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Friday, February 02, 2007

U.N. confirms anti-gay death squads in Iraq

by Anthony Glassman

Baghdad--The United Nations has for the first time confirmed that there are organized campaigns to kill gays in Iraq, directed by orders from Islamic leaders.

One such order says gays “should be killed in the worst, most severe way of killing.”

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq’s Human Rights Report for the last two months of 2006 has a section on sexual orientation, the first time it has been included in a report from the organization.

“Even though homosexuality is not condoned in Iraqi society, homosexuals are protected under Iraqi law,” the report reads. “Attacks on homosexuals and intolerance of homosexual practices have long existed, yet they have escalated in the past year.”

“The current environment of impunity and lawlessness invites a heightened level of insecurity for homosexuals in Iraq,” it continues. “Armed Islamic groups and militias have been known to be particularly hostile towards homosexuals, frequently and openly engaging in violent campaigns against them.”

Those campaigns are at the behest of Islamic leaders, including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the spiritual leader of Shiite Muslims in Iraq.

British gay civil rights advocate Peter Tatchell issued a warning last March that such attacks were being carried out with increasing regularity. It had a link to Sistani’s website and its proscriptions against same-sex activity.

“What is the judgment for sodomy and lesbianism?” Sistani’s site asks.

“Forbidden,” comes the answer. “Punished, in fact, killed. The people involved should be killed in the worst, most severe way of killing.”

Currently, Sistani’s site says, “Question: What is the view on a man embracing another man with lust, and go about kissing one another with sexual desire? What if they go even further and enter the domain of deviant sexual behaviour? Answer: All of this is haram even if there might be difference in the degree of prohibition.”

“Haram” is that which is forbidden in Islam.

“Allegedly, three fatwas [Islamic legal pronouncements] would have been issued by Islamic clerics authorizing ‘good Muslims’ to hunt and kill homosexuals,” the U.N. report states. “[The Human Rights Office] was also alerted to the existence of religious courts, supervised by clerics, where homosexuals allegedly would be ‘tried,’ ‘sentenced’ to death and then executed.”

Both Tatchell and the UNAMI report expound on some of the attacks on LGBT Iraqis. UNAMI’s report says, “At least five homosexual males were reported to have been kidnapped from Shaab area in the first week of December by one of the main militias. Their personal documents and information contained in computers were also confiscated.”

“The mutilated body of Amjad, one of the kidnapped, appeared in the same area after a few days,” it continues.

Tatchell, meanwhile, spoke to Ali Hili, head of the Iraqi LGBT UK Abu Nawas organization, made up of expatriate queer Iraqis living in Britain. Hili is also a member of Tatchell’s group, OutRage.

“Sistani is not even Iraqi,” Hili noted. “He is an Iranian national who has set himself up as a religious leader in Iraq. He wants to impose an Iranian-style theocracy on the Iraqi people.”

In Tatchell’s report, Hili details eight people who were killed, and one who was forced into hiding, because of the militias’ crusades against LGBT people.

Activists like Hili, who said that discreet homosexuality was tolerated under Saddam Hussein’s rule, noted that the power vacuum in the country is contributing to the violence. He is doubtful that President Bush’s plan to increase the number of troops will help the gay community.