After allegations that American soldiers were involved in attacks and murders of gay Iraqis were declared bunk, it’s nice to see at least one organization acting responsibly in raising awareness for persecuted homos there. Human Rights Watch today reports “hundreds” of gay men have been tortured and killed in recent months, some at the hands of the nation’s own security forces.
While attacking gays is nothing new in the country (so-called “tolerance” under Saddam Hussein’s rule was always met with shaming and “honor” attacks), victims and doctors report a severe uptick in recent months, and an end to the violence — often found in Shiite Muslim regions — is nowhere in sight. Says HRW’s gay division director Scott Long: “The government has done absolutely nothing to respond. So far there has been pretty much a stone wall.”
According to Human Rights Watch, which is urging a government crackdown, attackers target people on the streets or storm homes, where they conduct interrogations and demand names of suspected gay men. Many end up in hospitals and morgues, the organization said, basing its conclusion on reports from doctors.
Men have been threatened with “honor killings” by relatives worried that their “unmanly behavior” will ruin the family’s reputation, Human Rights Watch said.
Killings, kidnappings and torture of those suspected of homosexual conduct have intensified in areas such as the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City, the watchdog said.
“The Shiite people started this war and especially what happened in Sadr City,” Qaisar said, adding that his sister-in-law had warned him against going to the area.
And what about Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia? It was only in May that his spokesperson was calling for an end to anti-gay violence, even while branding homos as vile. HRW says al-Sadr has shown no such restraint. In fact, he’s got lists of names he’s directly going after.
Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia, which is active in Sadr City, has joined in the attacks and defends its actions as a way to stop the “feminization” of Iraqi men, the report said.
“We have testimony that indicates that the nation’s security forces are taking part in the attacks,” Long said.
The group interviewed more than 50 people who gave accounts of abuses, beatings and stops at security checkpoints, he said.
“When the gay killings started and when they started go(ing) after them at checkpoints … we started to change our look,” said Basim, who also used a pseudonym.
“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,” said Rasha Moumneh, Middle East researcher for Human Rights Watch.
Well at least the U.S. State Department “absolutely condemn[s]” this sort of thing.
(Photo via GWB)