New book 2007: Gay Travels in the Muslim World, Edited by Michael Luongo
(chapter 10 written by GlobalGayz owner Richard Ammon)
See books review: Gay City News
More information about Islam & Homosexuality can be found at: www.al-fatiha.org
Other articles of interest can be found at: groups.yahoo.com/group/al-fatiha-news
Muslim Yahoo Group: "Queer Muslim Revolution" <email@example.com>
Queer Muslim magazine: Huriyah, Barra
Gay Islam discussion groups:
Gay Iran News & Reports 2003-06
June 4, 2003
Iraq’s Internet Mystery Man Steps Into the Light
Salam Pax, the Web diarist who rose to fame with dispatches from Baghdad, turns out to be a journalist’s translator.
by Charles Piller, Times Staff Writer
One of the greatest mysteries of the war in Iraq has been solved. No, not weapons of mass destruction. Salam Pax. He’s real. The hip and irreverent Iraqi, whose poignant online tirades skewered Saddam Hussein and George Bush in equal measure, riveted thousands of Internet users before and during the war. His Web diary, or "blog" – a daily missive perched on the knife’s edge between anxiety and hope – was an overnight sensation. But in his thousands of words depicting daily life in Baghdad, Salam Pax – the second word is "peace" in Arabic and Latin – never revealed his real name or enough personal details to prove that he was more than the perpetrator of an elaborate hoax.
It turns out that the 29-year-old gay architect – who became the digital voice of Iraqis torn between the grimness of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship and fear of U.S. bombs – worked as a translator for freelance journalist and author Peter Maass. Maass verified Salam’s existence in a column posted Tuesday on Slate, the online magazine.
It was the culmination of a kind of coming-out process over the last few weeks. In a message posted May 7, Salam noted that he had interviewed to be a translator for the New York Times. On May 8, he confessed that "I sold my soul to the devil. I talked to Rory from the [British] Guardian" newspaper. The paper announced Friday that it had secured Salam as a columnist. So far neither the Guardian nor Maass has revealed Salam’s last name – the Salam part is real – or other precise identifying information, for fear that he might be attacked because of his outspoken views on Iraq, the U.S., gay life and other subjects.
Salam worked for Maass in May, but until he returned to New York last week, Maass had heard only passing references to the famous blog. He knew nothing about the sense of dread felt by Salam’s readers when the blogger lost his Internet access for several weeks during the height of the conflict. Despite daily contact with Maass, Salam never said anything about it. When Maass returned to New York last week and read Salam’s postings, it gradually dawned on him who his translator was.
"Working alongside – no, employing – a star of the World Wide Web and being blissfully unaware of it is a lesson about the murkiness of today’s Iraq, a netherland of obscurity in which you cannot know who was a Baathist and who was not, or whether the man in the middle of the street with a gun is going to shoot you," Maass wrote on Slate.
Salam’s fans greeted the news with relief – not just that Salam was safe, but that they had not been duped. "Call it closure," said Paul Boutin, a freelance technology journalist and former computer network manager who traced Salam’s e-mail and Web addresses through the Internet’s house of mirrors just before the war started. Boutin concluded that while Salam was probably real, he could not prove it. "Finally, somebody I believe and also somebody everyone else will believe" has credibly verified Salam’s existence, he said.
Salam’s blog, http://dearraed.blogspot.com , gained a wide audience because it was personal, sharply ironic and unique – the only known blog originating inside Iraq. For Internet sophisticates, he was easy to identify with – an urbane partygoer who divided his time between his friends, his online community and survival.
The real Salam is a multilingual, middle-class cosmopolitan, Maass said. "He’s a lot like us but he’s not us," Maass said in an interview. "Salam sees what’s happening around him – the tragedy or the absurdity and he communicates it in a human voice that most journalists don’t have." In turns ironic, angry and funny, the loose theme of his blog, entitled "Where is Raed," involves searching for a friend who lived in both Amman, Jordan, and in Baghdad. "Raed, are you really going to stay in jordan and miss all the action?? Don’t get married come here and let’s get bombed," he wrote last fall.
Maass now realizes that Salam dropped a few clues that he was the mystery blogger, such as frequent visits to Internet cafes and complaints about the cost of uploading data. But only after Maass returned to the U.S. and began to peruse "Where is Raed" did the truth dawn on him. Salam "mentioned an afternoon he spent at the Hamra Hotel pool, reading a borrowed copy of The New Yorker. I laughed out loud," Maass wrote on Slate. "He then mentioned an escapade in which he helped deliver 24 pizzas to American soldiers. I howled. Salam Pax, the most famous and most mysterious blogger in the world, was my interpreter. The New Yorker he had been reading – mine. Poolside at the Hamra – with me. The 24 pizzas – we had taken them to a unit of 82nd Airborne soldiers I was writing about."
Salam, whose biweekly column for the Guardian begins today, got the final word on Maass’ revelation in his blog posting Tuesday: "I was wondering when will he find out and if he will be angry because I didn’t tell him. I think he isn’t. He uses words like ‘chubby’ and ‘cherubic’ to describe me. Ewww."
Gay Iraq and Arab Culture
With a world on the brink of war, OutUK’s Adrian Gillan talks to gay Arabs and Iraqis about being gay in an Arab state and what it’s like for our lads in Baghdad. Is Saddam serious about killing queers and is his regime any worse than other Arab governments? " I’ve always been discreet," 28 year old gay Iraqi Zoo from Baghdad tells OutUK nervously, against a backdrop of war-mongering and in the wake of Amnesty’s recent reports of Saddam’s death threat against queers.
" Being gay is not acceptable anywhere in the Arab world, not just Iraq. Arabs are still very conservative and that’ll take decades to change – if ever." " However," he continues, "there is little official reaction to homosexuality in Iraq so far as I know and I was unaware of any law pertaining to anything gay. If Saddam has indeed threatened death for homosexual behaviour, then I do not think it will be enforced."
" To be honest, I haven’t witnessed or even heard about much overt gay abuse in Iraq," explains Zoo of a complex, repressive social landscape where people turn blind eyes or are more likely to use such homophobic edicts as a weapon against political opponents, rather than to target queers. So though it’s hardly a homo haven and no one wants a death threat hanging over them, Iraq probably isn’t the all-out homo hell some might like to paint, and is certainly no where near as fearful as many other Arab states like Saudi Arabia.
" In fact, there is even a place I know of in the heart of Baghdad," says Zoo, though keen not to disclose too much and put others at risk. "You can’t really call it a cruising ground. It’s just a very public area where you find all kinds of hotels and businesses. If you walk around and look, chances are someone will soon look back."
No need to drop a bomb on Saddam then?
" I don’t like Saddam and neither do most Iraqis," claims Zoo, "but I think any attack on any country is an outright disaster because the only victims of war are the ordinary people. And this view has nothing to do with my sexuality. Nobody can predict whether or how the regime will change but even if it does, Iraq won’t turn into a paradise overnight – not for anyone."
" Actually," agrees Sahib who runs global online community GayArab, "I would certainly say Iraq is no worse than other Arab countries. Since the Gulf War, the Iraqi civilian population is rarely allowed internet access but of the few gay Iraqis I’ve encountered, none have mentioned anything about abuse."
" There are though surely no ‘gay human rights’ in the Arab World," he continues. "Gays are treated from good to bad depending on the situation and what country they are in at the time. Some Arab states are more lenient than others with less chance of social abuse, or punishment by law, if found out."
So what is it to be Arab? And how grounded is Arab homophobia in fundamentalist Islam?
" The ‘Arab World’ can be described in many different ways," explains Sahib. "Most Arabic speaking cultures – including the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast Asia – consider themselves Arabs. But some purists would only count those from the Arabian Gulf." He continues: "The Arab World is not only the geographical and historical birthplace of Islam, but also of Christianity and Judaism. Indeed, just as most Christians and Jews now live outside the Arab World in the Americas and Europe, so do most Muslims – in Asia."
" And since the fall of the Ottoman Empire," Sahib expands, "we have seen more secularisation in what were once traditionally Muslim Arab countries. The rule in Iraq is now mostly secular with Islamic law being enforced when it is in agreement with the current regime."
" Many Arab countries have laws which prohibit homosexual behaviour," he continues. "Some of these are Islamic, others based on social or cultural morals. And I suspect Saddam’s recent death threat is secular and will probably be enforced as it suits the regime – whether the accused is gay or not."
" From an Islamic point of view," he says, "there are at least two traditional death sentences for homosexual behaviour: hurling the people involved from a high place or collapsing a heavy wall on them. I know of a recent incident where several men accused of homosexual acts were beheaded in Saudi Arabia and some individuals in Afghanistan had a wall pushed over on them."
" From a more secular point of view," Sahib continues, "look at Egypt. It has no specific laws against homosexual behaviour but arrested over fifty gays recently and charged them with crimes against morality and such. Some were eventually freed but others are still incarcerated. And of those found at the party in question, only Egyptian citizens were arrested: Non-Egyptian Arabs and people from other parts of the world were not. So you can see how discriminately these laws are applied in such cases."
So how can queer Arabs express their sexuality these days?
" I must say the internet has been a godsend to the gay Arab population worldwide," says online mogul Sahib. "Over the years, I have talked to many people on the verge of suicide who were simply overjoyed to find sites like ours. They had no idea there were any other gay Arabs out there at all."
" And yes" – he concurs with Zoo – "just like anywhere else in the world, there are many known places to cruise for other men. And in practice Arab publics and police often turn a blind eye: it would not be surprising to find these same authorities enjoying cruising grounds or known bath houses themselves."
" There is even a historic gay Arab tradition," says Sahib. "For instance Iraq was once known as Mesopotamia and Baghdad was a cultural hub where poet Abu Nuwas (760-815 AD) wrote odes to wine and boys. Today it is not unusual to hear of gay Arabs who are accepted, protected and even celebrated for their talents – a famous hairdresser in Beirut, a singer in Saudi Arabia or an actor in Egypt."
" And many gays in Arab countries have no desire to leave their homelands," he continues. "Indeed, seeking asylum explicitly on sexual grounds would carry a very high cost – never being able to return to your homeland or see your family again. And those who happen to be gay and want to leave their country often do so to avoid marriage rather than to escape abuse or live a more open lifestyle."
So is it, for instance, any easier being gay in London’s Iraqi community than it is back in Baghdad?
" From a community and family view I would say it is just as hard," says Sahib. "The morals are virtually the same. On the other hand, there are obviously more venues and outlets for gays in places like London than back home so that makes things a bit better, but they’d still feel the need to be discreet."
