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Monday, 6 April 2009

Does Hillary know this man?

By Paul Canning

Last week the Iraqi LGBT group reported that some of an upcoming batch of executions in Iraq, which had been reported by Amnesty International, were of gay men being executed for homosexuality.

The group has suffered severe persecution in Iraq. It runs safe houses for LGBT fleeing death threats and says that many of its members have been murdered by both death squads and police forces.

Iraqi police have been reported as being infiltrated by both insurgents and religious groups.

Iraqi LGBT claims that the government since mid December 2008 has "a mass campaign to [eliminate] homosexuality". They say they have "many eyewitnesses" and that "members of the police and ministry of interior forces is actually involved on the mass arrest and taking suspects of homosexuality off the streets to unknown destination".

Homosexuality was made a crime by Saddam Hussein in 2001 following pressure by clerics. Repeated convictions carries the death penalty.

In response to the report by Iraqi LGBT the Boston gay newspaper EDGE spoke to the US State Department and in an astonishing rebuttal a spokesperson, John Fleming, who has worked at their Iraqi Desk through the Bush presidency, denied that Iraq's government executed any people since 2007 and that homosexuality is a crime.

He told the EDGE that any criminals now awaiting possible execution are there for crimes such as "terrorism, insurgency and kidnapping." Their sexual identity is irrelevant to the charges, he said.

"None were convicted of the ’crime’ of being homosexual," Fleming said. "In fact, it’s immaterial to Iraqis."

This is the same State Department which in 2006, following horrific reports in US media, the issuing of a fatwa calling for the killing of gays by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, United Nations reports and pressure from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), declared itself ‘troubled’ over anti-gay violence in Iraq.

Fleming asserted that "the average Iraqi" had other issues to concern themselves with and that this issue was "a luxury."

This appears to contradict Hillary Clinton, who told European Parliament last month that the persecution of gays and lesbians is "something that we take very seriously".

She added condemnation of where persecution was "condoned and protected."

Fleming disputes the reports by organisations like the UN and IGLHRC of a 'deathzone' for Iraqi LGBT. In fact he denied that homosexuality was a crime punishable by death.

Despite this, the issue of 'individual rights' was something US forces "frequently raise with Iraqi leaders and officials," he said.

It is unfortunate that due to language issues and bad reporting (such as of all those on death row being gay) that the urgent calls from Iraqi gays for help have been lost in translation. It's essential that other groups like the UN and IGLRC urgently investigate and substantiate Iraqi LGBT's reports.

What is clear is that Iraq's government has form. Plus that homosexuality is not just a cultural but a legal and political issue there. There are grounds to believe Iraqi LGBT reports that there would be a government organised pogram of LGBT.

What Iraqi LGBT are saying is that in Iraq we currently have the world's worst 'deathzone' for LGBT, far worse than Iran.

It may not suit the interests of western governments who support the Iraqi government to say this so it is up to others to hold Hillary Clinton to her words in Brussels as well as the fine words of David Milliband on LGBT rights.

And when she returns to Washington Hillary might want to look at what her spokespeople are saying in her name.

Postscript: Human Rights Watch (HRW) are reportedly trying to obtain corroboration of gay men on death row for homosexuality. HRW's Scott Long in an email circulated to the gayswithoutborders listserv said "we are trying urgently to determine who they are and what has happened."


  1. As a gay man stationed in Iraq, let me note that the report is completely untrue. The Iraqi Government has 128 people on death row; of those, two or three may (repeat may) be gay, but are not on death row because of their sexual orientation. The Ministry of Justice announced two weeks ago that it would seek to reduce the number of pending executions by implementing the death sentences for all 128 individuals -- all of whose appeals have run -- by executing five a day until the number was reached.

    Somehow, this was turned into histrionic reports that the Iraqi government was rounding up Gay individuals for an execution spree. These negligently innacurate reports do a disservice to the Iraqi Government, and only make getting real information out about the status of Gay Iraqis more difficult.

  2. As i explained to you before , Iraqi lgbt have never said anywhere that the Iraqi government is set to execute more than 100 men for the "crime" of homosexuality, and neither has either UK Gay News, Page1Q and a few other LGBT mainstream publications. Phrases used include "some", "a few" and "at least one". but never all 128 - that is the wrong interpretation of many bloggers. Generally, the death penalty has been increasing at an alarming rate in Iraq since the new Iraqi regime reintroduced it in August 2004. Again, this is not specifically about homosexuals. In 2008 at least 285 people were sentenced to death, and at least 34 executed. In 2007 at least 199 people were sentenced to death and 33 were executed, while in 2006 at least 65 people were put to death. The actual figures could be much higher as there are no official statistics for the number of prisoners facing execution. Yesterday, The Edge Boston website published and article dismissing the fact that some (they indicated falsely all) of the 128 Iraqis on death row had homosexual-related convictions as unfounded. An official at the US State Department, John Fleming, told the Edge Boston reporter: "Homosexuality is not a crime in Iraq. - The individuals condemned to death in Iraq have been convicted of violent crimes, including murder, terrorism, insurgency and kidnapping." The article continues: There have been no executions of criminals since 2007, added Fleming, who also noted that any criminals now awaiting possible execution are there for crimes such as "terrorism, insurgency and kidnapping." Their sexual identity is irrelevant to the charges, he said.These are the facts, which I would have thought someone at the State Department would know. Homosexuality was legal in Iraq under Saddam Hussein until late 2001, when under pressure from religious conservatives he criminalized the act of sodomy. A law passed in 2001 made sodomy punishable by imprisonment, and repeated convictions punishable by death. It should be noted however that despite the change in law there where no known cases in which the death penalty was applied for the offence by Iraqi Courts. Hussein had previously refused to criminalise homosexuality, as it went against the Secular Socialist beliefs of the Ba'ath Party – see Has John Fleming the spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, who works at the Iraqi Desk and spent one year only in Iraq, investigated and done any research and contacted the Iraqi authority regarding the five gay men who is sentenced to death? Or any of the others in the 128 who are sentenced to death? In the Edge Boston, he continued: "None were convicted of the ’crime’ of being homosexual," Fleming told EDGE. "In fact, it’s immaterial to Iraqis. Frankly, there are other issues they’re concerned about like basic survival, getting food and water. It’s a luxury for the average Iraqi to worry about homosexuality." I was so worried why he is calling worrying about homosexuality a luxury. Is this another denial from the U.S State Department of the atrocities that has been happening in Iraq since 2003? So many conduct isn't a capital offence in Iraq, but people is still arrested and detained for no clear reason, for example being part of the resistant group or being Sunni or opposition is not a crime , but so many people have been sentenced to death for allegations of terrorism and others that led to their death. Iraq is a country of lawlessness, Iraqi new regime has sent people include women to their death for no clear offence or crime and still doing so. we are demanding for the Iraqi government to show the records of the hearing court charges for all these 128 men. Here is the article where the U.S states departments comments on the story has no merit.
    Warmest regards Ali


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