Anti-gay persecution in Iraq

The following is a statement issued on Tuesday by the London-based Iraqi LGBT organisation:

In Iraq, concern is growing of a renewed purge against the country’s gay community by government forces and hardline religious militia groups after the arrest of 25 men in Kalar, a small town north Baghdad. 

The men were attending a party at a private house on 15 September when the police raided the address. After fierce protests against the raid by human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, all but three men have since been released from the city’s Garmyan prison. 

Several of those detained claim to have been subject to violent beatings while being held in solitary confinement. The authorities in Kalar refuse to disclose the whereabouts of those still in detention, the conditions in which they are held or the charges they face. 

Although there is no law proscribing homosexuality in Iraq, LGBT people in the country live under the threat of violence from Shia religious militia groups, who have been responsible for the brutal murder of more than 700 gay and transgender citizens. The police use anti-obscenity and prostitution laws to harass and round up gay people and other sexual minorities, who are often forced to go into hiding. 

In many cities in southern and central Iraq, political parties and local tribal leaders have established Islamic courts, to enforce extremist interpretations of Sharia law on to whole communities. to punish LGBT people. These courts function outside the formal judicial system, but are often linked to police and local government through the political parties. Islamic courts flourished after the 2003 war, and are now common in the Shia areas of Iraq. 

Ali Hili, head of Iraqi LGBT, a human rights group that supports LGBT people in the country by providing safe accommodation and public advocacy, comments: 

"As this latest incident shows, the danger faced by sexual minorities has not gone away. With no legal recognition in a deeply homophobic society, gay people run the risk of destitution, social exclusion and extreme violence.

"The only way for us to end this suffering, is through strengthening our LGBT community work with financial aid and volunteers.

"Iraqi LGBT helps these people with funds for housing and living expenses. This is only possible with the support of donations, so we appeal to the general public to support our life-saving projects.”

In 2012, Iraqi LGBT aims to open a new house to provide a safe haven for up to ten people, and continue its lobbying efforts to raise awareness of the situation for gay and transgender people in Iraq. The group welcomes volunteers experienced in areas such as marketing, design and copywriting to join the campaign team.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 25 October 2011.