A double life: better than none.
And Sahib is actually keen to praise certain aspects of Arab culture in general: "Many of the morals in which the West claims superiority are mere hot air. In the Arab World, people are judged more by their actions and intentions, not by their words or appearance. Also gay Arabs themselves tend to act more like human beings who happen to be gay – not vice versa!"
And that’s not the only pluses for a gay Arab these days. Admits Sahib with a glint: "At least a quarter of those visiting our site are non-Arabs. Some have this Arabian Nights fantasy: a few Americans actually think we still live in tents and ride camels! Others just know what they like – or are simply curious."
More Info : GayArab.org – a website for gay Arabs, their friend and admirers.
Amnesty International has published a report outlining Saddam Hussein’s edict making homosexuality an offence technically punishable by death.
Peter Tatchell’s website has a graphic account of fundamentalist Islamic, though not necessarily Arab, gay human rights abuses.
May 13, 2004
Gay Baghdad Man’s Story To Be Turned Into Film
by Peter Moore, 365Gay.com Newscenter, London Bureau London
A gay Baghdad man whose online diary became one of the most read publications in the days leading up to the US-led war against Saddam Hussein will have his story turned into a motion picture. Calling himself Salem Pax his blog attracted hundreds of thousands of readers as he wrote about the political climate in Iraq and being gay in a dictatorship. "There are no waving masses of people welcoming the Americans nor are they surrendering by the thousands. People are … sitting in their homes hoping that a bomb doesn’t fall on them," he wrote as the US army was sweeping into the county.
As bombs fell in Baghdad his blog fell silent and people began worry that he was dead; a week later he was back on line describing the arrival from exile in Iran of Shiite leader Mohammed Said al-Hakiem. "What looks like a gay parade on wheels with all the pink flags is actually al-Hakiem’s welcoming committee near Samawah, don’t ask me why the pink flags, I couldn’t figure that one out. The color of SCIRI is red but all you see are pink flags. Not long after that, the young architect was hired by the Guardian newspaper. He still maintains his blog http://dearraed.blogspot.com although he is "on hiatus" for the time being.
This diary was turned into a book, The Baghdad Blog. Now, British film company Intermedia wants to make a movie about the mysterious young man. The company says it is searching for a scriptwriter. "He’s like a Nick Hornby in the middle of a war," Scott Kroopf, chairman of the company’s film division, told film industry website ScreenDaily.com.
January 07, 2005
U.S. soldier claims gay panic made him kill Iraqi soldier – Guardsman says he shot Iraqi soldier after consensual sex
by Ken Sain
A North Carolina National Guard soldier claims he shot an Iraqi soldier 11 times and killed him last spring after the two men had consensual sex while on duty near Tikrit, Iraq, according to a court martial report released by the military to media outlets.
Pvt. Federico Daniel Merida, 21, pled guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Falah Zaggam, a 17-year-old Iraqi national guardsman, military records claim. After officials began an investigation into the death, Merida, who is married and has a 2-year-old son, used a gay panic defense as one of his three excuses for the crime. Merida was sentenced to 25 years in prison in September. The Los Angeles Times first reported the case in October, but it has been mostly overlooked by mainstream America media. The only other newspaper to do a major story on the case was in Merida’s home state of North Carolina last month.
When Merida claimed he killed Zaggam in a fit of rage after the two had consensual sex, he received a cool reception from military investigators. “ That’s what is fascinating about this case,” said Aaron Belkin, director of the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military. “About 20 years ago when America was much more homophobic than it is today, the ‘gay panic’ defense would have had a much-higher chance of working, but it appears in this case that the officers or judges didn’t let him use that. That could indicate one small step the forward for the military.”
Zaggam’s friends and family told the Los Angeles Times they believe Merida tried to rape Zaggam, and then killed him to cover up what he had done. The Blade was unable to obtain a copy of the court martial report. The following is what the report claims happens, according to the L.A. Times and the (North Carolina) News & Observer.
Merida and Zaggam were alone on guard duty in tower at a military base in Ad Dawr, near Tikrit last spring. Before their shift was over, Merida had shot Zaggam 11 times and threw his body off the tower. Witnesses reported hearing shots fired at 10:30 p.m. and then watched as a body fell from the tower. “ From the news accounts I read, it appeared to be premeditated,” said Jim Klimaski, a member of the Military Law Task Force. “It looks like he waived his rights and there was no lawyer present. I don’t know, but just from reading those news accounts it appears the military just wanted this case to go away. They had him in premeditation, but let him off with second-degree murder in exchange for a guilty plea.” Merida first claimed that Zaggam had tried to rob him and he was forced to defend himself. When skeptical investigators continued to challenge that story, Merida then claimed that the Zaggam forced him to have sex.
The third excuse was the two men had consensual sex and then Zaggam tried to blackmail him, saying he would reveal the affair to Merida’s wife and officers. The Times quoted Zaggam’s family as doubting that claim because the teen could not speak English and therefore could not make any claims to U.S. officials. They also said Zaggam was not a big man, and it was unlikely he could force Merida to do anything. During the trial, according to the Times, Merida had witnesses testify that he was a victim of sexual abuse as a child and that might have led to his violent reaction.
Steve Ross, director of communications for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said Merida did not contact his organization for help during the trial.
SLDN began in 1993 as an organization dedicated to helping gay members of the military. No media reports indicated how Merida identifies his own sexual orientation. “ This is the first time that we have ever heard the ‘gay panic’ defense was attempted in a murder case,” Ross said. Klimaski, of the Military Law Task Force, said this case is unusual in many respects. He agreed with Ross that it appears to be the first time anyone has claimed ‘gay panic’ as an excuse, but pointed out it was not used in the defense since Merida pled guilty. But he said it was strange for another reason.
“ After the first Gulf War there was a number of murders at bases of units after the troops have come back from the Gulf War,” he said. “Most of them had to do with domestic violence issues. “ But the violence usually came after they returned. There is usually not a lot occurring in the combat zone itself and the reason for that is you’re shooting the guy who is protecting your back.” Neither Belkin nor Ross were willing to claim that the military’s antigay ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy banning gay citizens from serving openly was a factor in this case. They pointed out it certainly doesn’t help, but that Merida may not even identify as gay.
Originally printed 2/3/05 (Issue 1305)
Gay Iraqi won’t vote in elections
by Mubarak Dahir
When Iraq holds its national election on Sunday, Jan. 30, Walid – a gay Iraqi who asked that he be given a pseudonym for this article – will not cast his ballot.
" The election is a joke," he writes from his cramped apartment located in what he describes as "downtown Baghdad." I first met Walid about two months ago on a gay Internet site.
Since we first began chatting in intermittent conversations – broken over time by power failures – he has painted a dire picture of fear and desperation in a city and country besieged both by foreign forces and by armed rebels who often end up killing average Iraqi citizens in their raids on the American military and their sympathizers. Walid doesn’t trust either side. And he doesn’t have any faith that the elections will produce much of anything other than more fighting. " The Americans will impose the results they want," he believes. "It doesn’t really matter who wins the election. The Americans will still be the rulers. Whoever wins the election will have to do what the Americans say." Little else will change with the election, too, Walid fears.
" The electricity will still go out, the water will still get shut off, and people will still get shot in the streets," he writes. The notion that an election, under the auspices of the United States or any other country, will change the harsh attitudes and conditions in Iraq for gays is unrealistic. " It is very difficult to be gay here," he says. "It can be very dangerous." But Walid doubts that social attitudes against homosexuality are not going to change with any newly elected government. " Those things are not something the government here will get involved in," he says. "It is about the way people think. It will not change for a long time. Maybe never."
If anything, Walid fears, a new government here might make the atmosphere worse for gays. There will be 111 political parties on the ballot. But most people know very little about any of the parties or candidates. Campaigning is minimal, with some parties even refusing to name their candidates out of fear they will become assassination targets. For security reasons, most voters do not even yet know where their polling stations will be, and when they find out, they might not be able to get to them to cast their ballots, if the insurgents have their way.
The result, Walid says, is that no one really knows anything about the parties or the candidates or what they stand for. Those who do vote, he says, will likely cast their ballots based on religious affiliation or some sort of family or tribal loyalty. One of the most favored parties is the United Iraqi Alliance, which is the merger of the two biggest Shiite Muslim political parties in the country. " If religious parties win, things will get worse for gays," because there will be a stricter interpretation of religious laws, Walid worries. But even the political parties that claim to be secular, he fears, will be heavily influenced by religious leaders. " This would not be good for gays." What there once was of gay life in Baghdad disappeared with the war, Walid says.
No, there were never gay bars like in Europe or America, he says, but there used to be coffee houses where men could covertly meet each other if they were extremely careful about it. And sometimes, he says, you could just catch a man’s eye in the markets, and you would know. But today, you try to avoid catching the eyes of strangers, Walid says. Today, a stare is more likely to mean you are being watched by a spy for the Americans or are considered suspicious by the rebels, he says.
" The best thing is to walk and not look at anybody," he writes. Walid, who is in his mid-30s, remains unmarried, despite strong pressure from his family to find a wife. Social custom dictates that most gay Iraqis will get married and have kids and live their lives in the closet, even as they continue to have sex with men on the side. " But I never will marry," he says. "I cannot."
Despite the hardships of today’s Baghdad, Walid, an unemployed engineer, admits he is lucky, as far as gay Iraqis there go. Coming from an educated, at one time affluent family, he has a little more personal freedom that many other gay men do. Furthermore, unlike many single, gay Iraqi men who follow the traditional customs, Walid does not live with his family, though they live nearby and are heavily involved in his life.
" There is not privacy the way you Americans think of it," he says. "Here, your family is in all your business." If his family found out he was gay, "I couldn’t say what might happen," he says. When asked if he would be in physical danger, he said he hopes his family would not actually hurt him. But they might totally ostracize him, literally leaving him no way to survive in war-torn Baghdad. Since the war began, Walid says he has not had any personal encounters with gay men of a romantic or sexual nature. " How do you do it now?" he asks. "It is too risky." He says he has never had a long-term boyfriend, and while he would prefer to fall in love with another Iraqi man, he is skeptical that can ever happen.
He dreams of meeting a Western gay man, and moving away from the dangers and fears of Baghdad. But he admits that, too, seems unlikely. Still, he has e-mailed several American gay and lesbian groups, inquiring about how he might get political asylum as a gay Iraqi. The Internet is his only outlet for gay life for now, he says. And at the moment, that’s enough. " I do not think so much every day about being gay," he says. "I just think about staying alive."
