A BBC World Service programme has revealed that law enforcement agencies in Iraq are involved in the sustained systematic persecution of the country’s LGBT community.

Campaigners say hundreds of gay men, and some women, have died in targeted killings in Iraq in recent years – with an upsurge in homophobic violence since the 2003 removal of Saddam Hussein from power.

These numbers are difficult to verify, but the United Nations confirmed it was extremely concerned about what it called a deadly anti-gay campaign.

The UN office in Baghdad also told the BBC that Iraq’s government is in violation of international law and failure to react to these killings have made the state a perpetrator in the crime.

Ali Hilli, the founder of Iraqi LGBT, said: “Instead of protecting sexual minorities, the Iraqi government facilitates their murder by arresting the victims and handing them over to militias who kill them.

“Iraqi LGBT sources working inside Iraq have found the militias are also getting intelligence about the identities of sexual minorities from the Ministry of the Interior.”

In February of this year, PinkNews.co.uk reported how young LGBT Iraqis, who are seen to be part of the ‘emo’ punk rock movement, were also being targeted by militias in a large wave of killings.

Amnesty International issued a response, saying: “The government of Iraq should immediately investigate and bring to justice those responsible for a targeted campaign of intimidation and violence against Iraqi youth seen as belonging to the non-conformist ‘emo’ subculture”.