Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Iraqi Militia Violence Against Gays Continues, 82 Deaths Reported

"Why did Hitler start with gays?" asks Mithal al-Alusi, a secular, liberal Sunni legislator in a chilling piece by USA Today. "They are weak. They have no political cover. They have no legal cover."

Sadly, gay men in Iraq are proving al-Alusi to be correct. Iraqi LGBT, a London-based advocacy group, told USA Today that the death toll of gay mean at the hands of Iraqi militia has now reach 82. Earlier reports of torture, where the militia glue the anuses of the men shut and feed them laxatives, exposed the ghastly deeds of these fundamentalists groups, but it appears they haven't done anything to help curb the tide of human rights violations.

Excerpts from USA Today:
The young man turns to the camera and pleads with his tormentors.

"I'm not a terrorist," he tells the Iraqi police who surround him. "I want you to know I am different. But I am not a terrorist."

To some fundamentalist Iraqi Muslims, Ahmed Sadoun Saleh was worse than a terrorist.

He was gay. He wore his hair long and took female hormones to grow breasts. Amused by his appearance, Iraqi police officers stopped him in December at a checkpoint in a southern Baghdad neighborhood dominated by radical Shiite militias. They groped Saleh and ridiculed him.

The assault was captured on video and circulated on cellphones throughout Baghdad, says Ali Hili, founder of London-based Iraqi LGBT, a group dedicated to protecting Iraq's gays and lesbians. Shortly after the video was made public, Hili says Saleh contacted him, fearing for his life, and asked for his help to flee Iraq.

"Unfortunately, it was too late," Hili says. Saleh turned up dead two months later, he says.

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The militias usually send out warnings before they attack. Posters go up in Sadr City listing the offenders — gay and flashy straight men — by name and neighborhood. "If you don't give up what you are doing," said a recent one seen by a USA TODAY reporter, "death will be your fate. And this warning will come true, and the punishment will be worse and worse."

The poster referred to the offenders as "puppies," the fundamentalist epithet for gays here. "In Arabic culture, if you want to insult someone you call them a dog," human rights activist Yanar Mohammed says. "If you're a small dog, you can just be crushed."

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The militiamen pick their targets by entering cafes and looking for men who appear feminine or too showy, [Emad] Saad says. Then they ask around to get the offenders' names, and later put them on the death lists distributed around town.

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Unable to trust the authorities — and in some cases shunned by their own families — many Iraqi gays have gone into hiding. Hassan and some gay friends say they had found refuge in a house in Karrada. But as the threat against them increased, they became afraid the police would find them. So they scattered.

Hassan says he sometimes stays at home with his brothers — their parents are dead — but he's afraid even of them, afraid they will kill him because he has brought shame to the family.

He says he wanted to move in with his sister, who lives in Abu Dhabi. She turned him away, saying she didn't want her children to know they have a gay uncle.

Unwilling to trust the police, Iraqi LGBT has set up its own safe houses for gays in Iraq. The group has struggled to raise money and had to close three safe houses in the past couple of months, leaving just one open.

Hili says five safe houses are needed, each of them housing 10 to 12 gay refugees. Rent for a 2,150-square-foot safe house is usually $600 a month. Yet other expenses pile up: security guards, food, fuel, medical bills, pots and pans, bedding.

"We desperately need to add more because we have so many urgent cases," Hili says. "We receive requests for shelter every day, but are not able to help."
The persecuted gays say that life and safety were better during the reign of Saddam Hussein. Consider the irony. America goes into Iraq to bring freedom and democracy, and the most vulnerable of this country are now suffering more than ever before.

ACTION: You can assist by donating to Iraq LGBT who have assisted in securing safe houses in Iraq.

Sign this Change.org's petition to Congress demanding more be done to stop the torture and killing of LGBT in Iraq.

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