August 09, 2005
6 Occupied Iraq: Boys forced by gangs into sex work–U.S. silent
A growing number of Iraqi boys are being forced to join the commercial sex trade –many forced to do so by criminal gangs through threats and violence, intimidation, and blackmail in a country where "honor killings" of youths who engage in same-sex relations by their families is encouraged by Sharia law and religious fanaticism; and some out of poverty in a country where official government figures for youth unemployment at 48 % (although the real figure is undoubtedly much higher). All this is confirmed by a new report from the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs’ Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN). And this goes on as the U.S. occupying force is silent and does nothing about it.
One boy whose story was told in the report was "Hassan Feiraz, a 16-year-old boy, [who] has started a desperate new life since being forced into the sex trade in Baghdad, joining a growing number of adolescents soliciting in Iraq under the threat of street gangs or the force of poverty.
" Every day I cry at night,” Feiraz said. “I’m a homosexual and was forced to work as a prostitute because one of the people I had sex with took pictures of me in bed and said that, if I didn’t work for him, he was going to send the pictures to my family. My life is a disaster today. I could be killed by my family to restore their honour,” he said, explaining that homosexuality was totally unacceptable in Iraq due to religious beliefs.
There has been a dramatic increase in the number of youths engaged in the commercial sex trade since the fall of Saddam Hussein, according to this report, which attributes the Increase to "economic pressure faced by families countrywide and the presence of new prostitution rings that have sprung up since the invasion. With society in turmoil and a raft of other serious issues to address, child protection has not been uppermost in the priorities of the transitional government. The gangs use money or threats to get teenage boys to work for them, officials said."
" Many of us are working under threat, but others are there because they don’t know how to survive and found it as an easy way of getting money,” Feiraz said. “Someone should help free us from these criminals.” So-called "honor killings" of gay youth are endorsed by many Iraqi religious leaders. "Sheikh Hussein Salah, one of the heads of the Shi’ite Muslim community in Iraq, told IRIN in Baghdad that the families of those boys engaged in homosexual practices should ‘kill them’, whether the situation was forced on them or they entered into it freely.
During Saddam Hussein’s regime, Salah said, homosexuality was illegal and homosexual practices were punishable by death. ‘We hope that this will be applied under the new constitution,’ he added. "Some Baghdadi families said they have stopped their children from going to school or university for fear that they would be lured into the unacceptable trade. ‘If I found that my son was doing something like that, I would kill him straight away, because it is an offence to our God and a crime against our honour,’ Kudaifa Abdul Lateff, father of three teenagers said. ‘Homosexuals are nothing more than animals.’"
The IRIN report says there are only two small local NGOs trying to help the child sex workers. "On of them, Iraqi Peace and Better Future (IPBF), has collected the names of more than 50 teenage boys who say they cannot leave the trade because of threats. Few cases have been resolved, however. ‘We have been trying to do our best in taking those unlucky boys and girls from the streets of the capital,” said Abdallah Jassim, spokesman for IPBF. ‘But sometimes we are stopped by the gangs, who threaten us. And the government cannot offer us special security on a daily basis.’
The Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) is also waiting for approval and funding for a proposed rehabilitation project for teenagers, it said. So far it has had few donors."
" Meanwhile, with few positive prospects in sight, many boys in Baghdad are living in fear, urging that someone, somewhere come up with a solution to their plight. ‘I hope that one day I will live without the fear that I may find my father with a gun or a knife ready to kill me because he has discovered what I do for a living,’ said Youssef Hatab, a 15 year-old boy."
Where are the voices of the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and the U.S. commercial gay press demanding that the enrollment of Iraqi youth, by criminal gangs using force and threat, into a life of prostitution be ended by U.S. occupying forces? Why haven’t our U.S. gay institutions demanded of Washington that it use all its influence to prevent the puppet Iraqi government it finances, and whose strings it pulls behind the scenes, from criminalizing homosexuality and making it a capital crime, as the religious authorities want?
This is part and parcel of the problem I raised in a recent article for Gay City News — that our major gay institutions, by and large, ignore the oppression of same-sexers in other cultures, and flee from helping gay youth either at home or abroad for fear of being tarnished with suspicions of pedophilia in the context of the anti-pedophile witch-hunts in this country (only heightened by the endless revelations of the sexual exploitation of children by the hypocritical, conservative closet cases of the Catholic Church). This silence, this ostrich-like attitude, is shameful — something we should remember while this year’s celebrations of "Gay Pride" are still ringing in our ears.
Posted by Doug Ireland
August 19, 2005
Gay Iraqi laments life after invasion; Americans form gay support group in Baghdad
by Eartha Jane Melzer
As the drafters of the new Iraqi constitution debate the role of religious law, Salam Pax, the gay Iraqi blogger who became internationally known through his postings about life in Iraq during the war, told the Blade that conditions have worsened for gays in the country since the United States invaded.
Salam said that gays in Iraq have no rights and are seen as, “lower in status than sewer rats.” An architect by training, Salam worked as a translator for an American journalist during the war. He began his blog to keep in touch with his friend, who had moved to Jordan to pursue a master’s degree. After gaining international fame as a writer, he covered the 2004 U.S. presidential election for the British Guardian newspaper.
But since then, his voice has not been heard much on the Internet. “ Being ignored and not acknowledged is for me much better than being actively persecuted by a religiously zealous government,” he said. “ The previous regime [of Saddam Hussein] didn’t actively persecute gay men, and we never got to the point where men were hanged like in Iran, but if you got accused if engaging in homosexual acts then [you could] get something like five months in prison which, as we know, is never going to be a pleasant thing in Iraq.
”Criminalizing homosexuality? Shiite religious groups have come to play a far more prominent role in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s secular dictatorship. “ There is now a real struggle to keep the demands of the religious extremists in check, to make sure that Iraqis are not denied basic human rights in the name of abiding to religious laws,” Salam said. “It is way too early for us to even think about gay rights. I want to make sure I will have the right to shave my beard and wear a tie if I want to.”
Juan Cole, a University of Michigan history professor who has been following the development of the new Iraqi constitution on his blog “Informed Comment” confirmed Salam’s concerns. “ I very much doubt the constitution will give rights to gays,” Cole said via e-mail. “If it enshrines Islamic law, in fact, being gay could be a capital crime.” There are no political support groups for gays and no political party sees any benefit in mentioning gays in a positive or negative way, Salam said. Public discussion of gay issues is generally limited to discussion in the newspapers of how disgusting gays are and what type of punishment is appropriate for gay behavior.
The only group that has voiced an opinion about gay rights for Iraqis, Salam said, is the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq, which is affiliated with the Iraqi Worker’s Socialist Party, “and they have never mentioned this inside Iraq because as progressive as they are in demanding women’s rights, they know that supporting same-sex relationships is a bit too progressive.” Many high-level members of the government are eager to have religious law enshrined in the new constitution, said Farida Deif, researcher for the women’s rights division of Human Rights Watch said. Everywhere that conservative religious law has been written into a constitution, Deif added, it has codified inequality and discrimination.
“ The question is, is Islamic law going to be a source of legislation or is it going to be the source of legislation,” Deif said.
Since the adoption of the Code of Personal Status in 1959, Iraq’s family law has been fairly secular, Deif said. Zaid A. Zaid, a gay American, worked in Iraq as a liaison between the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi Governing Counsel between February and April of last year. Zaid said that his experience as an openly gay man in Iraq was a positive one. Zaid said inside the Green Zone, the three square mile area guarded by American troops, he encountered other openly gay government workers, closeted U.S. service members and National Guard troops, and closeted gay civilians who had previously worked for Republicans in Washington.
Working in the Green Zone is stressful, Zaid said, with most people working 13 or 14-hour days and nothing to do but sleep during down time. “ It’s not like there were many opportunities for dating or anything else.”Gay group for Baghdad Embassy Those who deal with issues relating to being gay or lesbian while working with the embassy in Baghdad now have a new resource to help them.
According to the August newsletter of Gays & Lesbians In Foreign Affairs Agencies, the gay and lesbian employees of Embassy Baghdad have formed a support group. The GLIFAA newsletter reports that agent Tim Lunardi initially approached post management about supporting June Pride events within the embassy community. “ Unfortunately, post [management] decided not to support Pride events, due to management’s desire not to disturb State’s relationship with military colleagues by raising such an ‘emotional’ issue,” he said. A subsequent request by Lunardi to create and advertise a gay and lesbian support group did win approval, the GLIFAA newsletter reports, and the group held its first meeting July 30.
15 March 2006
Sistani fatwa provokes terror against queers—Shia Badr Corps execute sodomites, Sunnis and others
UK fetes Sistani and hosts Badr, despite anti-gay murders; the Badr Corps is a terrorist organisation and uses terrorist methods against political, religious, sexual and ethnic dissidents.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani of Iraq has issued a death fatwa against lesbian and gay people. On his website, he calls for the killing of homosexuals in the "worst, most severe way" (see his text below). “ Sistani’s murderous homophobic incitement has given a green light to Shia Muslims to hunt and kill lesbians and gay men,” says exiled gay Iraqi, Ali Hili, of the London-based gay human rights group OutRage.
Mr Hili also heads up the new Iraqi LGBT – UK Abu Nawas group, which has close links with clandestine gay activists inside Iraq.
“ We hold Sistani personally responsible for the murder of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Iraqis. He gives the killers theological sanction and encouragement,” said Mr Hili. “ Grand Ayatollah Sistani is the spiritual leader of all Shia Muslims in Iraq and around the world. He is also the spiritual leader of the main Islamic fundamentalist movement in Iraq, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). “ The government in Iraq consults regularly with Sistani on political, social and moral issues. He wields huge influence over Iraqi government policy and the over Iraqi Shia public opinion. Sistani is not even Iraqi. He is an Iranian national who has set himself up as a religious leader in Iraq. He wants to impose an Iranian-style theocracy on the Iraqi people.
“ The British government paid for Sistani to have medical treatment in the UK in 2004, and fetes him as a revered Muslim leader.
Despite Badr’s murderous record, the UK allows its political arm, SCIRI, to have offices and fundraise in the UK. Badr is the terrorist wing of SCIRI. Badr should be proscribed as a terrorist organisation. Evidence we have received from our underground gay contacts inside Iraq suggests intensified homophobic abuse, threats, intimidation and violence by fundamentalist supporters of Sistani.
“ In particular, the Badr Corps, which is the armed wing of SCIRI, has instituted a witch-hunt of lesbian and gay Iraqis – including violent beatings, kidnappings and assassinations. Badr agents have a network of informers who, among other things, target alleged ‘immoral behaviour’. They kill gays, unveiled women, prostitutes, people who sell or drink alcohol, and those who listen to western music and wear western fashions.
