then beat and kill the victim. Males who are unmarried by the age of 30 or 35 are placed under surveillance on suspicion of being gay, as are effeminate men. They will be investigated and warned to get married. Badr will typically give them a month to change their ways. If they don't change their behavior, or if they fail to show evidence that they plan to get married, they will be arrested, disappear and eventually be found dead. The bodies are usually discovered with their hands bound behind their back, blindfolds over their eyes, and bullet wounds to the back of the head.”

Tahseen is an underground gay activist in Iraq, and a correspondent there for the British Abu Nawas Group. A 31-year-old photography lab technician, Tahseen told me by telephone from Baghdad this weekend that, “Just last week, four gay people we know of were found dead. I am afraid to leave my room and go out in the street because I will be killed. We all live in fear.“ Tahseen said that men who seem obviously gay “cannot walk in the street. My best friend was recently killed for being gay.”

Tahseen confirmed the murderous efficiency of the Badr Corps’ Internet entrapment program. “Within one hour after they meet a gay person in an Internet chat room, that person will disappear and be found dead,” he said, adding that “since Sistani’s fatwa, the life of a gay person is worth nothing here, and the violence and killings have gotten much, much worse.”

Tahseen lives in a Baghdad apartment with his two brothers. “Right now, I have five gay men hiding in my room in fear of their lives, because they cannot go outside without risking being killed,” he said, with anguish audible in his voice. “They are all listening to me as I speak with you.” All those hiding with Tahseen are in their late twenties or early thirties, and by their mannerisms would be easily identified as gay by most Iraqis. I spoke briefly with one of them, who expressed his fear in a soft, shy voice.

One of those being given refuge by Tahseen is Bashar, a 34-year-old stage actor, who was forced to go into hiding after receiving death threats against him and his family. Before he went underground, his house was raided several times by the Badr Corps. Fortunately, he was not at home, otherwise he fears he would have been kidnapped and killed.

“We desperately need protection!” pleaded Tahseen. “But, when we go to the Americans, they laugh at us and don’t do anything. The Americans are the problem!” The Abu Nawas Group’s Hili confirmed from London that representations to officials of the U.S. occupation in Baghdad’s famous “Green Zone” had been made by underground gay activists, only to be met with disdain and indifference.

Hili, who has a bachelor’s degree in English literature, and who used to work for Iraqi radio and television, fled to the U.K. in 2002 after having been persecuted for being gay under Saddam Hussein. “In the late ‘80s and early 90s there were a couple of gay clubs in Baghdad, but they were all shut down in 1993 after sanctions were imposed against Saddam’s regime and Iraq.

"We had a weekly gay nightclub in the Palestine Hotel that became the gathering place for gay people, especially for actors and others in the entertainment world, but it, too, was shut down.

"I was arrested three times for being gay, and tortured. After several attempts, I finally was able to escape the country, going first to Dubai, then Jordan, then Syria, and finally reaching England.” Now, Hili says, he is heartbroken to see that, three years after Saddam’s fall, life for gay people in Iraq is even more unbearable than before.

“Just last night I spoke via Internet with a young gay man in his mid-20s who was caught by SCIRI agents. He had no identification with him -- gay people are afraid to carry their I.D.s when they go in the street in case they are caught,” because both the police and the Badr Corps agents would inform their families and add them to a list of known homosexuals, which would be used later to target them for killing.. “This young man had his left arm broken by the SCIRI thugs -- I saw this with my own eyes via Internet camera,” Hili said.

Hili said the Abu Nawas Group is accumulating evidence that Iranian agents are advising SCIRI and the Iraqi police on how to implement anti-gay persecution. Not only has Iran’s Internet entrapment campaign targeting gays been adopted in Iraq, he says, but there are reports that Iranian agents have been involved in interrogations, questioning those arrested in Persian through translators. “This is particularly true in Basra in the south,” Hili says.

Hili provided information on the cases of several gay victims of the Badr Corps, but said, “"These killings are just the ones we have been able to get details about. They are the tip of an iceberg of religious-motivated executions. Gay Iraqis are living in fear of discovery and murder." The victims include:

Haydar Faiek , aged 40, a transsexual Iraqi, was beaten and burned to death by Badr militias in the main street in the Al-Karada district of Baghdad in September 2005.

Ammar , aged 27, was abducted and shot in back of the head in Baghdad by suspected Badr militias in January 2006.

Naffeh, aged 45, disappeared in August 2005. His family was informed that he was kidnapped by the Badr organization. His body was found in January 2006. He, too, had been subjected to an execution-style killing.

