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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 28, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 35
U.N. Security Council briefed on ISIS hate crimes
Section One
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U.N. Security Council briefed on ISIS hate crimes

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Jessica Stern, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), briefed the U.N. Security Council on anti-LGBT hate crimes committed by ISIS.

In her August 24 statement to the U.N. body, Stern urged governments to act immediately to support LGBT people in Iraq and Syria.

'The heart of my message today is this: the international community must understand anti-LGBTI persecution as a component of how ISIS treats those it labels as 'impure,' Stern told the Security Council.

'We must recognize that these threats exist on a continuum of violence and discrimination before, during, and after conflict.'

Stern urged the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and individual governments to act immediately to assist individuals, including LGBT people, who are most in need of relocation. She urged the creation of safe houses in Iraq and also urged donor countries to support initiatives supporting psychosocial help for vulnerable individuals.

At a press briefing following the closed Security Council session, Stern told reporters that 'Given the extreme and constant forms of attack against LGBTI people we think it's of the utmost importance for the Security Council to act urgently.'

During the Security Council session, two men targeted by the Islamic State, one each from Iraq and Syria, also shared their experiences with the Security Council. One of the men 'Adnan' spoke by phone to keep his identity concealed.

ISIS, which now controls a wide swath of territory in northeast Syria and northwest Iraq, has claimed responsibility for the execution of at least 30 men for 'sodomy.' IGLHRC has cautioned that not all men executed for sodomy might be Gay, since ISIS regularly accuses its political enemies of all kinds of crimes to justify killing them.

Stern also noted that even before the rise of ISIS and its conquest of territory in Syria and Iraq, 'LGBTI Iraqis and Syrians have been persecuted by intolerance permeating all aspects of life. It was not only the State that abdicated responsibility: some families would rather harm their own children than see their so-called 'honor' besmirched. Some have twisted faith to incite violence.'

Stern then proposed five action items:

o All U.N. agencies in Iraq and Syria must have tailored LGBTI programming.

o UNHCR and governments must continue to act with urgency for those most in need of relocation.

o The Government of Iraq should remove barriers to access to direct services and justice.

o The Government of Iraq must respect freedom of expression and allow independent radio stations to operate.

o Donors must fund initiatives by LGBTI Iraqis and Syrians and by their allies. Resources should support immediate needs, like safe houses and psychosocial support, and long-term rights-based initiatives and norm building.

While she described the situation of LGBT people in ISIS-controlled areas as dire, Stern still held out hope for the LGBT community in Iraq and Syria.

'In conclusion, I want to share a ray of hope,' she said at the end of her presentation.

'Recently, a gay friend from Iraq founded a new organization for LGBTI Iraqis: IraQueer. Now with members across the country, they're finding ways to survive - even in ISIS-controlled areas.

'If they can find a way, so can the international community. Today is a first step.'

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