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Saturday, 19 June 2010

Iraqi police raid Karbala LGBT safe house; fears of 'witch hunt'

The destroyed 'safe' house
Source: Iraqi LGBT

There is growing concern that the Iraqi government is stepping up a witch-hunt against gays and lesbians in the country after a police raid on a Karbala safe house.

On Tuesday 16th June, twelve police officers burst into the house, then violently beat up, and blindfolded the six occupants sheltering there, before bundling them off in three vans.  According to a source who witnessed the raid, the police also confiscated computer equipment before burning down the house.

According to reports, one of the arrested people has turned up in hospital. Nothing is known about the whereabouts of the other five individuals, which include two gay men, one lesbian and two transgender people. It is feared they may have been taken to the Interior Ministry in Baghdad, where, it is reported, many gay people have been tortured and executed in the last two years.

The one victim found so far - in hospital with slashed throat
Government forces have previously sized people particularly at roadblocks and handed them to militias who have then tortured them and their bodies have later been found.

None of the previous occupying powers have taken any action or delivered any criticism for these atrocities.

Iraqi LGBT feel that the reason the British and United States government in particular didn’t criticises the Iraqi government is because of the legacy of the occupation.

They have criticised the Malawian government and the Ugandan government.

In both those countries there is a strong religious opposition to homosexuality — as there is in Iraq.

Since the fall of Saddam, militias loyal to Shi’a clerics Grand Ayatollah al Sistani and Muqtada al Sadr, both of whom have called for homosexuals to be put to death, have been only too keen to carry out their leaders’ wishes. Over 720 LGBT people have disappeared or been murdered, many of whom have been tortured to death.

There is strong evidence that the government is colluding with these militia groups, by rounding up known homosexual and transgender people.  A small number of safe houses, set up for LGBT people to live in relative safety, have been funded by Iraqi LGBT, a London based human rights group. In the current climate, these homes have been life-savers for those taking refuge in them. The house which was raided on Tuesday had been established in January this year.

With the arrest and the seizure of computers, it is feared the government will step up efforts to round up more of the country’s LGBT population.

Ali Hili, who is the leader of Iraqi LGBT, comments:  “The UK media and politicians have been too quiet for too long about the violence LGBT people in Iraq. The militia and the powers that be know they can get away with it while that silence continues. It really is time for the Iraqi government to act on this and stop playing the role of guilty bystanders, while our brothers and sisters are murdered in silence”

Currently the UK Border Agency is deporting many Iraqis, some who left the country in fear of their lives after death threats from gangsters and religious militia. “The government is grossly underestimating the danger faced by Iraqi refugees." says Ali. "The raid on Tuesday proves for LGBT people especially, Iraq is a no-go zone”.
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