Iraqi Police cover for death squads

gayiraqivictims.jpgAli Hilli of the Iraqi LGBT campaigning group and and Middle East spokesperson for the British gay human rights group OutRage! has released some very shocking news.

Five gay activists were abducted at gun-point by Iraqi police in Baghdad on 9 November. Nothing has been heard of them since then. It is feared they may have been murdered by death squads operating under the cover of the Iraqi police.

The kidnapped men are Amjad 27, Rafid 29, Hassan 24, Ayman 19 and Ali 21. All were members of Iraq’s clandestine gay rights movement, Iraqi LGBT.

“For the last few months they had been documenting the killing of lesbians and gays, relaying details of homophobic executions to our office in London, and providing safe houses and support to queers fleeing the death squads,” he says.

Apparently, at the time of the police raid, the five men – who were speaking to Mr Hilli on the phone – were holding a secret meeting in a safe house in the al-Shaab district of Baghdad. He says there was a lot of noise and then the connection went dead.

A few days later, Mr Hilli received word that Haydar Kamel, the 35 year-old owner of famous men’s clothing shop in the al-Karada district of Baghdad, was kidnapped near his home in Sadr city. The kidnappers were members of the Mahdi army, an Islamist militia loyal to fundamentalist leader Muqtada al-Sadr.

Haydar Kamel had been financially supporting several gay men who had gone into hiding. Hee too had received death threats.

This followed a raid on a Baghdad barbershop popular with gay men. The four staff were arrested by Iraqi police and have since disappeared.

It is feared that these 10 kidnapped men have been summarily executed.

Hilli explains: “These disappearances are the latest ‘sexual cleansing’ operations mounted by extremist Islamist death squads, many of whom have infiltrated the Iraqi police. They are systematically targeting gays and lesbians for extra-judicial execution, as part of their so-called moral purification campaign. The aim of the death squads is the creation of a fundamentalist state, along the lines of the religious dictatorship in Iran. These homophobic kidnappings and murders are a snapshot of the rapidly growing power and menace of fundamentalist death squads.”

Earlier, in June this year, extreme lslamist death squads burst into the home of two lesbians in the city of Najaf. They shot them dead, slashed their throats, and also murdered a young child the lesbians had rescued from the sex trade. The two women, both in their mid-30s, were members of Iraqi LGBT. They were providing a safe house for gay men on the run from death squads. By sheer luck, none of the men being given shelter in the house were at home when the assassins struck. They have now fled to Baghdad and are hiding in an Iraqi LGBT safe house in the suburbs.

Hilli says that gays are not their only targets of these death squads working within the Iraqi police. They enforce a harsh interpretation of Sharia law, summarily executing people for 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.

Scandalously, the two militias doing most of the killing – Badr, the militia of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI); and Madhi, the militia of Muqtada al-Sadr – are prominent in Iraq’s coalition government backed by the UK and US, who also support Iraq’s leading cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who issued a fatwa last year ordering the execution of gay Iraqis.

“The allied occupation of Iraq is bad enough. But victory for the Madhi or Badr militias would result in a reign of religious terror many times worse,” says Hilli.

Hilli’s group are doing incredibly brave and valuable work helping gay people on the run from fundamentalist death squads; hiding them in safe houses in Baghdad, and helping them escape to Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. Gay human rights groups OutRage! and the Gay & Lesbian Humanist Association have been helping to raise funds and provide logistical support so this work can continue.

Please consider making a contribution towards Ali Hilli and Iraqi-LGBT’s work. They don’t yet have a bank account. 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, England, UK.