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Posts for March, 2010

State Department Issues Annual Human Rights Report, Highlights Uganda

Jim Burroway

March 12th, 2010

The State Department has issued its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2009, which shows that LGBT people continue to experience state-sanctioned or permitted violence and discrimination. For example, the report notes the following cases of human rights violations against LGBT people in Uganda:

For example, on April 5, police in Mbale District arrested SMUG activists Fred Wasukira and Brian Mpadde. On April 17, a court in Mbale charged Wasukira and Mpadde with homosexual conduct and remanded the suspects to Maluke prison. On May 20, the court released Wasukira on police bail; Mpadde was released on June 16. The case was ongoing at year’s end.

On June 19, police in Kitgum interrogated former police coach Charles Ayeikoh over allegations that he was involved in homosexual acts. An investigation was ongoing at year’s end.

In July the administration of Mbalala Senior Secondary School in Mukono District dismissed student John Paul Mulumba after he acknowledged that he was a SMUG member.

During the year the UHRC stopped investigating the July 2008 case in which SMUG activist Usaam Mukwaya alleged that police tortured and humiliated him during an illegal detention; Mukwaya reportedly decided not to pursue the case.

During the year police dismissed for lack of evidence a September 2008 case against SMUG members George Oundo and Brenda Kiiza, who were charged with indecent practices.

LGBT persons were also subject to societal harassment and discrimination.

For example, on March 17, the Uganda Joint Christian Council and the Family Life Network launched a campaign to curb homosexual conduct in higher institutions. SMUG accused the organizers of using religion to attack the LGBT community in the country.

The report also mentions arrests, executions, and other violence and abuses in Malawi, Senegal, Nigeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jamaica, and elsewhere around the world.

Human Rights Group Documents Widespread Torture and Murder of Iraqi Gays

Jim Burroway

August 17th, 2009

Human Rights Watch this morning issued a detailed report documenting the hundreds of gay men who have been tortured and murdered, some by members of Iraq’s security forces, and others by members of the Mehdi Army, the Shi’ite militia operating around Baghdad. Based on interviews with doctors, family members, and other surviving gay men, They Want Us Exterminated: Mirder, Torture, Sexual Orientation and Gender in Iraq indicates that hundreds of men have been killed in Baghdad, with authorities doing little to address the situation.

The interviews given in the report indicate the kind of reign of terror Iraqi gays are living through:

He was very public, everybody knew he was gay. His family said his killers made a CD of how he was killed-they filmed it. They slaughtered him; they cut his throat. His family did not want to talk about it. And now they are killing people right and left in Shaab and al-Thawra. We heard 11 men were burned alive in al-Thawra. Everyone is talking about the numbers of people killed. And they just keep rising.

I think those two were tortured into giving my name, because two days after I learned they were killed I got this threat. … I spoke by phone to a friend of mine yesterday night: he is also gay but he’s very masculine and no one knows about him. He said, “Get out if you can and save yourself. They are killing gays left and right.”

They came to my parents’ house a day later. I was out of the house when it happened. The neighbor’s son has the same given name and so they kidnapped the wrong guy. When they found out they let the boy go, but they beat him severely-they wanted to kill him. They tortured him with electricity, they beat him with cables. He looked like a roast chicken when he came home. … When I came back everyone was yelling and screaming that Majid, this boy Majid, had been taken. When he was released, he staggered home and said, “They didn’t want me, they wanted the other Majid. They said he was gay.” I had to leave. My parents threw me out. I cannot face them anymore.

Human Rights Watch calls on the Iraqi government to put an end to the tortures and slayings, but the government appears unphased by the report. U.S. representatives, including U.S. Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) have complained to the Iraqi government to no avail.

Iraq Anti-Gay Torture, Murders Continue

Jim Burroway

April 26th, 2009

We reported earlier about that at least 25 men who were suspected of being gay have been murdered in Baghdad’s Shi’ite enclave of Sadr City. Most of those murdered have the hallmarks of an honor killing by members of the men’s clans. That campaign is continuing, according to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC):

…[A]n Iraqi group identified as “Fazilat” (Virtue) posted flyers threatening homosexuals with death on walls in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad. The flyers, distributed on April 17, list the names of some of the would-be targets and states that “we will soon punish all you perverts.” Residents of Sadr City say the people who were outed in these fliers have gone into hiding.

The IGLHRC has written a letter to the Iraqi Minister of Human Rights, Wijdan Salim, asking for protection of Iraq’s LGBT population. Amnesty International is writing to Iraq President Nouri al-Maliki, demanding “urgent and concerted action” to stop the killings.

