Male beauty parlour raided in Baghdad

Following last month's police raid on a "safe house" in Karbala used used as a refuge for gay, lesbian and transgender Iraqis, there's news of another raid – this time at a male beauty parlour in Baghdad. Interior Ministry forces took away the manager and four workers.

The London-based Iraqi LGBT organisation reports:

Eyewitnesses who were outside the building say Ministry of Interior forces raided at 3pm [on June 25]. Those on rooftops heard screams for help and saw the men being severely beaten by uniformed men carrying cattle prods. They say one was taken into custody on a stretcher.

One of the eyewitnesses who spoke with Amnesty International has since disappeared.

Iraqi LGBT has received no information about where the men were taken. However previous seizures of gays, lesbians and transgender people have resulted in them being handed to religious militia and their subsequent torture and discovery of their mutilated bodies.

An Iraqi online news site quoted "security sources" in a local newspaper saying: "After gathering evidence and information the police issued a order from a judge to raid the house where the house owner of the shop and a number of gay, mostly college students were caught red-handed, and have confessed openly their shameful work which is contrary to public decency, they were seduced by the devil to commit these acts."

The newspaper said forces had "captured a laptop computer and CDs from a pornographic network".

Iraqi LGBT says the beauty parlour was in a house used as a business for services such as waxing and massage in the Karada district of Baghdad. "Such services have long been used in a country with a body-building tradition," it says. "Neither waxing nor massage is illegal in Iraq, however it is 'forbidden' by Shia clerics."

Activists have been complaining about the reluctance of the American and British governments to take a stand over homophobic attacks in Iraq. Despite growing evidence to the contrary, both countries continue to deny that the Iraqi state is involved in them. 

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 14 July 2010.