A report has found that gays in Iraq are facing rising levels of homophobic violence from militia groups and the government is not doing enough to stop attacks.
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) report suggests that hundreds of gay men in the country have been attacked and killed since 2004 and claims that members of the Mehdi Army militia group are leading the anti-gay campaign.
It also said it had evidence that Iraqi security forces are colluding in the killings.
Testimonies gathered from more than 50 gay Iraqi men suggested that attackers target people on the streets or storm homes to conduct interrogations and demand names of suspected gay men.
One man told Human Rights Watch that militiamen kidnapped and killed his partner of ten years in April: “It was late one night, and they came to take my partner at his parents’ home. Four armed men barged into the house, masked and wearing black. They asked for him by name; they insulted him and took him in front of his parents. … He was found in the neighborhood the day after. They had thrown his corpse in the garbage. His genitals were cut off and a piece of his throat was ripped out.”
The report, called ‘They want us exterminated: Murder, Torture, Sexual Orientation and Gender in Iraq’, says doctors and morgue attendants see horrifically mutilated bodies of gay men. HRW said doctors have confirmed stories of men being killed by having their anuses glued shut before being force-fed laxatives.
“Unmanly” and “effeminate” behaviour has been condemned by Mehdi Army spokesmen and many men questioned by HRW reported death threats from their families. In a law leftover from Saddam Hussein’s rule, mitigating circumstances are applied to crimes committed with “honourable motives”, such as protecting families from shame.
“Iraq’s leaders are supposed to defend all Iraqis, not abandon them to armed agents of hate,” said Scott Long, director of the LGBT rights programme at HRW.”Turning a blind eye to torture and murder threatens the rights and life of every Iraqi.”
Homosexuality is not a crime in Iraq but religious leaders have called for it to be eradicated without violence.
“Murder and torture are no way to enforce morality,” said Rasha Moumneh, Middle East and North Africa researcher at HRW. “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.”
One gay man, “Hamid”, told HRW: “The cheapest thing in Iraq is a human being, a human life… They want us exterminated. All the violence and all this hatred: the people who are suffering from it don’t deserve it.”