BY Claudia Cahalane
Two gay Iraqi students were kidnapped, stripped, beaten and blindfolded at gunpoint, before being handcuffed with wire and forced into a car boot by two members of the Mahdi Army.
The students, known as 23-year-old Ahmed and 24-year-old Zaid, met their kidnappers, who were posing as gay men, in an internet chatroom in May. Upon meeting up in real life for a “date”, the captors drove their victims to a deserted area and attacked them.
The “army” men demanded to know the names and phone numbers of other gay men and went through the details of everyone listed in their mobile phones.
The students were expecting to be executed, but were left in the secluded area by their attackers and later rescued by a passing motorist.
Ahmed and Zaid have been helped by gay rights group Iraqi LGBT and local lesbian Dina H, who runs a safe house for gays and lesbians. They have now vowed to hide their sexuality to protect themselves.
The kidnappers were part of the violently homophobic Mahdi Army – a militia of firebrand fundamentalist Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who is fighting to establish an Islamist dictatorship in Iraq, said Peter Tatchell of UK-based gay rights group Outrage.
The Mahdi Army has been involved in the torture and execution of gays, women and anyone else who does not conform to, its “harsh, perverse interpretation of Islam,” added Tatchell.
Ali Hili, a gay Iraqi refugee, who coordinates Iraqi LGBT from London, said that police in Iraq had been infiltrated by Shia extremists using the cover of the police to kill gays and lesbians.
He added: “Iraqi LGBT needs donations to help gay people who are fleeing the death squads off the Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigades.”