Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Gay Life After Saddam on BBC Radio 5Live this Sunday

This program has now been postponed to Sunday June 12.

Radio production company Made in Manchester has won its first major commission for BBC Radio 5Live with a harrowing documentary about the persecution of gay people in Iraq.

In Gay Life After Saddam, presenter Aasmah Mir finds out how life for the country’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community (LGBT), has got much worse since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Human rights campaigners claim hundreds of LGBT people have been killed or tortured while others have fled the country fearing for their safety since Saddam was toppled from power six years ago.

Meanwhile, in the UK, gay Iraqis seeking asylum are struggling to persuade authorities to let them stay.

Through some harrowing testimonies, Aasmah hears from campaigners and those who’ve been persecuted to see how life has actually changed for gay Iraqis.

Producer Ashley Byrne, who is also Made in Manchester’s Creative Director, says: “We’re proud to be making our 5Live debut with such an important documentary which tackles a subject that doesn’t usually feature as part of the usual narrative from Iraq.

“The programme includes an interview with a gay Iraqi who was kidnapped and raped before fleeing the country, we hear from a young man who fled to Paris after being tortured and we get exclusive access to a so-called ‘safe house’ harbouring vulnerable LGBT Iraqis on the outskirts of Baghdad,” says Ashley.

He adds: “Some of the evidence is very difficult to comprehend especially a form of torture involving glue and diarrhoea inducing drugs.”

Presenter Aasmah Mir also meets a London based Iraqi whose life is under threat for the work he’s doing to help gay people in his homeland. Ali Hilli, who runs the group Iraqi LGBT claims he has had two fatwas issued against him from extremists in the Middle East.

Co Producer Gail Champion says: “What becomes clear throughout is that not one person, one group or another is responsible for this persecution. It seems like it’s chaos in Iraq with the authorities struggling to keep control. What surprised me more than anything was how much life was easier for LGBT people under Saddam Hussein.”

As part of the programme, the US Government is put on the spot over the issue. Ashley Byrne says: “It was our reporter who managed to illicit a response from the US Government during a State Department Briefing in Washington earlier this month. The Obama administration’s reaction to the recent killings and violence can be heard during this programme.”

The programme also includes interviews with the Iraqi Prime Minister, religious leaders and ordinary people on the streets of Baghdad where homosexuality is still viewed by many as an illness and something that needs treatment.

Radio 5 live Commissioning Editor Jonathan Wall said: "This important programme raises issues about human rights and tells some stories seldom heard in the general narrative from Iraq.

"It's a moving and powerful documentary."

Gay Life After Saddam is produced by Ashley Byrne and Gail Champion and is A Made in Manchester Production for BBC Radio 5Live. It will air from 7-8pm this Sunday, 5th July 2009 on 909/693 medium wave, on line and DAB Digital Radio and via the BBC iplayer.

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