“ Badr militants are entrapping gay men via internet chat rooms. They arrange a date, and then beat and kill the victim. Males who are unmarried by the age of 30 or 35 are placed under surveillance on suspicion of being gay, as are effeminate men. They will be investigated and warned to get married. Badr will typically give them a month to change their ways. If they don’t change their behaviour, or if they fail to show evidence that they plan to get married, they will be arrested, disappear and eventually be found dead. The bodies are usually discovered with their hands bound behind their back, blindfolds over their eyes, and bullet wounds to the back of the head.
“ The Badr Corps is a terrorist organisation and uses terrorist methods against political, religious, sexual and ethnic dissidents. It is behind much of the sectarian violence in Iraq today, including suicide bombings, kidnappings and the assassination of Sunnis, moderate Shia, trade unionists, women’s rights activists, gay people and secularists. Our sources inside Iraq report the murders of the following gay and bisexual men. All the killings bear the hallmarks of the execution-style murders for which the Badr organisation is notorious.
“ These killings are just the ones we have been able to get details about. They are the tip of an iceberg of religious-motivated summary executions. Gay Iraqis are living in fear of discovery and murder,” said Mr Hili.
Karim, aged 38, survived a hand grenade attack on his house in the Al-Jameha district of Baghdad in 2004. The attack by members of the Badr Corps, left him with severe facial disfigurement and shrapnel in his body. Simultaneously, the Badr Corps murdered his partner, Ali, at his house, also in the Al-Jameha district. They shot Ali as he tried to escape.
Haydar Faiek, aged 40, a transsexual Iraqi, was beaten and burned to death by Badr militias in the main street in the Al-Karada district of Baghdad in September 2005.
Sarmad and Khalid were partners who lived in the Al-Jameha area of Baghdad. Persons unknown revealed their same-sex relationship. They were abducted by the Badr organisation in April 2005. Their bodies were found two months later, in June, bound, blindfolded and shot in the back of the head.
Naffeh, aged 45, disappeared in August 2005. His family were informed that he was kidnapped by the Badr organisation. His body was found in January 2006. He, too, had been subjected to an execution-style killing.
Ammar, aged 27, was abducted and shot in back of the head in Baghdad by suspected Badr militias in January 2006.
Bashar, an actor aged 34, who resides in Baghdad, has been forced to go into hiding, after receiving death threats against him and his family. Before he went underground, his house was raided several times by the Badr Corps. Fortunately, he was not at home, otherwise he fears he would have been kidnapped and killed.
A copy of Sistani’s fatwa, with translation, follows below.
The text of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s fatwa for the killing of sodomites.
Go to the Sistani website
Under the section Istiftaaat, go to letter L in Arabic, look up to Lewat which means (sodomy). See question 5.
Q5: What is the judgment for sodomy and lesbianism?
A5: Forbidden. Punished, in fact, killed. The people involved should be killed in the worst, most severe way of killing.
March 22, 2006
Shia Death Squads Target Iraqi Gays–U.S. Indifferent
I wrote the following article for the new issue of Gay City News — New York’s largest gay weekly newspaper — which hits the newsstands tomorrow: Following a death-to-gays fatwa issued last October by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani , death squads of the Badr Corps have been systematically targeting gay Iraqis for persecution and execution, gay Iraqis say. But when they ask for help and protection from U.S. occupying authorities in the “Green Zone,” gay Iraqis are met with indifference and derision.
“ The Badr Corps is committed to the ‘sexual cleansing’ of Iraq,“ says Ali Hili, a 33-year-old gay Iraqi exile in London who, with some 30 other gay Iraqis who have fled to the United Kingdom, five months ago founded the Abu Nawas Group there to support persecuted gay Iraqis (Abu Nawas was a great 8th century classical poet of Arab and Persian descent who is known throughout Middle East cultures, and is famous for his poems in praise of same-sex love.)
Said Hili, “We believe that the Badr Corps is receiving advice from Iran on how to target gay people.” In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been carrying out a lethal anti-gay pogrom against Iranian gays, notably through entrapment by Internet — and this tactic has recently begun to be used by the Badr Corps in Iraq to identify and hunt down Iraqi gays.
The well-armed Badr Corps is the military arm of the Iranian-backed Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the powerful Shia group that is the largest political formation in Iraq’s Shia community, which was headquartered in Tehran until Saddam Hussein‘s fall. The SCIRI’s Badr Corps is trained and commanded by former Iraqi army officers. The Ayatollah Sistani, the 77-year-old Iranian-born cleric who is the supreme Shia authority in Iraq, is revered by SCIRI as its spiritual leader. His anti-gay fatwa (available on Sistani’s official website) says that “people involved” in homosexuality “should be killed in the worst, most severe way of killing.”
Speaking by telephone from London, the Abu Nawas Group’s Hili 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.
" Badr militants are entrapping gay men via internet chat rooms. They arrange a date, and then beat and kill the victim. Males who are unmarried by the age of 30 or 35 are placed under surveillance on suspicion of being gay, as are effeminate men. They will be investigated and warned to get married. Badr will typically give them a month to change their ways. If they don’t change their behavior, or if they fail to show evidence that they plan to get married, they will be arrested, disappear and eventually be found dead. The bodies are usually discovered with their hands bound behind their back, blindfolds over their eyes, and bullet wounds to the back of the head.”
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 GCN 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.”
Tahseen lives in a Baghdad apartment with his two brothers. “Right now, I have five gay men hiding in my room in fear of their lives, because they cannot go outside without risking being killed,” he said, with anguish audible in his voice. “They are all listening to me as I speak with you.” All those hiding with Tahseen are in their late twenties or early thirties, and by their mannerisms would be easily identified as gay by most Iraqis. I spoke briefly with one of them, who expressed his fear in a soft, shy voice.
One of those being given refuge by Tahseen is Bashar, a 34-year-old stage actor, who was forced to go into hiding after receiving death threats against him and his family. Before he went underground, his house was raided several times by the Badr Corps. Fortunately, he was not at home, otherwise he fears he would have been kidnapped and killed.
“ 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.
Hili, who has a bachelor’s degree in English literature, and who used to work for Iraqi radio and television, fled to the U.K. in 2002 after having been persecuted for being gay under Saddam Hussein. “In the late ‘80s and early 90s there were a couple of gay clubs in Baghdad, but they were all shut down in 1993 after sanctions were imposed against Saddam’s regime and Iraq. We had a weekly gay nightclub in the Palestine Hotel that became the gathering place for gay people, especially for actors and others in the entertainment world, but it, too, was shut down. I was arrested three times for being gay, and tortured. After several attempts, I finally was able to escape the country, going first to Dubai, then Jordan, then Syria, and finally reaching England.” Now, Hili says, he is heartbroken to see that, three years after Saddam’s fall, life for gay people in Iraq is even more unbearable than before.
“ Just last night I spoke via Internet with a young gay man in his mid-20s who was caught by SCIRI agents. He had no identification with him — gay people are afraid to carry their I.D.s when they go in the street in case they are caught,” because both the police and the Badr Corps agents would inform their families and add them to a list of known homosexuals, which would be used later to target them for killing.. “This young man had his left arm broken by the SCIRI thugs — I saw this with my own eyes via Internet camera,” Hili said.
Hili said the Abu Nawas Group is accumulating evidence that Iranian agents are advising SCIRI and the Iranian police on how to implement anti-gay persecution. Not only has Iran’s Internet entrapment campaign targeting gays been adopted in Iraq, he says, but there are reports that Iranian agents have been involved in interrogations, questioning those arrested in Persian through translators. “This is particularly true in Basra in the south,” Hili says.
Hili provided information on the cases of several gay victims of the Badr Corps, but said, “"These killings are just the ones we have been able to get details about. They are the tip of an iceberg of religious-motivated executions. Gay Iraqis are living in fear of discovery and murder."
The victims include:
-Haydar Faiek, aged 40, a transsexual Iraqi, was beaten and burned to death by Badr militias in the main street in the Al-Karada district of Baghdad in September 2005.
-Ammar, aged 27, was abducted and shot in back of the head in Baghdad by suspected Badr militias in January 2006.
-Naffeh, aged 45, disappeared in August 2005. His family were informed that he was kidnapped by the Badr organisation. His body was found in January 2006. He, too, had been subjected to an execution-style killing.
-Sarmad and Khalid were partners who lived in the Al-Jameha area of Baghdad. Persons unknown revealed their same-sex relationship. They were abducted by the Badr organisation in April 2005. Their bodies were found two months later, in June, bound, blindfolded and shot in the back of the head.
The al-Arabiya TV network reported this weekend that a backroom deal had been reached to nominate Abdel Mahdi (left), a leading SCIRI figure and currently Iraq’s vice president, to be the new Iraqi prime minister (the accord is said to have been reached by representatives of SCIRI, the Kurdish list, and the Sunni Iraqi Concord Front.)
There is great fear that the Badr Corps-SCIRI campaign against gay people will become official Iraqi policy, especially if the report that a top SCIRI politican may become the new prime minister turns out to be true. Under the Iraqi Constitution, virtually written by U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad and his associates, Sharia law, which mandates death for homosexuals, is the foundation of all Iraqi law.
Reuters reported last August 20th, under the headline, “U.S. Concedes Ground to Islamists on Iraqi Law,” that the U.S. brokered a deal “making Islam ‘the,’ not ‘a,’ main source of law — changing current wording — and subjecting all legislation to a religious test.” Reuters quoted a leading Kurdish politician as saying at that time, “’We understand the Americans have sided with the Shi’ites," he said. "It’s shocking. It doesn’t fit American values. They have spent so much blood and money here, only to back the creation of an Islamist state … I can’t believe that’s what the Americans really want or what the American people want.’"
March 23, 2006
Iraqi Exile Speaks Out Against the Targeting of Gay Iraqis by Shia Death Squads
Amy Goodman (announcer): We speak with a gay Iraqi exile about the systematic targeting of gay Iraqis by Shiite death squads in Iraq. The attacks follow a death-to-gays fatwa issued by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani last October. We also speak with independent journalist Doug Ireland who broke the story. [includes rush transcript]
As violence continues on a daily basis on Iraq, President Bush is continuing his media offensive this week. A town-style meeting in West Virginia Wednesday was his latest in five straight days of appearances. The president has repeatedly lauded what he calls the birth of freedom and democracy in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s oppressive regime. But yet another story out of the country paints a very different picture.
