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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Friday, June 15, 2007

Two Members of US Congress Protest Persecution of Gay Iraqis


Representatives Tammy Baldwin and Barney Frank




Condoleezza Rice Asked to Intervene




WASHINGTON, June 14, 2007

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Congressman Barney Frank (D- MA) have written to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urging the State Department to investigate reports of violent persecution of homosexual Iraqis by Islamic groups and militias.



The two lawmakers cited a United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq's (UNAMI) Human Rights Report issued for the period of November 1 to December 31, 2006, which stated that an environment of “impunity and lawlessness” currently permeating Iraq has invited open and violent campaigns against LGBT Iraqis.



“In 2005, the Iraqi people adopted a Constitution guaranteeing that ‘every individual has the right to enjoy life, security and liberty’.



“Unfortunately, such promises have been particularly eroded for LGBT Iraqis, who must live in constant fear of being targeted for execution.



“We therefore urge you to raise this serious issue with the Iraqi leadership and press them to take immediate action to halt the killings of Iraqi homosexuals,” Baldwin and Frank wrote.



Representatives 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 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Iraqis and stop these senseless attacks by the militias.



Full text of the letter:



Dear Secretary Rice:



We are writing to express our strong concerns regarding recent reports that Iraqi homosexuals have been systematically persecuted in Iraq under a violent campaign led by Islamic groups and militias. We urge the State Department to investigate such allegations and report its findings as part of the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. We also urge you to raise the issue and express your concerns to Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani, while urging the Iraqi government to step up its protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Iraqis and stop these senseless attacks by the militias.



According to the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq's (UNAMI) Human Rights Report issued for the period of November 1 to December 31, 2006, an environment of "impunity and lawlessness" currently permeating Iraq has invited open and violent campaigns against LGBT Iraqis. According to news reports, 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 last May, it was never revoked, and the decree has led to the deployment of anti-gay death squads by the military arm of the Supreme Council for the Islamic revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the Badr Corps. As a result, violence against gay Iraqis surged in 2006.



According to Iraqi LGBT, a London-based human rights group working to support the human rights of gay Iraqis, twenty-six of its members have been killed 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 addition, a mass kidnapping of five gay men from the Shaab area of Iraq took place during the first week of December 2006. All are now presumed dead.



In April of this year, Iraqi LGBT documented that eight additional murders took place in 2007, while several other gay activists were arrested and tortured. A report by the Institute for War and Peace (IWPR) also documented that religious courts now exists in Iraq allegedly to try homosexuals, sentencing them to death, and subsequently executing them under the supervision of clerics.



The aforementioned news accounts, coupled with UNAMI and IWPR's reports, present a substantial body of evidence that LGBT Iraqis have been systematically targeted for violence by Islamic clerics and militias. Yet the 2006 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, released by the State Department this March, made no reference to any human rights violations in Iraq based on sexual orientation. We thus urge the State Department to investigate such allegations and incorporate the findings in the annual human rights report.



Furthermore, we urge you to utilize every diplomatic tool available to engage Prime Minister Al-Maliki and President Talabani and call on the Iraqi government to crack down on the systematic prosecution of Iraqi homosexuals. In 2005, the Iraqi people adopted a Constitution guaranteeing that "every individual has the right to enjoy life, security and liberty," (emphasis added). Unfortunately, such promises have been particularly eroded for LGBT Iraqis, who must live in constant fear of being targeted for execution. We therefore urge you to raise this serious issue with the Iraqi leadership and press them to take immediate action to halt the killings of Iraqi homosexuals.



Sincerely,
Tammy BaldwinMember of Congress
Barney FrankMember of Congress