Monday, September 04, 2006

Homophobic terror: The Talibanisation of Iraq

Peter Tatchell reveals the targeted execution of gay Iraqis by Islamist death squads

(as published in) Tribune - London, UK - 1 September 2006

Parts of Iraq, including some Baghdad neighbourhoods, are now under the de facto control of Taliban-style fundamentalist militias. They enforce a savage interpretation of Sharia law, summarily executing people for ‘crimes’ like listening to western pop music, wearing shorts or jeans, drinking alcohol, selling videos, working in a barber’s shop, homosexuality, dancing, having a Sunni name, adultery and, in the case of women, not being veiled or walking in the street unaccompanied by a male relative.

Iraq is sliding fast towards theocracy and is likely to end up similar to Iran. The power and influence of fundamentalist militias is growing rapidly. Two militias are doing most of the killing. They are the armed wings of major parties in the Blair-backed Iraqi government. Madhi is the militia of Muqtada al-Sadr, and Badr is the militia of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which is the leading political force in Baghdad’s ruling coalition. Both militias want to establish an Iranian-style religious dictatorship.

Despite this goal of clerical fascism, the Socialist Workers Party and the Stop The War Coalition support Muqtada al-Sadr. They invited his representative to speak at the anti-war rally in London on 18 March. Not to be outdone, the July issue of the left-wing monthly Red Pepper gave over a whole page to white-washing al-Sadr’s crimes against humanity.

The terrorisation of gay Iraqis by these Islamist death squads is symptomatic of the fate that will befall all Iraqis if the fundamentalists continue to gain influence.

Under Saddam Hussein discrete homosexuality was usually tolerated. Since his overthrow, the violent persecution of gay people is commonplace. It is actively encouraged by Iraq’s leading cleric, the British and US-backed Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. He issued a fatwa ordering the execution of gay Iraqis. His followers in the Islamist militias are now systematically targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, as indicated by the following reports received from my clandestine gay activist contacts inside Iraq:  

Wissam Auda was a member of Iraq’s Olympic tennis team. His dream was to play at Wimbledon this year. He had been receiving death threats from religious fanatics on account of his homosexuality. On 25 May, his vehicle was ambushed by fundamentalist militias in the al-Saidiya district of Baghdad. Wissam, together with his coach Hussein Ahmed Rashid and team mate Nasser Ali Hatem, were all summarily executed in the street. Their crime? Wearing shorts. An Iraqi National Guard checkpoint was about 100m from the site of the ambush, but the soldiers did nothing, according to eye-witnesses.

The father of 23 year old Baghdad arts student, Karzan, has been told by militias that his son has been sentenced to death for being gay. If his father refuses to hand over Karzan for execution, the militia has threatened to kill the family one by one. This has already happened to Bashar, 34, an actor. Because his parents refuse to reveal his hiding place, the Badr militia murdered two of his family members in retribution.

Nyaz is a 28-year old dentist who lives in Baghdad. She is terrified that her lesbian relationship will be discovered, and that both she and her partner will be killed. They have stopped seeing each other. It is too dangerous. To make matters worse, Nyaz is being forced by the fundamentalist Mahdi militia to marry an older, senior Mullah with close ties the Mahdi leader, Muqtada al-Sadr. If she does not agree to the marriage, or tries to run away, Nyaz and her family will be targeted for ‘honour killing’ by Sadr’s men.

Gay Iraqis cannot seek the protection of the police. Iraq’s security forces have been infiltrated by fundamentalists, especially the Badr militia. They have huge influence in the Interior Ministry and the police, and can kill at will and with impunity.

Fourteen year old Ahmed Khalil was accused of corrupting the community because he had sex with men. According to his Baghdad neighbour, in April four men in police uniforms arrived at Ahmed’s house in a four-wheel-drive police pick-up truck. They wore the distinctive face masks of the Badr militia. The neighbour saw the police drag Ahmed out of the house and shoot him at point-blank range, pumping two bullets into his head and several more bullets into the rest of his body.

