Militias target some Iraqis for being gay
Posted on July 30, 2009
Filed Under Uncategorized
“I’m not a terrorist,” he tells the Iraqi police who surround him. “I want you to know I am different. But I am not a terrorist.”
To some fundamentalist Iraqi Muslims, Ahmed Sadoun Saleh was worse than a terrorist.
He was gay. He wore his hair long and took female hormones to grow breasts. Amused by his appearance, Iraqi police officers stopped him in December at a checkpoint in a southern Baghdad neighborhood dominated by radical Shiite militias. They groped Saleh and ridiculed him.
The assault was captured on video and circulated on cellphones throughout Baghdad, says Ali Hili, founder of London-based Iraqi LGBT, a group dedicated to protecting Iraq’s gays and lesbians. Shortly after the video was made public, Hili says Saleh contacted him, fearing for his life, and asked for his help to flee Iraq.
“Unfortunately, it was too late,” Hili says. Saleh turned up dead two months later, he says.
At least 82 gay men have been killed in Iraq since December, according to Iraqi LGBT. The violence has raised questions about the Iraqi government’s ability to protect a diverse range of vulnerable minority groups that also includes Christians and Kurds, especially following the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraqi cities last month.
Mithal al-Alusi, a secular, liberal Sunni legislator, is among those who blame the killings on armed militant groups such as al-Qaeda and the Mahdi Army militia.
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