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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Three Iraq safe houses forced to close

No funds to pay rent or utility bills

30 gay people left to fend for themselves

London and Baghdad – 6 November 2007

Three out of five gay safe houses in Iraq are closing down, due to a lack of funds to pay their rent and utility bills.

The refuges were set up two years ago, to provide a place of safety for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (lgbt) Iraqis who have fled homophobic threats and attempts to kill them by religious fundamentalists and death squads.

“Iraqi lgbt has made a huge effort to keep all of its five safe houses running, to provide refuge for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Iraqis who have fled homophobic violence and threats to kill them,” said Ali Hili, founder and coordinator of the human rights group, Iraqi lgbt.

“Many of the people we helped have been targeted by the Iraqi police and by Shia militia and other fundamentalist factions.

“Because of a lack of funds, three safe houses have had to close their doors. This decision will break a lot of hearts, but we have no other choice. We don’t have the financial support to sustain these refuges.

“Over 30 gay residents who we cared for in these three safe houses now have to take their chances in a country where religious militia regularly seek out gays and execute them.

“Several months ago, two lesbians working with Iraqi lgbt were assassinated in the safe house they were running in Najaf, along with a young boy the women had rescued from the sex industry.

“We feel deserted by the international gay community. Few people seem to care about our fate.

“Many brave lgbt Iraqis assisted our efforts. We would like to acknowledge their exceptional commitment.

“Sabah, Gada, Sana and Mona are four lesbians who dedicated their time and energy to provide food, cleaning and support to people in the safe houses in their area. We’d also like to thank Hasan , Safa , Jawad, Laith , Gasaq and Rami,” said Mr Hilli.

“The world has let us down so badly,” said Sabah, a 29 year old lesbian, who worked as a carer and ran a safe house in the south of Iraq.

“Nowadays, we don’t dare be seen in the neighbourhoods where we used to live. It is too dangerous for anyone known to be gay or to have had a homosexual past,” said Safa, a gay man in the city of Ammara, where he has been hiding for the last eight months from the police and Shia death squads. Safa fled his hometown of Najaf because he was known to be gay and feared assassination.

“Iraqi lgbt is doing amazing, heroic work,” said Peter Tatchell of the UK-based lgbt organisation, OutRage!

“It’s members inside Iraq are taking huge personal risks to protect the victims of homophobic persecution. Their efforts are truly inspirational. I urge the international lgbt community to rally round and raise the funds needed to sustain the remaining two safe houses. Please give generously,” he urged.

Meanwhile, Iraqi lgbt blames the western invasion and occupation of their country for unleashing religious fanaticism and causing the current homophobic killing spree:

“Much of the world failed to oppose the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and to prevent what has turned out to be the worst western intervention catastrophe in modern history,” added Mr Hili.

“The Iraqi gay community feels badly let down in our moment of need.

“Are gay people in the United States, Britain and Australia aware of what their governments have done to our country? Their armies invaded and occupied our land, destroyed the infrastructure of government, and created the chaos and lawlessness that has allowed religious fundamentalism to flourish and to terrorise woman and gay people.”

“Violence against gays has intensified sharply since late 2005, when Iraq's leading Shiite Muslim cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued a fatwa, or religious decree, which declared that gays and lesbians should be ‘killed in the worst, most severe way possible.’

“Since then, lgbt people have been specifically targeted by the Madhi Army, the militia of fundamentalist Shia cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, as well as by the Badr organisation and other Shia death squads. Badr is the military arm of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which is one of the leading political forces in Baghdad’s western-backed ruling coalition,” said Mr Hili

Can you make a donation to help Iraqi lgbt sustain its magnificent efforts?

The UK-based gay human rights group OutRage! is working with Iraqi LGBT to support its work. Iraqi LGBT is coordinated by Ali Hili from the safety of London UK. The group does not have its own bank account. Operating an Iraqi LGBT bank account in Baghdad would be suicide. For this reason, it has to operate its finances from London. All the group’s members in London are Iraqi refugees seeking asylum. Their lack of proper legal status makes it difficult for them to open a bank account in the UK. This is why Iraqi LGBT is asking that cheques be made payable to “OutRage!”, with a cover note marked “For Iraqi LGBT”, and sent to OutRage!, PO Box 17816, London SW14 8WT, England, UK. OutRage! then forwards the donations received to Ali Hili and Iraqi LGBT for wire transfer to activists in Baghdad.

More information:

Ali Hili 079 819 594 53 (from abroad +44 79 819 594 53)

Blog: http://iraqilgbtuk.blogspot.com/

Email: iraqilgbt@yahoo.co.uk

Photos of some of the LGBT victims are available here:


NB: Sorry, we do not have high resolution versions.