Shiite death squads in Iraq have been systematically targeting gay Iraqis for persecution and execution. The attacks follow a death-to-gays fatwa issued by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani last October. In a question and answer section of his website, Sistani says homosexuality is "forbidden" and calls for the killing of gays in the "worst, most severe way." The story comes in this week’s issue of Gay City News. It reports that the Badr Corps have heeded Sistani’s call and have been targeting gay Iraqis. The Badr Corps is the military arm of the Iranian-backed Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a powerful Shia group that is the largest political formation in Iraq’s Shia community.
For more on the story we are joined by Ali Hili, a gay Muslim Iraqi living in exile in Britain. He fled Iraq two years ago. Five months ago he founded the Abu Nawas Group to support persecuted gay Iraqis. He joins us on the line from London. He does not want to expose his face as he has received several death threats. We are also joined by independent journalist Doug Ireland, who broke the story in Gay City News. Doug Ireland is a longtime radical political journalist and media critic. He has been a columnist for The Nation magazine, Village Voice, the New York Observer and the Paris daily Liberation. He is also a contributing editor of POZ, the monthly for the HIV-positive community. He maintains a blog at direland.typepad.com.
AMY GOODMAN: For more on the story, we are joined by Ali Hili, a gay Muslim Iraqi living in exile in Britain. He fled Iraq two years ago. Five months ago, he founded the Abu Nawas Group to support persecuted gay Iraqis. He joins us on the line from London. He doesn’t want to expose his face, as he’s received several death threats. We’re also joined on the telephone here in New York by Doug Ireland who broke the story in the Gay City News, a columnist for The Nation magazine, Village Voice and New York Observer for years, also a contributing editor of POZ, the monthly for the HIV-positive community. Ali Hili, let’s begin with you in London. What exactly do you know? What was your experience in Iraq, and why have you gone into exile?
ALI HILI: Iraq, at the time of Saddam, was — I mean, I’m talking about as a gay Iraqi — it was not as bad as we can see now. In fact, it was a little bit — we have a little bit acceptance. We have little bit of — not too many intimidation. People are really accepting gays, especially in theater, in entertainment and media. We had several actors, singers, which was very popular before. There was no homophobic attitudes toward gay and lesbians. Most of them are welcomed in the community and the society. And people just — we indulgence with the rest of Iraq.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And what has happened in the period since the U.S. occupation?
ALI HILI: Well, we started to receive information, in particular, the last two years, when we made contact with our friends, in particular, my old friends in Baghdad. And horrific, horrific details about, I mean killing, intimidation, harassing, arresting. It’s a very dark age for gays and lesbians and transsexuals and bisexuals in Iraq right now. And the fact that Iraq has been shifted from a secular state into a religious state was completely, completely horrific. We were very modern. We were very, very Western culturalized — Iraq — comparing to the rest of the Middle East. Why it’s been shifted to this Islamic dark ages country?
AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us about the fatwa issued by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani? The section on his website that talks about homosexuality is forbidden and calls for the killing of gays in the worst, most severe way.
ALI HILI: Okay. After the killing of one of our colleagues — and his partner has been injured — it alerted us to start to search for orders of killing, and attract our attention al-Sistini’s highest spiritual leader for the Shia in the Middle East. And on his website, we found an order for killing for gay and lesbians. In fact, I’m looking at it right now. ‘Til this moment, nothing has been changed since we approached them. We asked them to change it and do something about it. Our sources inside Iraq told us that they used this print and give it, send it to people from this website. So we found it, and we started to do a little campaign here in London with our little group to approach the Iraqi government and the media right now to do something about this killing.
JUAN GONZALEZ: We’re also joined by journalist, Doug Ireland, who broke the story in the Gay City News. Doug, welcome to Democracy Now!
DOUG IRELAND: Good morning, Juan.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Now, this is a human rights issue that has gotten no attention, absolutely no attention here in the United States. Could you talk about it and what you went over in your article?
DOUG IRELAND: Yes. The organized and systematic kidnapping and assassination of gay people in Iraq has gotten absolutely zero coverage in the United States media. The killings are ongoing. They are almost a daily occurrence. I spoke this past weekend with an underground gay activist in Baghdad, who told me that just in the previous week four gay Iraqis had been found murdered in the usual style, employed by the Badr Corps, which is to say the bodies are discovered with their hands bound behind their backs and bullets in the back of the head.
The Badr Corps, which is the military arm of the of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq is compiling lists of homosexuals. Many gay Iraqis are — they are warned that if they do not get married, they will be subject to assassination. They usually give them about a month to change their ways, as they put it. And if they don’t, they are targeted for murder. There have been assaults by the Badr Corps in the streets of Iraq. And since the Ayatollah al-Sistani’s death fatwa against gays, this has given a green light for manifestations of public homophobia in the most violent way by Shia Muslims in Iraq. So you have situations where Badr Corps thugs will drag someone into the street and begin beating them, and they are then surrounded by crowds of Shia passers-by who cheer them on. It’s a very desperate situation.
The gay activist I spoke to in Baghdad, with practically tears in his voice, was begging the West to, “Please, we need protection!” When gay activists have gone to the U.S. authorities in the Green Zone, I was told, “We are laughed at, and they don’t care.” They treat the gay Iraqis who are begging them for protection with contempt and derision, which is rather scandalous.
AMY GOODMAN: Ali Hili, you left Iraq two years ago, living in exile, now afraid to even show your face. Were you a supporter of Saddam Hussein?
ALI HILI: No, no, no, no. Actually, I’m personally, I have big hate for this person. He is the worst thing that ever happened to Iraq, maybe, until we saw these religious mullahs who were brought to the government to lead this country. We were much better off in the Saddam time, although he’s a tyrant.
But the Middle East is not that little, simple a-b-c. The politics shouldn’t approach Iraq in that way. Again, it’s a huge, huge mistake, taking off a secular state, with a neighbor Islamic state. Iran has a great, huge, huge influence now on Iraqi government. And they want to adapt the Islamic — Iran version inside Iraq and in the south. We have sources that’s been telling us that several, several Iranian officers and people are really working with the government, and especially the last report we got today from Mr. Muhammed al-Shahwani, the Iraqi intelligence director of the Ha’aretz newspaper, it says names and addresses belonging to Badr organization, closely associated to the Iranian regime, were discovered during a raid by the Iraqi Intelligence Agency against police central last month, and Iranians were arrested during the raid. In Iraq. One was charged of a television station; with no authorization, he’s working. And another one is an officer intelligence from Iranian regime. These horrific — and in fact, it’s proved that Iraq has been penetrated by the Iranian regime, through these mullahs and religious parties.
AMY GOODMAN: Ali Hili, we want to thank you very much for being with us and for speaking out where you are now in Britain, having gone into exile from Iraq, and Doug Ireland of Gay City News, for breaking this story.
To purchase an audio or video copy of this entire program, click here for our new online ordering or call 1 (888) 999-3877.
April 13, 2006
U.N. Agency Confirms Gay Iraqis Targeted for Kidnapping and Murder
A report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) has confirmed that gay Iraqis have been targeted for kidnapping and murder because of their sexual orientation. The U.N. report, released April 10 by the UNOCHA‘s IRIN news and information service, described the widespread increase in kidnappings for ransom and the subsequent killings of university professors and teachers—350 in the past five months alone—and quoted Iraqi Interior Ministry official Ra’ad Hassan as saying that “roughly 50 kidnappings take place countrywide every day.”
Hassan also told the U.N. office, “Since January, the number of kidnappings has increased unabated, along with attacks and threats against certain communities.” The U.N. report said that Iraq’s gay community is one of those targeted “for reasons other than ransom money,” and said that one local non-governmental organization reported that “members of Iraq’s small gay community had received more than 70 threats from kidnappers in the past two months, while 12 have been killed.”
The U.N. report quoted Mustafa Salim, spokesman for a local Iraqi gay organization called Rainbow for Life, as saying, “We’re trying to help these people, but it’s getting very difficult, and our organisation has been targeted twice since last month. We know for certain that those killed were targeted because of their sexual preferences.”
This U.N. report reinforces Doug Irleand’s earlier exposé of the systematic campaign of kidnapping and murder targeting Iraqi gays following the death-to-gays fatwa issued last October by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shi’ite Muslims (“Shia Death Squads Target Iraqi Gays,” Gay Community News, New York, March 23-29). That attributed the sequestrations and killings of Iraqi gays to death squads of the Badr Corps, the Iranian-financed military arm of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the country’s most powerful Shi’ite political group. While the U.N. report does not mention the Badr Corps—no doubt for political reasons having to do with a desire not to offend Shi’a religious and political authorities—it does confirm that Iraqi gays are under serious and organized attack.
April 17, 2006
Gays in Iraq fear for their lives (with commentary by Doug Ireland)
by Michael McDonough
" I don’t want to be gay anymore. When I go out to buy bread, I’m afraid. When the doorbell rings, I think that they have come for me." That is the fear that haunts Hussein, and other gay men in Iraq. They say that since the US-led invasion, gays are being killed because of their sexual orientation.
They blame the increase in violence on the growing influence of religious figures and militia groups in Iraq since Saddam Hussein was ousted. Islam considers homosexuality sinful. A website published in the name of Ayatollah Sistani, Iraq’s most revered Shia cleric, says gays should be put to death. "Those who commit sodomy must be killed in the harshest way," says a section of the website dealing with questions of morality. The statement appears on the Arabic section of the website, which is published in the Iranian city of Qom, but not in the English section.
The BBC asked Mr Sistani’s representative, Seyed Kashmiri, to explain the ruling. "Homosexuals and lesbians are not killed for practising their inclinations for the first time," Mr Kashmiri said in a response sent via email. "There are certain conditions drawn out by jurists before this punishment can be implemented, which is perhaps similar to the punishment meted out by other heavenly religions." Mr Kashmiri added: "Some rulings that are drawn out by jurists are done so on a theoretical basis. Not everything that is said is implemented."
Killings and kidnappings are widespread in Iraq, with much of the bloodshed being linked to sectarian tensions and the anti-US insurgency. But homosexual Iraqis who have spoken to the BBC say they are also being targeted because of their sexual preferences. Hussein is 32 and lives in Baghdad with his brother, sister-in-law and nieces. He says his effeminate appearance and demeanour make him stand out and attract hostility.
"My brother’s friends told him: ‘In the current chaos you could get away with killing your brother without retribution and get rid of this shame,’" Hussein said, after agreeing to speak to the BBC only if his real name was not used. A transsexual friend of his, who had changed names from Haydar to Dina, was killed on her way to a party in Baghdad about six months ago, Hussein said.
