“Iraqi lesbians and gays continue to be subjected a systematic reign of terror by Shia death squads.

“The government of Iraq refuses to crack down on the killers or to take any action to protect its gay citizens,” according to Ali Hili, the coordinator of the human rights group Iraqi LGBT.

Mr Hili, an Iraqi living in London, told PinkNews.co.uk that death squads are responsible for the murders of a range of people thought to be “unIslamic.”

The United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) reported in January that armed militias have been targeting gay people:

“Armed Islamic groups and militias have been known to be particularly hostile towards homosexuals, frequently and openly engaging in violent campaigns against them,” UNAMI reported.

“There have been a number of assassinations of homosexuals in Iraq.

“At least five homosexual males were reported to have been kidnapped from Shaab area in the first week of November 2006 by one of the main militias. The mutilated body of Amjad, one of the kidnapped, appeared in the same area after a few days,” UNAMI said.

Iraqi LGBT told PinkNews.co.uk about the murders of many LGBT Iraqis, among them Hasan Sabeh, a 34 year old transvestite, also known as Tamara, who worked in the fashion industry designing women’s clothes.

He lived in the al-Mansor district of Baghdad. Hasan was seized in the street by an Islamist death squad and hanged in public on the holy Shia religious day, 11 January 2007.

His body was mutilated and cut to pieces. When his brother-in-law tried to defend him, he was also murdered.

The UN mission’s January report also drew attention to the existence of religious courts, supervised by clerics, where homosexuals allegedly would be ‘tried,’ ‘sentenced’ to death and then executed.

The targeting of gay people is just another example of the chaos of daily life in Iraq.

In the absence of a strong police or army force, the militias rule the streets.

“Some members of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government are linked to the anti-gay death squads,” claimed Mr Hili.

“They are the political representatives of the Muqtada al-Sadr movement and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Both these parties have militias, respectively the Mahdi army and the Badr brigades, who are responsible for the execution-style killing of lesbian and gay Iraqis – and the murder of many other Iraqis, including Sunni Muslims, trade unionists, unveiled women, journalists and men wearing shorts, jeans or western-style haircuts.”

The government of Iraq rejected the UN reports of gay murders:

“There was information in the report that we cannot accept here in Iraq. The report, for example, spoke about the phenomenon of homosexuality and giving them their rights,” said Mr al-Dabbagh, a spokesperson for the Iraqi government.

“Such statements are not suitable to the Iraqi society. This is rejected. They (the UN) should respect the values and traditions here in Iraq.”

Gay activist Peter Tatchell of OutRage!, is working closely with Ali Hili and Iraqi LGBT.

“Despite the great danger involved, Iraqi LGBT has established a clandestine network of lesbian and gay activists inside Iraq’s major cities,” he said.

“These heroic activists are helping gay people on the run from fundamentalist death squads; hiding them in safe houses in Baghdad, and helping them escape to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.”

Mr Tatchell is calling on the LGBT community in the UK to donate funds to help Iraqi LGBT continue their work.

“Iraqi LGBT needs donations to help gay people in Iraq who are fleeing

the death squads,” said Mr Hili.

“We need money for safe houses, food, electricity, security protection and clothing – and to help pay the phone bills of members of the Iraqi LGBT group. They are sending us information about the homophobic killings, at great risk to their own lives.”

See the OutRage! website for more information or send cheques made payable to OutRage! with a cover note marked “For Iraqi LGBT” to OutRage!, PO Box 17816, London SW14 8WT, England, UK.

As the Iraqi activists do not have bank accounts in that country for security reasons, OutRage! forwards the donations received to Ali Hili and Iraqi LGBT for wire

transfer to Baghdad.