In the chaos and lawlessness of post-war Iraq, hundreds of young boys are being blackmailed into the sex industry. The sex ring operators lure the boys into having gay sex, photograph them and then threaten to publish their photos unless they work as male prostitutes. If their gayness was publicly revealed, the boys would be executed by the Islamist militias. They are trapped.

Wathiq, aged 29, a gay architect, was kidnapped in Baghdad in March. Soon afterwards, the Badr militia sent his parents death threats, accusing them of allowing their son to lead a gay life and demanding a £11,000 ransom. The parents paid the money, thinking it would save Wathiq’s life. But he was found dead a few days later, with his body mutilated and his head cut off.

The UK gay rights group OutRage! is working to support our counterpart organisation in Baghdad, Iraqi LGBT. Despite the great danger involved, Iraqi LGBT has established a clandestine network of gay activists inside Iraq’s major cities, including Baghdad, Najaf, Karbala, Hilla and Basra. These courageous activists are helping gay people on the run from fundamentalist death squads; hiding them in safe houses in Baghdad, and helping them escape to Syria and Lebanon. The world ignores the fate of LGBT Iraqis at its peril. Their fate today is the fate of all Iraqis tomorrow.  

* Iraqi LGBT is appealing for funds to help the work of their members in Iraq. They don’t yet have a bank account. The UK gay rights group OutRage! is helping them. Cheques should be made payable to “OutRage!”, with a cover note marked “For Iraqi LGBT”, and sent to OutRage!, PO Box 17816, London SW14 8WT.

More info on Iraqi LGBT:


At 11:25 pm, Anonymous richard farnos said...

Excuse me Brett but isn’t 'The Talibanisation of Iraq ' a directly a consequent of the imperialist aspirations of your Eustonian friends?

Moreover, did not Peter advocate the armament of the very government (when in opposition) that is overseeing this homophobic rampage?

Please clarify

All the best

At 8:01 pm, Blogger Brett Lock said...

"Excuse me Brett but isn’t 'The Talibanisation of Iraq ' a directly a consequent of the imperialist aspirations of your Eustonian friends?"

Let me see if I can work out this logic, Richard. So, to spite the US/UK forces who deposed the genocidal maniac Saddam Hussein, religious fanatics decided to terrorise the Iraqi civilians, bomb marketplaces and execute gays?

"Moreover, did not Peter advocate the armament of the very government (when in opposition) that is overseeing this homophobic rampage?"

No, Peter Tatchell advocated arming the democtratic opposition. The people conducting the carnage now are the Islamist militias - you know the group you frequently cheerlead.

What was *your* idea to stop Saddam's reignb of terror? (I mean, obviously, besides denying there was one.)

At 1:45 pm, Anonymous richard farnos said...

In article that appeared in the Guardian on Wednesday March 19, 2003, called “Iraq: the third way” Peter Tatchell argues against a western invasion, which he suggest “smacks of neo-imperialism”, and advocates giving military aid to “Iraq's opposition movements”. More specifically Peter wanted to give guns to “the Kurdish nationalists of the KDP and PUK, the Iraqi Communist party, and the Shi'ite Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.”

Excuse me, “the Shi'ite Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq?” Could this be the same Supreme Council mentioned in the Tatchell’s Tribune article, whose military wing he accuses of being involved in homophobic murders- I think so. Directly arming such people, if successful, could only have brought about an Iranian style theocracy, that he so fears, earlier.

On one thing in his 2003 article, however, I think that Tatchell was correct, a progressive overthrow of Sadam could only have come from within Iraq, (and probably from within the Ba’athist regime itself). As he points out, an US/UK invasion, the injustice of which you now seem to vague, could only lead to “a new form of autocratic rule by a US military governor and a US-imposed puppet regime.”

