Iraq Anti-gay attacks
on rise in Iraq
BBC New on the web,
August 17, 2009
Gay Iraqi men are being murdered in
what appears to be a co-ordinated campaign involving militia forces, the group
Human Rights Watch says.
It says hundreds of gay men have been targeted and killed in Iraq since 2004.
So-called honour killings also account for deaths where families punish their
own kin in order to avoid public shame.
The report says members of the Mehdi Army militia group are spearheading the
campaign, but police are also accused -- even though homosexuality is legal.
Witnesses say vigilante groups break into homes and pick people up in the
street, interrogating them to extract the names of other potential victims,
before murdering them.
"Murder and torture are no way to enforce morality," said HRW researcher Rasha
Moumneh, quoted in the report.
"These killings point to the continuing and lethal failure of Iraq's
post-occupation authorities to establish the rule of law and protect their
In some cases, Human Rights Watch says it was told, Iraqi security forces had
actually "colluded and joined in the killing".
Recently, posters appeared in Sadr City -- a conservative, Shia area of Baghdad
-- calling on people to watch out for gay men and listing not only their names
but also their addresses.
One gay man in Baghdad described the killing campaign as a witch-hunt.
“These killings will continue, because it has simply become normal in Iraq to
kill gay men,” said an unnamed gay Iraqi man
Nearly 90 gay men have been killed in Iraq since the beginning of January and
many more are missing, local gay rights campaigners say.
The report, called They want us exterminated: Murder, Torture, Sexual
Orientation and Gender in Iraq, says horrifically mutilated bodies of gay men
have been left on rubbish tips.
Sometimes their bodies are daubed with offensive terms such as "pervert", or
"puppy" which is a hate word for gay men in Iraq.
The report contains detailed testimonies of a range of brutal treatment of gay
"We've heard stories confirmed by doctors of men having their anuses glued and
then being force-fed laxatives which leads to a very painful death," says Ms
Moumneh told the BBC.
When questioned in the past, officials in Iraq have condemned the killings, but
the BBC's Natalia Antelava in Baghdad reports that gay men there say nothing has
been done to protect them.
"These killings will continue, because it has simply become normal in Iraq to
kill gay men," said a gay Iraqi man who did not want to be named.
Mehdi army spokesmen and clerics have condemned what they call the "feminisation"
of Iraqi men and have urged the military to take action against them.
The report said many gay men have fled to other countries in the region, despite
consensual homosexual activity being illegal there, because the risk of
victimisation is reduced.
HRW says the threats and abuses have spread from Baghdad to Kirkuk, Najaf and
Basra, although persecution remains concentrated in the capital.
Officials say part of the problem in dealing with the attacks is that victims'
relatives seldom if ever provide information to the police.
"They consider talking about the subject worse than the crime itself. This
is the nature of our society," ministry spokesman Major General Abdul-Karim