When the gay Iraqi refugee and advocate known by the pseudonym Hussam claimed members of the U.S. military were responsible for the torture and murder of gays in Iraq, alarm bells went off. And rightly so. Except Hussam claimed he had photo evidence of the atrocities — but refused to hand it over to investigators. So after looking into Hussam’s claims (which would amount to Geneva Convention violations), the U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Command says it’s found “no credible evidence that the allegations have merit.” Perhaps that’s because Hussam now says his words were “taken out of context”?
In an email to activist Michael Petrelis, the USACIDC Chief of Public Affairs Chris Grey writes:
The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s (USACIDC) Special Agents have looked into allegations that U.S. service members were involved in committing atrocities against gays in Iraq and have found no credible evidence that the allegations have merit.
In a sworn statement to Special Agents, the individual giving the presentation at the 24 July fundraiser said his words were taken out of context, he was misunderstood due to language barriers, and he was misquoted.
He stated that although he did show disturbing photographs at the event, the photographs of sectarian violence were in no way linked to U.S. service members.
He also said he never witnessed any actions of U.S. Soldiers that he would classify as criminal or any evidence of U.S. service members targeting Iraqi men or women because of their sexual orientation.
Based on the description of one photograph allegedly shown depicting what appeared to be an American Soldier guarding several naked Iraqi men, it was determined that in 2004, when the picture was allegedly taken, removing detainee’s clothing was a force protection measure authorized within the Rules of Engagement due to suicide vests being worn by insurgents.
As always with USACIDC investigations, if new credible information is discovered, we will investigate.
It’s not just that USACIDC found the allegations to be essentially untrue — but it took the military investigating the claims for Hussam to even acknowledge that reports coming out of the fundraiser where he spoke were inaccurate. Perhaps the language barrier kept news reports from reaching him. Maybe. But, as Petrelis says, Hussam has a “highly-developed command of the English language” and “in emails and phone conversations with me, threw out every excuse he could think of to absolve himself of any real responsibility to prove his outlandish allegations.”
That’s too bad, because it’s folks like Hussam who are doing great work bring attention and aid to the persecuted gays of the Middle East. Lies — or “miscommunications” — like the one spread last month are horribly damaging to the cause. Petrelis is calling on fundraiser’s sponsors — the LGBT Bar Association and the Human Rights Campaign, whose headquarters were used to host the event — to issue an apology. At the very least, an explanation.
As for Hussam? Perhaps he should remain quiet in the weeks and months to come, while groups like Iraqi LGBT take the plight of queers there more seriously.