An Arab news source reports that an Iraqi LGBT activist alleges Iraqi militia groups have devised a particularly gruesome torture involving a very strong glue:

According to her, the new substance “is known as the Ameri gum, which is an Iranian-manufactured glue that if applied to the skin, sticks to it and can only be removed by surgery. After they glue the anuses of homosexuals, they give them a drink that causes diarrhea. Since the anus is closed, the diarrhea causes death. Videos of this form of torture are being distributed on mobile cellphones in Iraq.”

The source reports that sixty-three have been tortured in this way. Some survived after being treated, but others were taken to hospitals which refused treatment. She also said that Sunni’s are also answering calls from religious leaders for the “eradication” of LGBT people from Iraq.

Here in the U.S., Congressman Jared Polis (D-Co) has asked the US State Department to investigate. He had recently returned from a visit to Baghdad where he brought up the killings with the chargé d’affaires, including allegations that the Iraqi government is complicit in some of the killings.

According to Polis, the Iraqi governenment has arrested five or six members of the advocacy group Iraqi LGBT. One reportedly has escaped custody and one has been executed. Polis describes these “egregious human rights violations” as being carried out with the sanction of the “highest levels of the Iraqi government.”

NY Times: 25 Gay Iraqis Murdered In Past Two Months

Jim Burroway

April 8th, 2009

Last week, we received reports that six suspected gay men were found murdered in Iraq in one week. The New York Times is now reporting that those six were just the tip of the iceberg:

In the past two months, the bodies of as many as 25 boys and men suspected of being gay have turned up in the huge Shiite enclave of Sadr City, the police and friends of the dead say. Most have been shot, some multiple times. Several have been found with the word “pervert” in Arabic on notes attached to their bodies, the police said.

“Three of my closest friends have been killed during the past two weeks alone,” said Basim, 23, a hairdresser. “They had been planning to go to a cafe away from Sadr City because we don\’t feel safe here, but they killed them on the way. I had planned to go with them, but fortunately I didn\’t.”

One cafe popular with gay men in Sadr City has been torched.

Police blame the killings on tribal and family members who are shamed by their gay relatives, and it’s believed that they are being aided by Shi’ite death squads. But it also appears that police aren’t exactly helping the situation:

“Homosexuality is against the law,” said Lt. Muthana Shaad, at a police station in the Karada district, a neighborhood that has become popular with gay men. “And it\’s disgusting.”

For the past four months, he said, officers have been engaged in a “campaign to clean up the streets and get the beggars and homosexuals off them.”

Gay men, he said, can be arrested only if they are seen engaging in sex, but the police try to drive them away. “These people, we make sure they can\’t get together in a coffee shop or walk together in the street — we make them break up,” he said.

In 2005, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most influential Shi’ite leader, issued a fatwah that said gay men and lesbians should be “killed in the worst, most severe way of killing.”

Six Gay Iraqis Murdered After Clerics Demanded Crackdown

Jim Burroway

April 4th, 2009

Reuters is reporting that two gay men have been found murdered in Baghdad’s Sadr City, and four other bodies have turned up elsewhere following sermons by clerics demanding a crackdown on LGBT people in Iraq. Anti-gay sermons have been read at the last two Friday prayer gatherings in the Shi’ite slum of Sadr City.

The situation in Iraq appears to be rapidly deteriorating:

Homosexuality is prohibited almost everywhere in the Middle East, but conditions have become especially dangerous for gays and lesbians in Iraq since the rise of religious militias after U.S.-led forces toppled Saddam Hussein six years ago.

“Two young men were killed on Thursday. They were sexual deviants. Their tribes killed them to restore their family honor,” a Sadr City official who declined to be named said.

The police source who declined to be named said the bodies of four gay men were unearthed in Sadr City on March 25, each bearing a sign reading “pervert” in Arabic on their chests.

Reuters reports that many young men are wearing their hair short and cutting their beards in a more Western style, eschewing the traditional long hair and beards which were enforced by religious militias like the Mehdi Army in Sadr City. Those men, whether they are gay or not, are being singled out in the latest sermons and waves of attacks. The Mehdi Army denies involvement in these killings, but said that homosexuality became more widespread in the slums since they relinquished control:

“This (homosexuality) has spread because of the absence of the Mehdi Army, the spread of sexual films and satellite television and a lack of government surveillance,” said the office’s Sheikh Ibrahim al-Gharawi, a Shi’ite cleric.

Homosexuality is illegal in Iraq, punishable by imprisonment for up to seven years.