Murdered and set ablaze April 2006, Karar Oda is just one of the many Iraqis dragged from their homes by hooded militia and shot, set on fire or beheaded because they were believed to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. The grisly image is all that was left of Oda, a farmer who was seized and killed by Badr brigades – militia of the The Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC) (Arabic: المجلس الأعلى الإسلامي العراقي) (previously known as Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI)) – because they suspected him of having an affair with another man.
These men, also believed to be gay, were gunned down a few weeks before Oda’s death in the Iraqi city of Ramadi by Shi’a fundamentalist death squads. The victims appear to be under 18. One looks as young as 14 or 15.
This week’s cover story, “Democracy’s Deaf Ear,” by Patrick Sherman, reports how Iraqi death squads and militias control large portions of Iraq and target people for what they view as “crimes against Islam.” Punishable offenses have included wearing shorts or jeans, consuming alcohol, agreeing to shave a man’s beard, dancing, listening to Western pop music, eating or serving a “sexually immoral salad,” and for women, going out in public unveiled.
Practicing homosexuality is also viewed as a crime against Islam, and potentially hundreds either caught or suspected of same-sex relations have paid with their lives.
What’s surprising is that these killings began after the U.S. and British-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, not under the Saddam regime. According to Ali Hili, founder of the London-based human rights organization Iraq LGBT, whom the Gay & Lesbian Times interviewed at length, homosexuality during Saddam’s rule didn’t garner the sort of violence being witnessed today.
“At that time, there were the sanctions and the economic crisis in Iraq. There was so much more to worry about [than] homosexuals,” he said.
Ibrahim Ebeid, co-editor of the blog al-maharer.net, who lived in Iraq for four years during the 1970s, said, “I never heard of any gay arrested or of any who was killed. The killing started after the invasion of Iraq. It’s really very sad now. If you hate someone, you just have to say, ‘He is gay,’ [whether] he is or not. They go in front of his family and they shoot them there right on the spot.”
The U.S. government is ignoring these atrocities. Perhaps they are drowned out by the volume of killings that occur almost every day in war-torn Iraq.
Openly gay Congressmember Barney Frank, D-Mass., said he was unaware of the sexual cleansing taking place before Sherman contacted him. Of all those Sherman contacted for the story, however, Frank was the only congressmember to take action, committing to write a letter to the secretaries of state and defense requesting government pressure be put on Iraq regarding the situation. He also said he would contact others in Congress to sign the letter.
How many other elected officials, with a majority voting in favor of this war, are unaware of its many consequences, we wonder?
What was sold to the American public as a mission to bring democracy to the Middle East has instead bred Islamic extremism. This gay genocide happening right under the nose of the U.S. military only adds to the long list of complete and utter failures by the Bush administration in a war billed to make the world safe from terror.
Contact your Mp’s & congressmember and help make this a international issue. to find out how you can assist Hili in saving the lives of GLBT people in Iraq.