Ahmed is a 31-year-old interior decorator who used to live in Baghdad with his boyfriend, Mazin. Ahmed fled to Jordan nine months ago after Mazin was murdered outside a gym. After his partner was shot dead, Ahmed hid in the gym toilets then slipped away and later flew to Amman, the Jordanian capital. He says it was well known that they were a couple and Mazin was targeted because of his sexuality. "I fled from Iraq because of the threat to my life, because I was a gay man," he told the BBC. Ahmed also said that, before the gym shooting, he and a gay friend had survived a grenade attack and he still had fragments of shrapnel in his face. The friend was killed a week later by gunmen who raided his house, he added.
Iraq’s deputy interior minister Maj Gen Hussein Kamal told the BBC that he was unaware of any minority groups being specifically targeted for kidnappings and killings. He also said he was unaware of the statement on Ayatollah Sistani’s website calling for gays to be killed. But he added: "We do not condone vigilante action. We encourage the victims to inform the authorities if they are subjected to any attacks." However, Hussein says gay people are afraid of the police.
The Interior Ministry is run by members of Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) which is one of Iraq’s country’s leading Shia parties. SCIRI has its own militia, the Badr Brigades, and there are widespread concerns that large parts of Iraq’s police force are under the control of such groups. Hussein blames the Badr Brigades and other Shia militia for many of the attacks on gays.
Human rights group Amnesty International has focused most of its work in Iraq on the high levels of violence linked to the insurgency. The organisation said it had no information on reports of anti-gay activities in the country. "It is not an area that we have been actively looking at, but that is not to say that we will not look into the issue at some point," said a spokesman at the group’s London headquarters.
But Hussein, Ahmed and gay activists outside Iraq say there is clear evidence that the situation has deteriorated dramatically for Iraqi homosexuals. "Saddam was a tyrant, but at least we had more freedom then," said Hussein. "Nowadays, gay men are just killed for no reason." You can read this story on the BBC website.
Follow-up commentary by Doug Ireland:
While I’m delighted the BBC has finally broken the blackout on this story that has so far reigned in the major media, its report left out many crucial aspects, which were covered in my original report. The BBC failed to note the relationship between the killings of Iraqi gays and the lethal anti-gay pogrom in Iran–it does not mention that Ayatollah al-Sistani is himself an Iranian, that SCIRI (Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) is backed by Iran–its headquarters were in Tehran for more than 20 years during the Saddam Hussein dictatorship–and that the Badr Corps is financed by Iran.
This is common knowlege in Iraq–indeed, in an important February 17 interview with Le Monde that was ignored by the English-language press, the fact that the salaries of the soldiers of the Badr Corps, whose death squads are carrying out the "sexual cleansing" campaign of murder of gay Iraqis, are paid by Iran, was confirmed by Ali Debbagh, a counselor to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a member of the Iraqi parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, and a university professor specializing in religious political parties.
And while the BBC report did mention that "there are widespread concerns that large parts of Iraq’s police force are under the control of such groups," it omitted the fact that Badr Corps members in Baghdad and elsewhere wear the uniforms of the official police under the control of the Interior Ministry.
05 May 2006
Iraqi police ‘killed 14-year-old boy for being homosexual’
by Jerome Taylor
Human rights groups have condemned the "barbaric" murder of a 14-year-old boy, who, according to witnesses, was shot on his doorstep by Iraqi police for the apparent crime of being gay. Ahmed Khalil was shot at point-blank range after being accosted by men in police uniforms, according to his neighbours in the al-Dura area of Baghdad.
11 May 2006
Human rights groups have condemned the murder of a 14-year-old Baghdad boy– shot and killed on his front doorstep, apparently by police, for the “crime” of being gay.
by Peter Hackney
According to a report in Bgay.com, Ahmed Khalil was beaten by several men wearing Iraqi police uniforms last week, before being shot at point-blank range. A report in the American Chronicle said the men told the boy’s father the killing was “punishment for the crime of being gay”. The slaying is the latest is a series of attacks on gays, lesbians and transsexuals in Iraq, which has become increasingly homophobic since the 2003 US-led invasion destabilised the country, creating an environment of anarchy in which extremist movements have flourished.
Britain’s The Independent newspaper reported in January that a 27-year-old gay man identified only as Ammar died after being shot in the back of the head by militants, while last September it was widely reported that Hayder Faiek, a Baghdad transsexual, was burned to death in a busy street by a death squad targeting “deviants”. Iraqi human rights groups are reporting that the situation has become even more dangerous since March 16, when Iraq’s most prominent Shia leader, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued a fatwa against gays and lesbians. The Ayatollah declared homosexuality and lesbianism “forbidden” and called for the execution of gays and lesbians “in the worst, most severe way.” According to gay rights campaigner Doug Ireland, writing in Gay City News, the increased violence has led some Iraqi gays and lesbians to seek protection from occupying US authorities in Baghdad’s “Green Zone”, but to no avail.
May 16, 2006
Death Sentence for Gay Men Removed from Iraqi Web Site
by Danny McCoy, London, UK
Gay men in Iraq are likely breathing a sigh of relief today as pressure from European gay rights organizations resulted in Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani removing a fatwa from his Web site that called for the killing of homosexuals in the “worst, most severe way possible.” Pink News UK reported Monday that the fatwa was removed May 10 after the London offices of Iraqi LGBT, a gay rights organization, negotiated with Sistani and his office for more than two weeks. Sistani’s office agreed to remove the fatwa against gay men, but left one urging for punishment of lesbians.
The organization is comprised of a clandestine network of lesbian and gay activists inside Iraq’s major cities, including Baghdad, Najaf, Karbala, Hilla, Duhok and Basra. Initial reports by Pink News indicated Sistani called for the removal of his name and criticisms against him from the Iraqi LGBT-UK Web site, with an apology to the Grand Ayatollah for questioning his religious authority. Iraqi LGBT-UK refused, issuing a counter-demand that Sistani remove his “death to gays” fatwa from his website. The resulting compromise was met with mixed response from members of the organization.
" We welcome the decision to remove the most murderously homophobic part of Sistanti’s fatwa from his website," gay Iraqi refugee, Ali Hili, who heads Iraqi LGBT–UK, told Pink News. “This decision does not go far enough. The fatwa has been removed from Sistani’s website only. It has not been revoked. We want the entire fatwa withdrawn, including the hateful denunciation calling for the punishment of lesbians.” The fatwa initially appeared on the Arabic version of Sistani’s website.
May 24, 2006
Iraq: Sistani’s Feint on his Death-to-Gays Fatwa
Iraqi gays are claiming partial success following the decision by Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani (LEFT) and his aides to remove from his Web site a fatwa calling for the killing of homosexuals in the “worst, most severe way possible.” The fatwa itself, however, remains in force, and has not been publicly repudiated by the grand ayatollah, who is the supreme religious authority for Iraq’s Shia Muslims.
The removal of the fatwa from the ayatollah’s Web site followed protests to Sistani by the London office of the Iraqi gay rights organization, Iraqi LGBT, which represents a clandestine network of lesbian and gay activists inside Iraq’s major cities, including Baghdad, Najaf, Karbala, Hilla, Duhok, and Basra. Following two weeks of often tense negotiations with Iraqi LGBT—U.K., Sistani’s office agreed to remove the fatwa calling for the murder of gay men—but unfortunately refused to remove the fatwa urging punishment for lesbianism.
Initially, Sistani’s office had demanded that Iraqi LGBT-U.K. delete its criticisms of Sistani from that group’s Web site and apologize to the grand ayatollah for questioning his religious authority. The gay Iraqi group refused, and instead issued a counter-demand that Sistani remove his death to gays fatwa from his Web site. Sistani’s representatives in London and Najaf finally agreed to drop the homophobic fatwa from his site—except for the section calling for the punishment of lesbians.
While welcome, the removal of the murderous fatwa from Sistani’s Web site is unlikely to affect the situation on the ground in Iraq, where death squads of the Badr Corps—now operating in police uniforms with the authorization of the Iraqi Interior Ministry—continue their lethal campaign of terror against gay people. Absent any public repudiation by Sistani of his fatwa and its formal withdrawal, the wave of organized intimidation, violence, and murder directed at Iraqi gays is likely to persist unabated.
“ We welcome the decision to remove the most murderously homophobic part of Sistani’s fatwa from his Web site,” gay Iraqi refugee Ali Hili, coordinator of Iraqi LGBT – UK, said from London. Ali is also Middle East Affairs spokesman for the British LGBT rights movement, OutRage!, which works closely with the Iraqi gay group.
But, Hili, said, “This decision does not go far enough. The fatwa has been removed from Sistani’s Web site only. It has not been revoked. We want the entire fatwa withdrawn, including the hateful denunciation calling for the punishment of lesbians. We urge Sistani to apologize and revoke, in public, his fatwa calling for the murder of homosexuals, and to issue a new fatwa condemning all vigilante violence, including vigilante attacks on gay and lesbian people. We believe that Sistani’s fatwa has encouraged and sanctioned the current wave of execution-style assassinations of lesbians and gay men. He owes gay Iraqis an apology. He owes all Iraqis an apology for setting straight Iraqis against gay Iraqis.”
According to the Iraqi LGBT group, “Endorsing the murder of other human beings is un-Islamic. Our Muslim faith is one of love, compassion, tolerance, and mercy. Hatred and prejudice have no legitimate place in our religion. Sistani’s encouragement of homophobic violence provokes negative views toward the Islamic faith and towards Muslim people.” Hili added, “Iraqi LGBT-UK still holds Sistani personally responsible for the murder of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered Iraqis. He gives the killers theological sanction and encouragement.”
HOW TO HELP GAY IRAQIS
The all-volunteer London-based Iraqi LGBT-U.K. Group desperately needs money to buy the LGBT activists in Iraq a computer, Webcam, and scanner, plus Internet and phone access, in order to assist their efforts to document the wave of homophobic murders in Iraq and communicate them to the outside world.
Iraqi LGBT-U.K. does not yet have its own bank account. They are working closely with the LGBT human rights group OutRage! in London. Donations to help Iraqi LGBT in the U.K. and in Iraq should be made payable to “OutRage!”, with a cover note marked “For Iraqi LGBT”, and sent to OutRage!, PO Box 17816, London SW14 8WT, England, U.K.