Moreover, as I have pointed out before on gaycampaigns, the only “professionals” not tainted by the Ba’athist totalitarianism were conservative religious leaders. Leaders who could exploit the power vacuum left by the sweeping away the regime.

Finally Brett, I would be grateful if you could produce some evidence to suggest that I have “cheerlead” for any Islamist Militia or that I have ever denied that Sadam was a tyrant. Otherwise I must insist that you retract your libellous remarks and apologies.

All the best

At 12:19 pm, Blogger Brett Lock said...

Well Richard, you defend Respect and the StWC who invite Islamist speakers to London who are involved in the groups persecuting women, gays and secularists, and you pour scorn on every suggestion made by anyone on how best to have deposed Saddam Hussein, so you tell me: what was *your* idea to depose the tyrant? What is *your* idea to halt the persecution now unleashed by Islamist forces?

At 4:47 pm, Anonymous richard farnos said...

Once again, Brett, you make an accusation with no evidence. I have neither criticized nor defended the Stop the War Coalition, Respect or the SWP over the Muqtada al-Sadr affair as I don’t know the facts of the situation. I feel unable to take your or Peter’s word for it because of both of yours unreliability and willingness to believe anything that suits your argument. The only point I have made is that it rather hypocritical for Peter to get on his high horse when he advocated arming Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, who no one disputes is involved in these persecutions.

With regard to ‘strategies for Iraq’, evidently unlike you, Peter, and or your Eustonite friends I don’t go in for this ‘white man’s burden’ stuff. Indeed Iraq’s decent into hell seems to me paved by intervention by ‘developed’ powers: From arming the Saddam regime, to current disorder in the wake of your Eustonites friend’s imperialist invasion. So while I have engaged in acts of solidarity with the Iraq people and solidarity with progressive organisation in Iraq, I have never developed a strategy to topple Saddam or rescue Iraq from its current malaise. Iraq solutions can only come from Iraq and 91.7% of Iraqis oppose the presence of coalition troops in the country. While I am quite pessimistic about prospects for Iraq, whether US and UK troops stay or not, I think the wishes of the Iraq people should be respected – don’t you?

Brett you have yet to retract your libellous accusations that I have “cheerlead” for any Islamist Militia or that I have ever denied that Sadam was a tyrant. I really must insist that you do, or are you so small that you can never apologies.

All the best

At 6:15 pm, Blogger Brett Lock said...

In early 2003, Peter was campaigning against the US and UK invasion of Iraq. He argued for an alternative strategy to topple Saddam Hussein's dictatorship: by aiding the anti-Saddam opposition, to help them liberate themselves.

While not endorsing SCIRI and being aware of its potential for Islamist tyranny, Peter felt aid to SCIRI and other opposition forces could increase the effectiveness of an anti-Saddam alliance and hasten the fall of the Baathist dictatorship.

He hoped SCIRI forces would help destablise Saddam and facilitate Saddam's overthrow. But he never wanted SCIRI to be part of a post-Saddam government because of its possible fostering of clerical rule and oppression.

Peter always believed, and remains committed to, a democratic, secular (and preferably socialist) Iraq. Given SCIRI's drift to ever greater fundamentalism over the last three years, Peter recognises that he was wrong to include SCIRI and apologises.

However, Richard, I don't understand what point *you* are trying to make. You claim you're no apologist for tyrany, yet offer no suggestion on how to confront it. What's more, you seem to have the somewhat racist notion that if the victims aren't white, the west shoud but out. What are your acts of "solidarity" actually worth? Do you even know what it means beyond furrowing your brow and clenching your fist in pseudo-empathetic defiance of tyrants and murderers a 1000 miles away?

You're a supporter and defender of a political party that brings the new butchers in Baghdad over to London and gives them a microphone. In what sense are you *not* then an apologist for these groups?

Your "decent into hell" analogy is a little off. The decent into hell is the fault of those groups who currently explode bombs in market places and execute people in the street.

