LGBT group claims Iraq is waging a ‘campaign of violence and murder’ against gays
An Iraqi gay group has said it has evidence the Iraqi government is involved with militia groups advocating violence and murder towards gays.
Iraqi LGBT also described a statement from the Baghdad US Embassy as “offensive and insulting”.
In response to US representative Jared Polis, who has spoken out on behalf of gays in Iraq, chargé d’affaires Patricia Butenis said: “We have no evidence that [the Iraq government’s] security forces are in any way involved with these militias.”
However, the LGBT group claims it has evidence of the Ministry of Interior Intelligence waging a campaign of murder and violence against gays.
Speaking to PinkNews.co.uk, Ali Hili of Iraqi LGBT said: “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].
“Still, the US is denying Iraqi government involvement, doing nothing to stop it and not assisting with our efforts to help gays in Iraq.”
He added that politics is preventing the US from stepping in to help, claiming that Hillary Clinton’s State Department and Obama’s administration will not upset the Iraqi government as they have no other allies within the country.
A statement from Iraqi LGBT says: “These words from the American embassy officials are insulting to us, and to those many friends of ours who have murdered. This statement is evidence that the Iraqi government is doing nothing to protect its citizens.
“They are responsible for these crimes through bringing no one to justice, refusing to acknowledge their police’s involvement and providing no rights for Iraqi LGBT in law.
“People should not forget that what’s happening in Iraq right now is a direct result of the unlawful US invasion.
Last week, Moqtada Sadr, a radical Shiite cleric in Iraq, ordered that the “depravity” of homosexuality must be eradicated, yet urged an end to violence against gays and lesbians.
His spokesman Sheikh Wadea al-Atab said: “The purpose of the meetings is to fight the depravity and to urge the community to reject this phenomenon. The only remedy to stop it is through preaching and guidance. There is no other way to put an end to it.”
Hili described Sadr’s comments as “another attempt to polish and distract from what is happening”. He added: “Homosexuality cannot be cured. This is just another denial of our existence.”
Homosexuality is not illegal in Iraq but religious leaders condemn it.
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.
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In April, US State Department spokesman John Fleming said: “Homosexuality is not a crime in Iraq … Frankly, there are other issues they’re concerned about like basic survival, getting food and water. It’s a luxury for the average Iraqi to worry about homosexuality.”
Scott Long, director of Human Rights Watch’s LGBT Rights Programme, refuted Fleming’s comments in an interview with Boston Edge, saying that the fact that homosexuality is not a crime punishable by death “would be an interesting fact if the law, or the rule of law, mattered in Iraq”.
Human Rights Watch is currently helping LGBT Iraqi citizens to escape the country.
Polis has written with fellow representatives Tammy Baldwin and Barney Frank to the US ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Hill, urging the embassy to “prioritise the investigation” into the allegations.
It said: “As LGBT Americans and co-chairs of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, we are disturbed and shocked at allegations that Ministry of the Interior Security Forces may be involved in the mass persecution and execution of LGBT Iraqis … The persecution of Iraqis based on sexual orientation or gender identity is escalating and is unacceptable regardless of whether these policies are extrajudicial or state-sanctioned.”
Polis is drafting another letter that would be signed by more members of Congress and sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
More: Middle East