A PinkNews.co.uk exclusive

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office has released a statement on the killings of gay men in Iraq, following strong condemnation of the reports from the US State Department last week.

An FCO spokeswoman told PinkNews.co.uk: “We have received reports of violence committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation in Iraq. Although it is difficult to get precise information, officials in Baghdad will continue to monitor the situation carefully.

“FCO officials remain in contact with vulnerable groups and organisations such as the UK-based Iraqi Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans-Gender Group, and are looking into their most recent reports.

“The UK condemns the persecution of any individual because of their sexual orientation and has raised the issue with the government of Iraq’s Minister for Human Rights.”

Homosexuality is not illegal in Iraq but is condemned by religious leaders.

Two gay men were found dead in the Baghdad Shiite slum of Sadr City in April following condemnations of homosexuality by a leading local cleric.

A further four were murdered in March after the Shiite cleric Sattar al-Battat allegedly repeatedly condemned homosexuality in Friday prayers.

According to Amnesty International, 25 boys and men were reportedly killed in Baghdad between March and April because they were, or were perceived to be, gay.

Last Wednesday, US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly confirmed that the US embassy in Baghdad has raised the issue with Iraqi government officials.

He said: “We absolutely condemn acts of violence and human rights violations committed against individuals in Iraq because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This is an issue that we’ve been following very closely since we have been made aware of these allegations, and we are aware of the allegations.”

Gay campaigners have criticised the US for failing to address the issue, claiming that the State Department and Obama’s administration will not upset the Iraqi government as they have no other allies within the country.

Responding the FCO statement, Ali Hili of Iraqi LGBT said: ”Iraqi LGBT is still working inside Iraq in spite of the dangerous situation and sensitivity of the position of our activist inside. We are still monitoring the situation and reporting to the FCO regularly.

“We thank the FCO and all their staff who have been helping to bring this issue to the Iraqi officials to help stop the murder of LGBT people in Iraq.”

Earlier this month, Iraqi LGBT claimed it has evidence the Iraqi government is involved with militia groups advocating violence and murder towards gays.

Hili told PinkNews.co.uk: “A police office from the Ministry of Interior Intelligence told us secretly that there is a campaign of murder and violence against gays. We had to pay him $5,000 US to help release one of our members from jail.”

He added: “With all the evidence we have been presenting, including some from one of our members who was recently released from prison, we have evidence of mass arrests [of LGBT Iraqis].”