In Iraq, a 21st Century Underground Railroad for Gays

gay-iraqi-deaths11While reports of increasing stability come out of Iraq, being gay and lesbian in the cradle of civilization carries with it a certain death sentence. Leaders of Iraqi LGBT, a human rights group based in London have been helping gays and lesbians escape capture through safe houses and arranged journeys out of the country. The group says that since the fall of Iraq, the democratic government has stood passively by as religious leaders engaged in what they describe as “a sexual cleansing.” Pictured, the 2008 killings of three Ramadi men suspected of being gay.

Watch a video on what’s happening to Iraq’s gays & lesbians:

The Guardian writes about the group and the chilling, horrific life Iraq’s gays and lesbians must endure:

“This campaign of terror is sanctioned by Iraq’s leading Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. In 2005, he issued a fatwa urging the killing of LGBT people in the “worst, most severe way” possible.

This is the same Sistani who was praised by President Bush as a “leading moderate”. The British government concurred. We hosted him in Britain for medical treatment. He was anti-Saddam, so the west backed him, even after he issued his murderous religious edicts.

Although the general security situation has improved in Iraq, for LGBT people it has deteriorated sharply. Systematic assassinations of queers are being orchestrated by police and security agents in the interior ministry, many of whom are former members of the Iranian-backed Badr Corps militia.

Queers are being shot dead in their homes, streets and workplaces. Even suspected gay children are being murdered. They killers claim to be doing these assassinations at the behest of the “democratic” Iraqi government, in order to eradicate what they see as immoral, un-Islamic behaviour.”…

“Since establishing the safe houses project in 2006 we have provided refuge for dozens of gay people who were being hunted by death squads,” reports Ali Hili, coordinator of Iraqi LGBT.

“We have also assisted people to escape from Iraq to neighbouring countries, where we have established resettlement projects. Our efforts have got gay refugees registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and we’ve already moved some of them a third safer country, in Europe or North America. These lucky ones are now beginning to rebuild their lives,” Mr Hili said

K is a 33-year-old architect who escaped to Amman in Jordan. He now helps run the Iraqi LGBT support group there, aiding other LGBT refugees from Iraq. So far, seven out of 23 Iraqi LGBT refugees who have been smuggled to Jordan have had their applications for asylum approved by the UNHCR and been able to secure asylum in countries such as the United States, Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany.

This heroic work is not without its risks and sacrifices. Many of the underground activists have been assassinated, in a series of grisly homophobic and transphobic murders.

Two lesbians who ran the safe house in the city of Najaf were butchered, together with a young boy they had rescued from the sex industry. Last summer, the coordinator of a Baghdad safe house, Bashar, was gunned to death in his local barber’s shop by an Islamist hit squad. Previously, five gay activists who organised another Baghdad safe house were massacred.”

Iraqi LGBT says that is chronically underfunded and is in need of financial help. If you want to donate to the group, they ask:

Please make cheque payable to ( IRAQI LGBT ) and send it to our address:

Iraqi Lgbt
22 Notting Hill Gate
Unit 111
London,W11 3JE
United Kingdom

Tel: 079-819 59453
[email protected]

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  • Olive Yurdich

    Does God smile when he sees that picture?

  • kevin (not that one)

    Paging Scott Renfroe!

  • Aaron

    I’m speechless. I knew it was bad over there, but I didn’t realize just how bad.

  • Doug

    This human rights issue not only escapes being addressed by the Iraqi government, it also has failed to be addressed by the US government and media… The truth is gays and lesbians are not treated as equal in both Iraq and America, Its just that the religious leaderss dont have as much control in America. We would be treated much the same way if the moral leaders of the far right in America had their way. How can anyone think its morally right to torture and kill someone but morally wrong to love or be with someone?

  • Charles J. Mueller


    Because their “Bibles” tell them it’s morally right.

    They use it as their “license” to torture and murder. Plain and simple.

    Isn’t that the way it worked in the Inquisition?

    I often wonder if the men who stone the victims of rapists, torture women and torture and kill gays have an erection and perhaps even an orgasm, while they are committing their heinous and horrific acts of sadism?

    And, wouldn’t that put them in the same definition (or worse) of a pervert that they put gays into? I mean, these people have to be getting some kind of physical gratification other than just the promise of 17 Vestil Virgins in the next life, wouldn’t you think?

    How else could they perform them?

  • shivadog

    This is a direct result of the U.S. invasion,and our government has done nothing to stop it. To be expected from the Bush administration. Remains to be seen if Obama will do anything, but I’m not holding my breath. Thanks to us, these people are suffering a true holocaust, this recieves little to no attention here, but we need to do all we can to help these people.

  • Michael vdB

    It truely is a sad thought that the there are still cultures that kill what they do not understand in the hope that the cleansing will make the problem go away. It never will.

    I also don’t understand how religious leaders think it is a choice when so many risk their lives everyday to be who they are.

Comments are closed.