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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 9, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 36
Iraqi LGBT still targets of violence, U.N. report says
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Iraqi LGBT still targets of violence, U.N. report says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A report from the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) says that attacks on Iraq's LGBT community continued in 2010.

The report cited 2,953 violent deaths in Iraq in 2010. It attributed most of these to insurgent and terrorist groups.

Women, children, and minority groups - including the LGBT community - suffered disproportionately, the report said.

There has been improvement in some areas of human rights, the report says, but many challenges remain and some areas were actually worse off in 2010 than in previous war-torn years.

'Particularly women's rights levels and standards have gone down. They suffer from widespread violence, especially from domestic violence,' Rupert Colville, the spokesperson for OHCHR, told Inter Press Service.

'There is little legislation to prevent this from occurring and the criminal code in Iraq almost encourages these crimes. There needs to be laws in the region against domestic violence,' Colville said.

Specific legal protections for sexual orientation and gender identity are also needed, the report says, but they too run afoul of the Iraqi criminal code and Iraqi religious beliefs.

'UNAMI continued to receive reports during 2010 of attacks against individuals based on their perceived or actual sexual orientation. The topic of homosexuality is largely taboo in Iraq and seen as incompatible with the country's culture and religion,' the report says.

According to U.N. officials, Iraq expressly rejected calls to protect its LGBT communities and to investigate anti-LGBT hate crimes during the February 2010 Universal Periodic Review by the U.N. Human Rights Council.

'Members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community usually keep their sexual orientation secret and live in constant fear of discrimination, rejection by family members, social ostracism, and violence,' the U.N. report noted.

'Police and courts regularly take into account the alleged homosexuality of the victim as a mitigating factor in relation to crimes committed against persons on account of their perceived or real sexual orientation.'

The U.N. report also quoted testimony from Iraqi Gay rights advocate Ali Hili concerning a police raid on a safe house sheltering Transgender Iraqis in the city of Karbala.

'The six people arrested reportedly included three men, one woman, and two Transgender people. Two days later, one of the men turned up in hospital with a throat wound claiming he had been tortured. UNAMI has not been able to ascertain the whereabouts of the other five individuals.'

'UNAMI continued to follow the cases of 10 men who were persecuted in Baghdad because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation. As previously reported, the men had suffered extreme forms of violence and abuse at the hands of members of the Mahdi Army, police officers, religious leaders, and local criminal gangs, which had forced them to flee to a neighboring country in May 2009 from where they hoped to seek protection in third countries.'

The Mahdi Army is the militia group associated with Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. It has been accused of murdering and torturing Gay Iraqis, as has the rival Shia militia Badr Brigades.

Unredacted cables from the American Embassy in Baghdad published by Wikileaks also provide additional new evidence of violence against LGBT people in Iraq, although they cover an earlier period than this report.

In a 2009 cable signed 'Hill' a comment documented that many LGBT Iraqis are fleeing the country.

'It is clear that LGBT persons in Iraq have nowhere to turn. Hunted by religious extremists, ignored by the police, and unable to ask their families for help, many have sought to resettle outside of the country. While reports of violence have subsided for the time being, LGBT individuals still face daily persecution. Due to the sensitive nature of the issue, and the unwillingness of GOI [Government Of Iraq] officials to address the topic, it is unlikely that the situation will improve any time soon. Embassy is therefore working closely with UNAMI, UNHCR, and various NGOs to help these people escape from an untenable position,' the cable read.

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