March 25, 2006

We're here, we're queer, and the death squads are killing us.

Acting on a fatwa issued last fall by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, death squads from the Badr Corps — the military arm of Iraq's largest Shi'a political group — is persecuting and killing gay and lesbian Iraqis. When asked for help or to give sanctuary, US forces are reported to be 'met with indifference and derision.'

Exiled gay and lesbian Iraqis have told journalist Doug Ireland that the Badr Corps is 'is committed to the "sexual cleansing" of Iraq, and they accuse Iran of providing support and advice to the death squads.

Just some of the dead

Left, Ammar, aged 27, was abducted and shot in back of the head in Baghdad by suspected Badr militias in January 2006. Right, Haydar Faiek, aged 40, a transsexual Iraqi, was beaten and burned to death by Badr militias in September 2005.
[Photo: OutRage! London]

Speaking by telephone from London, [Ali Hili of the Abu Nawas Group — an organization of exiled gay Iraqis] said that "there is a very, very serious threat to life for gay people in Iraq today. We are receiving regular reports from our extensive network of contacts with underground gay activists and gay people in Iraq -- intimidation, beatings, kidnappings and murders of gays have become an almost daily occurrence. The Badr Corps was killing gay people even before the Ayatollah's fatwah, but Sistani's murderous homophobic incitement has given a green light to all Shia Muslims to hunt and kill lesbians and gay men."

Hili says,"Badr Corps agents have a network of informers who, among other things, target alleged 'immoral behavior'. They kill gays, unveiled women, prostitutes, people who sell or drink alcohol, and those who listen to western music and wear western fashions.

Those still in Iraq tell a bleak story:

Tahseen is an underground gay activist in Iraq, and a correspondent there for the British Abu Nawas Group. A 31-year-old photography lab technician, Tahseen told me by telephone from Baghdad this weekend that, "Just last week, four gay people we know of were found dead. I am afraid to leave my room and go out in the street because I will be killed. We all live in fear." Tahseen said that men who seem obviously gay "cannot walk in the street. My best friend was recently killed for being gay."

Tahseen confirmed the murderous efficiency of the Badr Corps' Internet entrapment program. "Within one hour after they meet a gay person in an Internet chat room, that person will disappear and be found dead," he said, adding that "since Sistani?s fatwa, the life of a gay person is worth nothing here, and the violence and killings have gotten much, much worse...."

"We desperately need protection!" pleaded Tahseen. "But, when we go to the Americans, they laugh at us and don't do anything. The Americans are the problem!" The Abu Nawas Group's Hili confirmed from London that representations to officials of the U.S. occupation in Baghdad's famous "Green Zone" had been made by underground gay activists, only to be met with disdain and indifference.

Ireland's post has many more details about the current situation for lesbians and gay men in Iraq, and links to other of his reports on LGBT people in Iraq and Iran. What I've presented in this post barely scratches the surface.

You can read Ireland's full story here at his blog, or at here at Gay City News.

How you can help: The Abu Nawas Group desperately needs money for its work to protect and publicize the plight of gay men and lesbians in Iraq. The Abu Nawas Group works closely with the British gay rights group OutRage!, so checks should be made payable to "OutRage!", with a cover note stating that you want the money to go to "Abu Nawas Iraqi LGBT - UK". Mail donations to: OutRage!, PO Box 17816, London SW14 8WT, England, UK.

Posted by Magpie at March 25, 2006 02:17 PM | GLBT | Technorati links |