10 August 2006
Iraq: Amnesty International greatly concerned by rising toll of civilian killings, including for discriminatory motives
Amnesty International is greatly concerned about the continuing killings of civilians in Iraq, and the continuing failure of the Iraqi authorities to end the killings and bring the perpetrators to justice. In recent months hundreds of people were reportedly killed every week, as a result of bomb and suicide attacks and in the ever increasing sectarian violence, in Baghdad as well as in other towns and cities. According to a recent UN report, 5818 civilians were killed and at least 5762 wounded in May and June 2006. Today 35 people were reportedly killed in a suicide bomb attack in the southern city of Najaf. Further, scores of people, mostly young or adult men, have been abducted and murdered; often, their hands had been tied and they appear to have been tortured before death.
The killings are continuing despite a security operation involving thousands of Iraqi government troops and the recent deployment of nearly 4,000 US troops in Baghdad. Amnesty International has repeatedly condemned the deliberate killings of civilians by armed groups opposed to the Iraqi government and the presence of foreign troops. Such killings and other abuses by armed groups amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Many of the victims appear to have been targeted for sectarian reasons, because of their religious affiliation as members of the Sunni or Shi’a communities as well as membership of religious minorities – including the Christian and Mandaean communities. Others, however, appear to have been targeted on account of their gender, sexual orientation or national origin, including women, Palestinian refugees who are long term residents of Iraq, and gay men or men imputed to be gay.
According to a number of media reports, individuals thought to be gay have been singled out, attacked, and in some cases killed because of what the perpetrators consider their ‘immoral behaviour’. Alleged perpetrators include militias and members of the Iraqi security forces – such as the Wold Brigade, a special police unit which reports to Iraq’s Interior Ministry, and which has been accused of other abuses including detention and torture of Palestinian residents in Baghdad.
Amnesty International is calling on the Iraqi government to take concrete steps to promptly, thoroughly, impartially and independently investigate these killings and to ensure that the perpetrators are identified and brought to justice. The organization is also calling on all political, religious and community leaders in Iraq to condemn all civilian killings, regardless of the victim’s gender, race, ethnic background, religion, political beliefs, sexual orientation or gender identity, and to demand that their followers refrain from such killings and respect without discrimination the rights of all Iraqis.
October 21, 2006
Huntng Gays in Iraq: How the Death Squads Work
“Every gay and lesbian here lives in fear, just pure fear, of being beaten or killed,” says Ahmad, a 34-year-old gay man, via telephone from his home in Baghdad. “Homosexuality is seen here as imported from the West and as the work of the devil.” Ahmad is masculine and “straight-acting,” he says. “I can go out without being harassed or followed.” But that’s not the case for his more effeminate gay friends. “They just cannot go outside, period,” he says. “If they did, they would be killed.” To help them survive, Ahmad has been bringing food and other necessities to their homes. “The situation for us gay people here is beyond bad and dangerous,” he says.
Life for gay and lesbian citizens in war-torn Iraq has become grave and is getting worse every day. While President Bush hails a new, “democratic” society, thousands of civilians are dying in a low-level civil war—and gays are being targeted just for being gay. The Badr Corps—the military arm of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI for short), the country’s most powerful Shiite political group—has launched a campaign of “sexual cleansing,” marshaling death squads to exterminate homosexuality. When Iraq’s chief Shiite cleric, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani removed a fatwa calling for death to gay men from his Web site earlier this year—it wasn’t removed for lesbians—some observers thought the antigay reign of terror might end. But the fatwa still remains in effect; indeed, persecution of gay Iraqis has only escalated.
“In the last two months the situation has gotten worse and worse,” says Ali Hili, a gay Iraqi living in London, who founded and coordinates the group Iraqi LGBT. “Just last month there were three raids by the Interior Ministry on two of the safe houses we maintain in Basra and Najaf. They were looking for specific names and people, and some of them were killed on the spot.” The Interior Ministry is heavily infiltrated by SCIRI operatives and troops who carry out the Sistani fatwa. Hili’s group, some 30 gay Iraqi exiles who came together last fall in London in the wake of Sistani’s death-to-gays fatwa, has a network of informants and supporters throughout Iraq. With anguish in his voice, he recalls two of them, lesbians who ran a safe house in Najaf that harbored young kids who’d been trapped in the commercial sex trade. “They were accused of running a brothel,” he says. “They were slain in the safe house with their throats cut. This was only weeks ago.
“Every day we hear from our network inside Iraq of new horrors happening to our gay and lesbian people—it’s overwhelming, we just can’t cope,” Hili continues. “Look, we’re only a little volunteer organization, and nobody helps us—not the American occupier, not the U.N., not Amnesty International, nobody. We’re desperate for help.” Through a translator, several gay Iraqis spoke to me about the dire circumstances for gay people in their country. None wanted their last names printed for fear of reprisals, and all had horrific stories to tell.
Hussein, 32, is a gay man living with his married brother’s family in Baghdad. “I’ve been living in a state of fear for the last year since Ayatollah Sistani issued that fatwa, in which he even encouraged families to kill their sons and brothers if they do not change their gay behavior,” he says. “My brother, who has been under pressure and threats from Sistani’s followers about me, has threatened to harm me himself, or even kill me, if I show any signs of gayness.” Hussein already lost his job in a photo lab because the shop owner did not want people to think that he was supporting a gay man. “Now I’m very self-conscious about my look and the way I dress—I try to play it safe,” says Hussein, who is slightly effeminate. “Several times I was followed in the street and beaten just because I had a nice, cool haircut that looked feminine to them. Now I just shave my head.”??Indeed, even the way one dresses is enough to get a gay Iraqi killed. “Just the fact of looking neat and clean, let alone looking elegant and well groomed, is very dangerous for a gay person,”
Hussein says. “So now I don’t wear nice clothes, so that no one would even suspect that I’m gay. I now only leave home if I want to get food.” One of Hussein’s best friends, Haydar, was recently found shot in the back of the head at a deserted ranch outside the city. “Some say he was shot by a family member in an act of honor killing; some say he was shot by those so-called death squads,” Hussein says. “Everyone says it’s easy these days to get away with killing gays, since there is no law and order here.”
All Hussein thinks about is getting out of Iraq. “Things were bad under Saddam for gays,” he says, “but not as bad as now. Then, no one feared for their lives. Now, you can be gotten rid of at any time.” But even fleeing from Iraq to a democratic Western nation is no guarantee of safety. The case of Ibaa Al-alawi, a well-educated 28-year-old gay Iraqi who fled from Baghdad to London last fall and is facing deportation, is sadly typical. “I am a victim of this religious, homophobic ideology imported from Iran by SCIRI and the Badr Corps,” says Al-alawi, who was born in to a secular family and speaks perfect English, via telephone from London. “The Badr Corps is very well-organized—they control two floors of the Iraqi Interior Ministry [in London] and they wear police uniforms.”
Al-alawi worked for two years for the British embassy in Baghdad, running a technical scholarship program for students who wanted to study in the United Kingdom. “But my family began getting threats about me from the Badr Corps,” he says. “They threatened my brother, telling him, ‘If you can’t get your brother to change and stop his gay ways, we’ll kill him.’ They threw a stone, with a threatening letter fastened around it, into the garden of our house—it quoted passages from the Koran, and then it said, in very illiterate terms, ‘Your son is sinful, and if he doesn’t change from being gay, in three days he will be dead.’ ”
The incident frightened Al-alawi so much that he quit his job at the embassy and holed up at his Baghdad home for two months. “One day I ventured out to shop with my mother, and while we were out a pickup truck came to our house, carrying hooded men in uniforms who smashed down our front door and threw a hand grenade into our home,” he recalls. “If my mother and I had been there, we would have been killed. The neighbors who witnessed this attack told us it was the Badr Corps.” The next day he bought a plane ticket for London, where he applied for asylum on arrival. But his request was refused by the Home Office, which handles immigration in the United Kingdom. “They told me, ‘We believe that you face discrimination in Iraq, but we don’t believe you are persecuted.’ I even showed them a photo of me next to Tony Blair from when I worked at their embassy, but it didn’t help.”
In the first week of August, Al-alawi’s administrative appeal against the Home Office’s deportation order was denied. At press time he was in court, seeking to stop the Blair government from sending him back to Iraq. “My life is in serious danger if I’m sent back to Iraq,” he says. “You know, I have a master’s degree in English literature—to think that a cheap bullet from the Badr Corps could end it all—what a waste of an education.” Mohammed, a gay Iraqi in his 20s from Basra, fled to Jordan on July 17 after the Badr Corps assassinated his partner. “I don’t know how they found out about my partner, but they killed him by a bullet to the back of his head, so I knew that the danger was so close to me,” he says via e-mail. “I don’t know how I can live without this relationship.”
The death of his partner marked the culmination of years of persecution for Mohammed, starting with his own family. “I’ve been gay since childhood,” he says, but “my family are Shia and don’t permit this [homosexuality]. I think they would kill us before the Badr Corps could if they knew about us.” The Badr Corps’ murderous campaign is not limited to street executions—it includes Internet entrapment and intimidation backed by violence. Networks of neighborhood informers—SCIRI militants and sympathizers—track suspected gays and report them for targeting by the terror campaign. “One day on the Internet I entered a site for gays in Iraq, and specifically in Basra,” Mohammed recalls. “While on this site I met a new guy who gave me his name and e-mail. But God’s mercy saved me from him—I saw abnormal movement in that site where I met this guy and got out of it rapidly. Later I discovered that he worked secretly with the Badr militia to find and kill gays.”
After discovering them online, SCIRI supporters will sometimes instigate beatings of suspected gays in the street, says Ahmad. People from the neighborhoods and even passersby will join in. “If you are gay, you can’t trust anyone you meet unless they are old friends from within your circle of acquaintances,” Ahmad says. “You can’t date or meet new people because you wouldn’t know what their motives are.” Every new encounter is fraught with danger. “There have been cases where some gay guys meet some men they thought were gay too, but it turned out they just wanted to use them sexually and then blackmail them for money by threatening to inform on them” to the Badr Corps, Ahmad says. Or a new friend could turn out to be an undercover agent. “We are desperate to end this state of fear and horror in which we have been living,” Ahmad says. “Many of us want to leave.”