Sarmad and Khalid were partners who lived in the Al-Jameha area of Baghdad. Persons unknown revealed their same-sex relationship. They were abducted by the Badr organization in April 2005. Their bodies were found two months later, in June, bound, blindfolded and shot in the back of the head.

The al-Arabiya TV network reported this weekend that a backroom deal had been reached to nominate Abdel Mahdi , a leading SCIRI figure and currently Iraq’s vice president, to be the new Iraqi prime minister (the accord is said to have been reached by representatives of SCIRI, the Kurdish list, and the Sunni Iraqi Concord Front.)

There is great fear that the Badr Corps-SCIRI campaign against gay people will become official Iraqi policy, especially if the report that a top SCIRI politican may become the new prime minister turns out to be true. Under the Iraqi Constitution -- virtually written by U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad and his associates -- Sharia law, which mandates death for homosexuals, is the foundation of all Iraqi law.

Reuters reported last August 20th, under the headline, “U.S. Concedes Ground to Islamists on Iraqi Law,” that the U.S. brokered a deal “making Islam 'the,' not 'a,' main source of law -- changing current wording -- and subjecting all legislation to a religious test.”

Reuters quoted a leading Kurdish politician as saying at that time, “'We [are given to] understand the Americans have sided with the Shi'ites," he said. "It's shocking. It doesn't fit American values. They have spent so much blood and money here, only to back the creation of an Islamist state ... I can't believe that's what the Americans really want or what the American people want.'"

If you would like to help support gay Iraqis, the Abu Nawas Group desperately needs money to expand its work on their behalf. The Abu Nawas Group works closely with the British gay rights group OutRage! -- so, if you'd like to make a donation to the Abu Nawas Group, checks/cheques should be made payable to "OutRage!", with a cover note stating it is a donation for "Abu Nawas Iraqi LGBT - UK".

Mail your donation to:
OutRage!, PO Box 17816, London SW14 8WT, England, UK.

Posted by Doug Ireland, New York

Friday, April 07, 2006

Life has only gotten worse for gay Iraqis

The end of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship did not mean more freedom for gay Iraqis. I fled to England to escape persecution. Many more gay Iraqis have not been so lucky, as I know from my work with Abu Nawas, a support group for gay Iraqis living in Great Britain. We keep in daily contact with gays still struggling for survival in today's Iraq.
There's a gay man named Tahseen, who provides shelter and food to four gay men back home with a little help from our group here in London. The men are virtually hiding out in one small room. They can't work and are afraid to be seen in public. As I sat down to write this, news came that Tahseen was assaulted by three young bearded men who attacked him in their car while he was on his way to buy bread.
Wisam is another example of a well-educated, middle-class gay man who welcomed the overthrow of Saddam and thought life would get better for him. Now conditions are so bad that he has lost hope. "I miss the old days, I miss the days of Saddam," he tells me. "I never thought I could think of saying that ever in my life."
Hassan, another gay Iraqi, has been forced to leave the family house. His family finally can attack, kill or maim him without facing prosecution and can kill him to cleanse the family's name of the "filth" of having a gay son. Hassan's brothers have joined a militia, and they despise him because of his homosexuality. They forced him to marry a girl, a union that lasted for three weeks – until his wife found out he was seeing a man.
"She called her family and my father and my brothers," Hassan says. "They all beat me and threatened to kill me. I ran away, and now I'm in hiding. I want to leave Iraq and go somewhere that is safe. Under Saddam's time, my brothers knew I was gay, and they were so afraid to hurt me because the law and the constitution protected me. Anyone who commits a crime under the Saddam regime was punished and jailed, especially the so-called 'honor killing' crimes."
Jaffar is a 27-year-old forced to marry a woman to "cure" him. His ex-boyfriend is hiding out in Jordan, where he fled to escape the Badr militia, which discovered his identity by chatting with him on a gay Web site. The Shiite militia arrested Jaffar's ex-boyfriend, and took him to a holding facility, where he claims to have seen hundreds of captives, mostly Sunnis, being tortured. Because the ex-boyfriend was Shia, he was ransomed to his family and subsequently fled to Amman. Jaffar remains behind, terrified and without hope.
B.H.K. is a 34-year-old gay stage actor who was forced to go into hiding after receiving death threats against himself and his family from the Badr militia, which raided his house several times before he finally went underground. Had he been at home, he knows he would have been kidnapped and killed. "I knew I was a fool back in 2003 when I applauded the American troops when they entered Baghdad," he tells me.
America is living in denial about what it has done to our country. Where is the freedom for gay men and women, now terrorized by armed religious fanatics? We are free – free to live in hiding, free to escape abroad for our lives or free to die for the "crime" of being gay.