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Saturday, May 22, 2010

From Baghdad to Blantyre: Gays in Iraq express solidarity with gays in Malawi

Press statement

In a message from Baghdad, lesbians and gays living in hiding from death squads in that city have expressed their solidarity with the Malawian gay couple Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza sentenced to 14 years imprisonment in Blantyre this week.

Their message reads:

"The Lgbt community inside Iraq would like to shows its solidarity and support for Tiwonge and Steven in Malawi."

بغداد ٢٠-٥-٢٠١٠

تستنكر منظمة مثيليي العراق بكافة اعضايها داخل وخارج العراق قرار الحبس الجائر بخصوص
"As the Lgbt community inside Iraq is suffering the most in the modern history of Iraq, we feel that our pain is similar, our enemy is one."

"Homophobia is the enemy all the Lgbt are facing. We call for action and solidarity and we call upon the Malawi government to immediately release the couple and issue an apology to the Lgbt community in Malawai."

Lesbians and gays in Iraq are supported by two safe houses run by Iraqi LGBT, a human rights organisation based in London.

The five year old organisation has previously run more safe houses but is unable to offer more support through safe houses or in most parts of the country due to lack of funding. Nevertheless, Iraqi LGBT has members throughout Iraq who try to support each other.

Iraqi LGBT also supports some refugees who it has helped flee to escape direct threats on their life. Threats have followed some of them outside Iraq. Leader Ali Hili moved house in London due to them and continues to receive regular threats.

The group has documented the violent deaths of over 700 lesbians, gays and transgender people in Iraq at the hands of militias and some government forces over the past five years.

No one has been prosecuted for these crimes and no action has been taken by the Iraqi government to offer any sort of protection for lesbians, gays and transgender people.

Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were handed a 14 year jail sentence for homosexuality on Thursday in Blantyre, Malawi.

The sentence has been condemned by many governments. Human rights activist Peter Tatchell said: “Fourteen years with hard labour could kill Steven and Tiwonge. Malawi's prison conditions are appallingly unhealthy.”

“Detainees die in custody. Infectious diseases like TB are rife. Medical treatment is sub-standard. Food rations are very poor nutritional value; mostly maize porridge, beans and water, causing malnutrition. After only five months behind bars, Steven has been seriously ill and has not received proper medical treatment.”