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August 19, 2009


After toppling Saddam Hussein and his brutal police and military forces, hope ran high that finally people in that country would be free to be themselves. To not have to worry about being picked up on the streets or taken from their own homes to be jailed, tortured and frequently murdered at the whim of those in power.

It was hoped that the establishment of a free and democratic society would put an end to those brutal, barbaric tactics. And, for much of Iraq's populace, this seems to be the direction the country is moving towards. With one glaring exception. Homosexuals.

This past Monday, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a 67 page report titled "They Want Us Exterminated". The report documents a wide-reaching campaign of extrajudicial executions, kidnappings, and torture of gay men that began in early 2009.

The killings began in the vast Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City, a stronghold of Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, and spread to many cities across Iraq. Mahdi Army spokesmen have promoted fears about the "third sex" and the "feminization" of Iraq men, and suggested that militia action was the remedy. Some people told Human Rights Watch that Iraqi security forces have colluded and joined in the killing.

The Advocate reported:

The kidnappings, torture, and murder of gay men coincided with the downturn of violence in Iraq that occurred in 2008. That quiet signaled a weakening of power by militia and insurgent leaders, and the subsequent Westernization of Iraq: women ditching the long robes that once covered their entire bodies, the appearance of liquor stores, and gay men gathering together in public. Possibly in response to this, Shiite religious leaders issued decrees that condemned "unnatural" behavior.

The charge d'affaires of the U.S. Embassy wrote U.S. congressman Jared Polis, a gay politician, in April and spelled out the extreme level of violence occurring, including torture methods like injecting super glue into men's rectums. Polis visited Iraq that spring and addressed the issue with U.S. and Iraqi officials.

Below is one gay person's account that was published in HRW's report:

"They did many things to us, the Mahdi Army. ... They kidnapped [my partner] for six days. He will not talk about what they did to him. There were bruises on his side as if he was dragged on the street. They did things to him he can't describe, even to me. They wrote in the dust on the windshield of his car: ‘Death to the people of Lot and to collaborators.' They sent us veiled threats in text messages: ‘You are on the list.' They sent him a piece of paper in an envelope, to his home: there were three bullets wrapped in plastic, of different size. The note said, ‘Which one do you want in your heart?' ... I want to be a regular person, lead a normal life, walk around the city, drink coffee on the street. But because of who I am, I can't. There is no way out."
- Mohammad, in Iraq, April 21, 2009

As the report indicated, one of the most disturbing tactics was the injection of super glue into the anus of several suspected gays. This would make it impossible for the victim to defecate until the passage was reopened by very painful and often totally unsanitary "operations." Otherwise, the blockage would ultimately result in severe physical complications and even excruciatingly painful deaths. That's if the "operations" themselves didn't kill them by infections and botched procedures. According to many Iraqi gays, this kind of religiously motivated barbarism didn't occur under Saddam.

This country owes it to every LGBT Iraqi citizen to do everything in its power to pressure the Iraqi government into bringing an end to this inhuman and unfathomable nightmare that our invasion helped bring about.

Why should American money and military power be used to support and facilitate any government that would allow these kinds of astounding atrocities to continue?