Let me give you an example of your type of logic. Mr Patel opens up a corner shop. Local youfs buy his beer and colas leading to an increase in broken bottles on the pavement near his shop. Workmen buy pies and sandwiches, leading to overflowing litter bins, kids buy bibblegum, leading to sticky blobs on the pavement and wrappers blowing around in the breeze. The local residents then blame Mr Patel for the increase in litter and dangerous shards of glass on the pavements. Now, it is a fact, that when a cornershop or take-away opens in an area that there is an increase in litter. But whose fault is it? By your logic, obviously Mr Patel, because he created the conditions that led to the regretable situation.

But personally, I blame the people who litter, not the shopkeeper.

At 12:00 pm, Anonymous richard farnos said...

I am glade the Peter has acknowledge his error in advocating the arming of the Supreme Council for an Islamic Republic in Iraq. Luckily no one acted on his article and hopefully he will be more reticent in the future. This appalling act of stupidity, however, does illustrate the hubris in developing pet theories for regime change in foreign lands.

I think Brett; you raise an import point when you ask: “Do you even know what it means beyond furrowing your brow and clenching your fist in pseudo-empathetic defiance of tyrants and murderers a 1000 miles away?” Well Quite. I do not live in Iraq and I never have. My knowledge of Iraq is at best second-hand. As far as I am aware this is the case for you, and certainly for Peter Tatchell. Unlike Peter and you, my limited knowledge, and lack of direct involvement or personal stake makes me reluctant to preach to the Iraqis, let alone patronise them by creating pet ‘strategies’ for their liberation. They are on the frontline, and they far greater knowledge of the situation, the power structures, and realistic opportunities. It is up to them to determine the route to liberty, not Tatchell, not the Eustonites, nor you.

One thing I know about ‘strategies’ is that in making them you have to take into account how others react. So Brett, while the US/UK governments have no responsibility for the groups that “explode bombs in market places and execute people in the street,” they are responsible for creating an environment where this became almost inevitable. The Balkanisation of Iraq was predicted before the war even Tatchell observed in 2003: “A US and UK occupation of Iraq could easily become a Vietnam-style fiasco, where we lose the hearts and minds of the civilian population and face growing popular resentment and eventual outright rebellion.”

Moreover you complete ignore that Peter’s Tribune article suggests the US/UK created and backed regime is implicated in these homophobic attacks. For example the murder of Wissam Auda, Hussein Ahmed Rashid and Nasser Ali Hatem, were an "Iraqi National Guard checkpoint was about 100m from the site of the ambush, but the soldiers did nothing, according to eye-witnesses.”

Brett, I ask you, for third time, please retract your libellous asserts, and apologies.

All the best

At 12:17 pm, Blogger Brett Lock said...

Okay Richard. I am sorry if I assumed you shared the view of many in the Respect Party that Saddam Hussein was "idefatigable" and should be stood hy "till Jeruslem", or that, the Sadr brigades were "authentic resistence"; or that you supported giving the same platforms at anti-war rallies.

If I was mistaken in this conclusion because you seem more eager to criticise others while remaining silent about the StWC and Respect, then I apologise.

But which is worse? StWC inviting Sadr spokespeople to address anti-war rallies in London AFTER they have committed these attrocities, or Tatchell naively believing they were part of the democratic opposition before the Iraq war?

At 4:18 pm, Anonymous richard farnos said...

Brett, thank you for your apology, which I accept.

With regard to Muqtada al-Sadr, I have done some investigation and the only articles I can find that links Muqtada al-Sadr or his followers to homophobic attacks, is Tatchell's article and article that give Tatchell as there source.

This does, of course, beg the question of why Peter chose to tuck away this seeming scoop in the Tribune of all places. It also means that at worst the StWC and Respect are guilty of the same kind of naivety as Tatchell. Although on reflection giving a supposed murderer a mic is more easily forgivable that giving them a gun!

I would however like to know what Tatchell's source is, or any other reliable sources that confirms Peter's accusations.

All the best


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