If You Would Like To Help Iraqi Gays, the immediate urgent priority is to donate money to LGBT activists in Iraq in order to assist their efforts to communicate information about the wave of homophobic murders in Iraq to the outside world. Funds raised will also help provide LGBTs under threat of "honor killing" with refuge in the safer parts of Iraq (including safe houses and food), and assist efforts to help them seek asylum abroad. Iraqi LGBT UK — there is no comparable group in the U.S. — does not yet have a bank account. They are working closely with the LGBT human rights group OutRage! in London. Donations to help Iraqi LGBT UK and the group’s vital work in Iraq should be made payable to "OutRage!", with a cover note marked "For Iraqi LGBT", and sent to: OutRage!, PO Box17816, London SW14 8WT, England,UK
Iraq Police Abduct Gays at Gunpoint
by Tris Reid-Smith
Ten gay men have been abducted in Iraq and it is feared all of them may have been murdered. Five young activists from Iraqi LGBT, Amjad 27, Rafid 29, Hassan 24, Ayman 19 and Ali 21 were seized at gunpoint by Iraqi police while holding a secret meeting in the al-Shaab district of Baghdad on 9 November. They were communicating with Ali Hili, a British-based gay Iraqi Muslim who heads Iraqi LGBT and is Middle East spokesman for UK queer rights group Outrage. Hili said: “For the last few months they had been documenting the killing of lesbians and gays, relaying details of homophobic executions to our office in London, and providing safe houses and support to queers fleeing the death squads. “Suddenly there was a lot of noise, then the connection ended.”
Just days later, Haydar Kamel, aged 35, the owner of famous men’s clothing shop in the al-Karada district of Baghdad, was kidnapped near his home in Sadr city. The kidnappers were members of the Mahdi army, an Islamist militia loyal to fundamentalist leader Muqtada al-Sadr. “Haydar had previously received death threats because of rumours about his alleged homosexuality. For many months, he had financially supported several gay men who were in hiding after they had been threatened by death squads,” claims Hili.
Police also arrested four employees at the Jar al-Qamar barbershop in the al-Karada district of Baghdad which was popular with gay men. None of the 10 men have been heard from and it is feared all have been summarily executed. “These disappearances are the latest ‘sexual cleansing’ operations mounted by extremist Islamist death squads, many of whom have infiltrated the Iraqi police,” notes Hili, who has obtained details of the kidnappings from his underground Iraqi LGBT activist colleagues in Baghdad.
“They are systematically targeting gays and lesbians for extra-judicial execution, as part of their so-called moral purification campaign. The aim of the death squads is the creation of a fundamentalist state, along the lines of the religious dictatorship in Iran.” Earlier, in June this year, extremist lslamist death squads burst into the home of two lesbians in city of Najaf. They shot them dead, slashed their throats, and murdered a young child the lesbians had rescued from the sex trade.
The two women, both in their mid-30s, were members of Iraqi LGBT. They were providing a safe house for gay men on the run from death squads. None of those men were at home when the assassins struck. They are now hiding in another of the group’s safe houses in Baghdad. Hili said: “Two militias are doing most of the killing. They are the armed wings of parties in the Bush and Blair-backed Iraqi government. Badr is the militia of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which is the leading political force in Baghdad’s government coalition. Madhi is the militia of Muqtada al-Sadr.”
Outrage’s Peter Tatchell says Iraqi LGBT has establishes a network of activists working in Baghdad, Najaf, Karbala, Hilla and Basra. “These courageous activists are helping gay people on the run escape to Syria, Jordan and Lebanon,” Tatchell said. “The world ignores the fate of gay Iraqis at its peril. Their fate today is the fate of all Iraqis tomorrow.”
Iraqi LGBT needs funds to help its work in Iraq. It doesn’t yet have a bank account. Cheques should be made payable to Outrage, with a cover note marked “For Iraqi LGBT”, and sent to Outrage, PO Box 17816, London. SW14 8WT.
December 06, 2006
Iraqi gay activists abducted
Coming after a month in which as many as 10 gay activists in Baghdad were arrested by Shia death squads, President George Bush’s meeting this week with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, president of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and founder of the Badr Corps came as a shock to Iraqi LGBT activists. Five underground gay activists were abducted in a police raid on a secret gay planning meeting in Baghdad’s Al Shaab district on November 9, in a body blow to Iraqi LGBT, the London-based group with supporters throughout Iraq in which the five victims were all members. Within days, five other gay men in Baghdad were also abducted—and with family, friends, and colleagues unable to secure any news of their whereabouts, it is feared that all 10 Iraqi gays have been murdered, victims of the ongoing "sexual cleansing" campaign by anti-gay religious death squads operating throughout the country.
At the time of the raid on the activists’ meeting, they were speaking via an Internet voice connection with Ali Hili, the gay Iraqi Muslim who coordinates the Iraqi LGBT group from London. "We were talking, and all of a sudden I heard the sounds of the door being kicked in and a lot of noise, and the connection went dead," Hili told Gay City News by telephone from London.
"It took me 24 hours to find out what happened, but I finally reached my friend Samir, another member of our Baghdad network, who told me, ‘The guys have all been arrested,’" Hili added. "People saw the raid being carried out—it was the work of Badr Corps members all dressed in Ministry of Interior uniforms." Anti-gay death squads have been systematically targeting, intimidating, assaulting, and killing Iraqi gays ever since a death-to-gays fatwa issued last October by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the supreme spiritual leader of all Iraqi Shia Muslims. The well-armed Badr Corps, which has carried out Sistani’s lethal fatwa, is the military arm of the Iranian-backed Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the powerful group that is the largest political formation in Iraq’s Shia community, and was headquartered in exile in Tehran until Saddam Hussein’s fall.
The SCIRI’s Badr Corps, whose salaries had been paid by Iran, has now been integrated into the government’s Ministry of the Interior, and its members wear police uniforms and have full police powers. Hili told me by telephone from London that the five abducted activists were meeting to plan a January rendezvous in Amman, Jordan, to discuss the deadly plight of Iraqi gays with representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and from Amnesty International.
"This core group of activists had regular meetings every week or two weeks," Hili said. "We had set this particular meeting at a time when there was electricity—since in that neighborhood there is only two hours of electricity a day by generator—so that I could speak with them. We believe that either the phone line used to arrange the meeting, or the Internet connection on which we were speaking, was wiretapped." The Badr Corps has copied Iranian methods of Internet entrapment of gays, and used them extensively to identify and target Iraqi gays for sexual cleansing. Hili said that "these five had been doing important work on behalf of Iraqi LGBT documenting the execution of Iraqi queers so that we can tell these stories to the world. Three of them were new members who’d been active with us only a few months, and all were bright young enthusiasts: Amjad was 27—he’s a journalism student; Ali is 21, and also a college student; and Ayman is only 19, and just finished high school."
The other two abducted activists, Hili said, were original members of the Iraqi LGBT group’s Baghdad network: Rafid, 29, a coiffeur and make-up artist; and Hassan, 24, a taxi driver and garage mechanic. "The disappearance of Hassan is particularly hard for me to bear," the 32-year-old Hili said. "For one thing, he was an important part of our network, because, as a Shia, he could travel to the south of Iraq, to places like Karbala, where he was collecting information on attacks on and killings of queers and trying to start a little gay movement in parts of the south."
"But more than that, we were very close. When he was 12, I’d helped him get out of a terrible family situation, where he was being sexually abused by family members—he was a very devastated child then. We became very good friends after that. It makes me so sad to think that he has probably now been murdered," Hili said with evident emotion. Five other gay men were also arrested by Interior Ministry police within days of the abduction of the Baghdad activists. Police believed to be Badr Corps members arrested four employees at the Jar al-Qamar barbershop in the al-Karada district of Baghdad, an establishment very popular with gay men.
Then, in mid-November police arrested another Iraqi LGBT activist, 35-year-old Haidar.
"Haidar, who was from a rich family, owned a clothing store, and was well known as a supporter of our group, was kidnapped near his home in Sadr City," Hili said. "Haidar had received many death threats because it was frequently said that he was gay—in fact, he was a very generous guy who had been giving money to support a number of gay men who had gone into hiding after they’d received threats to their lives from the death squads. Eyewitnesses told our people in Baghdad that Haidar was kidnapped by Mahdi Army soldiers all dressed in black, their typical attire." The Mahdi Army is the fierce, armed militia loyal to radical fundamentalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and has also carried out sexual cleansing targeting gays.
Hili said that his group had recently learned of two new anti-gay fatwas, "issued between August and October. One fatwa, proclaimed by a mullah who is a religious leader for Muqtada al-Sadr, was against our group, Iraqi LGBT. It said that ‘people who want to harbor and protect gays should be killed.’ The other anti-gay fatwa was issued against me personally by Ayatollah Sistani’s Council of Mullahs—we’re still trying to get the exact text. Communication inside Iraq among gay people is so difficult, you know, because everyone is afraid their phones are tapped—and they have reason to be afraid," as the abduction of the Iraqi LGBT group’s activists shows. Hili said the fatwa targeting him "was in my real name"—Hili is a pseudonym he adopted for security reasons. As soon as he became visible as the Iraqi LGBT group’s spokesman, he began receiving many threats of violence and death in the U.K. from supporters of SCIRI and Ayatollah Sistani there. Hili believes that "they probably got my name from a July Badr Corps raid on a safe house our group maintained in Basra. They seized most of our information, our computer records, e-mail addresses, and documents—and my real name was in some of those documents."
Hili spoke to me late Monday night, following President George W. Bush’s meeting with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, president of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Al-Hakim heads the SCIRI-led United Iraqi Alliance, which has the largest number of parliamentary seats in the government alliance. "This has been a terrible day, I cried so much," Hili said, asking, "How can the American president meet this murderer, Hakim? He is the founder of the Badr Corps, which is killing us! He brought the death squads to Iraq! For Iraqis, his hands are full of blood. Our people say he is worse than Saddam! All day I’ve been talking to people in Iraq and getting e-mails from Iraq—there’s a lot of anger in Iraq that Bush is meeting with Hakim, and a lot of despair among gay people. Because when the president of America meets with the man who is the leader of the death squads which are killing gay people, given what we see every day, it makes us lose hope."
With these words, Hili’s voice broke, and he wept.
After a moment, Hili resumed. "Just this week, a lady called us and told us of her brother, Alan, a Christian who was 24, who lived in a Shia neighborhood, and who had been murdered for being gay," he said. "And every time these people say, ‘Please tell our message to the world.’ That’s why we keep on with our work." The Iraqi LGBT group desperately needs money to improve its communications inside Iraq , to buy computers to replace those seized by police, scanners, cell-phones, and other material so that it can document the lethal anti-gay campaign of sexual cleansing. The group does not have its own bank account for legal reasons, but checks for the Iraqi LGBT group should be made payable to the U.K. gay rights group OutRage!, with a cover note stating it is a donation for "Iraqi LGBT—UK" and mailed to: OutRage!, PO Box 7816, London SW14 8WT, England, U..K.