by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
In a report released on August 17, Human Rights Watch charges that Iraqi militias are carrying out systematic atrocities against Gay Iraqis.
Titled 'They Want Us Exterminated: Murder, Torture, Sexual Orientation and Gender in Iraq,' the 67-page report documents a campaign of executions, kidnappings, and torture of Gay men that began in early 2009.
According to Human Rights Watch, the killings began in the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City, a stronghold of Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, and spread to cities across Iraq.
The bodies of several Gay men were found in Sadr City with the Arabic words for 'pervert' and 'puppy' (the Iraqi equivalent of 'fag') written on their chests. Threats and abuses have since spread to the cities of Kirkuk, Najaf and Basra, although the murders remain concentrated in Baghdad.
Mahdi Army spokesmen have played on fears about "feminization" of Iraqi men, and religious leaders associated with the militia have preached weekly sermons against homosexuality.
"Murders are committed with impunity, admonitory in intent, with corpses dumped in garbage or hung as warnings on the street," the report said.
Some people told Human Rights Watch that Iraqi security forces have colluded with and even joined in the killing. The Iraqi Ministry of the Interior, which controls Iraqi police, is widely reported to have been infiltrated by Mahdi Army and Badr Brigade militias.
"Iraq's leaders are supposed to defend all Iraqis, not abandon them to armed agents of hate," said Scott Long, director of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. "Turning a blind eye to torture and murder threatens the rights and life of every Iraqi."
"Murder and torture are no way to enforce morality," said Rasha Moumneh, Middle East and North Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. "These killings point to the continuing and lethal failure of Iraq's post-occupation authorities to establish the rule of law and protect their citizens."
The Human Rights Watch report confirms similar charges made earlier this year by US Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) after his visit to Iraq. Polis met with Gay Iraqis, and has also maintained contact with the London-based exile group Iraqi LGBT.
Polis has called on the US government to use its influence to help protect Iraq's Gay citizens. The position of the US State Department is that homosexuality is illegal under Iraqi law, and that it does not interfere in the internal affairs of friendly countries.
Human Rights Watch does not agree that same-sex sexual relations between adults are illegal in Iraq. Iraqi law is unclear on this point because legal continuity between the Saddam regime and the present government is disputed.
As reported in SGN last week, charges that US troops participated in killing Gay Iraqis have been investigated by the US Army CID and found to be "not credible."
Following is actual testimony of Gay Iraqis excerpted from the Human Rights Watch report. The names are aliases, to disguise the men's identities.
Gay Iraqis Testify
"[The killers'] measuring rod to judge people is who they have sex with. It is not by their conscience, it is not by their conduct or their values, it is who they have sex with. The cheapest thing in Iraq is a human being, a human life. It is cheaper than an animal, than a pair of used-up batteries you buy on the street. Especially people like us. ... I can't believe I'm here talking to you because it's all just been repressed, repressed, repressed. For years it's been like that - if I walk down the street, I would feel everyone pointing at me. I feel as if I'm dying all the time. And now this, in the last month - I don't understand what we did to deserve this. They want us exterminated. All the violence and all this hatred: the people who are suffering from it don't deserve it."?-Hamid, in Iraq, April 24, 2009
"We've been hearing about this, about Gay men being killed, for more than a month. It's like background noise now, every day. The stories started spreading in February about this campaign against Gay people by the Mahdi Army: everyone was talking about it, I was hearing about it from my straight friends. In a coffee shop in Karada, on the streets in Harithiya [Baghdad neighborhoods], they were talking about it. I didn't worry at first. My friends and I, we look extremely masculine, there is nothing visibly "feminine" about us. None of us ever, ever believed this would happen to us. But then at the end of March we heard on the street that 30 men had been killed already."?-Idris, in Iraq, April 24, 2009
"They did many things to us, the Mahdi Army. ... They kidnapped [my partner] for six days. He will not talk about what they did to him. There were bruises on his side as if he was dragged on the street. They did things to him he can't describe, even to me. They wrote in the dust on the windshield of his car: 'Death to the people of Lot [Gay people] and to collaborators.' They sent us veiled threats in text messages: 'You are on the list.' They sent him a piece of paper in an envelope, to his home: there were three bullets wrapped in plastic, of different size. The note said, 'Which one do you want in your heart?' ... I want to be a regular person, lead a normal life, walk around the city, drink coffee on the street. But because of who I am, I can't. There is no way out."?-Mohammad, in Iraq, April 21, 2009
"At 10 a.m., [Ministry of Interior officers] cuffed my hands behind my back. Then they tied a rope around my legs, and they hung me upside down from a hook in the ceiling, from morning till sunset. I passed out. I was stripped down to my underwear while I hung upside down. They cut me down that night, but they gave me no water or food. Next day, they told me to put my clothes back on and they took me to the investigating officer. He said, 'You like that? We're going to do that to you more and more, until you confess.' Confess to what? I asked. 'To the work you do, to the organization you belong to, and that you are a tanta [queen].' For days, there were severe beatings, and constant humiliation and insults. ... It was the same form of abuse every day. They beat me all over my body; when they had me hanging upside down, they used me like a punching bag. ... They used electric prods all over my body. Then they raped me. Over three days. The first day, 15 of them raped me; the second day, six; the third day, four. There was a bag on my head every time."?-Nuri, on April 15 and 27, 2009
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