In Ghana, we thought all gays had to worry about when going online to meet dudes was getting ripped off by scammers, who use dating sites and chat rooms to lure foreigners into robbery setups. But in Iraq, that same web activity will get you killed.
Exploring just how anti-gay militias in Iraq are targeting queers there, the Guardian sits down with the men cruising same-sex sites — up to six hours a day — to pick their next victims. While the men on the other end of the computer screen think they’re finding a mate, they’re actually setting themselves up to be beaten, tortured, killed, and made an example of.
Sitting on the floor, wearing traditional Islamic clothes and holding an old notebook, Abu Hamizi, 22, spends at least six hours a day searching internet chatrooms linked to gay websites. He is not looking for new friends, but for victims.
“It is the easiest way to find those people who are destroying Islam and who want to dirty the reputation we took centuries to build up,” he said. When he finds them, Hamizi arranges for them to be attacked and sometimes killed.
Hamizi, a computer science graduate, is at the cutting edge of a new wave of violence against gay men in Iraq. Made up of hardline extremists, Hamizi’s group and others like it are believed to be responsible for the deaths of more than 130 gay Iraqi men since the beginning of the year alone.
Laughably, despite all the evidence otherwise, Iraqi police still claim systemic violence against gays does not exist. Gluing anuses shut? Castrating men? Leaving their bodies on display? Isolated examples.
Word must already be spreading throughout the gay communities in Baghdad and elsewhere that these attacks originate online, giving Iraq’s gays greater reason to play it safe online. But even American gays know: When you feel isolated, outcast, and shunned in your own society, the Internet is an easy escape. And an easy way to find those like you.