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Wednesday, 7 September 2011

UN reports on violent attacks on LGBT in Iraq

Gay Iraqi victim of raid on 2010 Karbala safe house with slashed throat
By Paul Canning

A report [PDF], released by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) says that attacks on LGBT in Iraq continued in 2010.

The report claims the 2,953 civilian deaths it attributed to violence in 2010 were mostly carried out by insurgent and terrorist groups. It stressed that minorities, women and children suffered disproportionately from these abuses.

While there have been improvements in some areas of human rights, many challenges remain and some areas were actually worse off in 2010 than previous war-torn years, the report says.
"Particularly women's rights levels and standards have gone down. They suffer from widespread violence, especially from domestic violence," Rupert Colville, the spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, told IPS.

"There is little legislation to prevent this from occurring and the criminal code in Iraq almost encourages these crimes. There needs to be laws in the region against domestic violence," Colville said.
The treatment of minorities was also heavily covered in the report.

The report says that during the Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva in February 2010, Iraq expressly and officially rejected calls by UN member States to act to protect persons on account of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and to investigate homophobic hate crimes and bring perpetrators to justice.

It said:
"UNAMI continued to receive reports during 2010 of attacks against individuals based on their perceived or actual sexual orientation. The topic of homosexuality is largely taboo in Iraq and seen as incompatible with the country’s culture and religion."

"Members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community usually keep their sexual orientation secret and live in constant fear of discrimination, rejection by family members, social ostracism, and violence. The Iraqi Penal Code does not expressly prohibit homosexual relations between consenting adults. However, a variety of less specific, flexible provisions in the Iraqi Penal Code leave room for active discrimination and prosecution of LGBT persons and feeds societal intolerance. Police and courts regularly take into account the alleged homosexuality of the victim as a mitigating factor in relation to crimes committed against persons on account of their perceived or real sexual orientation."

"Reports published by Ali Hilli, the pseudonym of the sole publicly known representative of the London- based Iraqi LGBT, state that on 16 June 2010, 12 police officers burst into a “safe house” in Karbala’ and violently beat up and blindfolded the six occupants before taking them away in three vans. The same report states that the police confiscated computer equipment found in the house before burning it down. The six people arrested reportedly included three men, one woman and two transgender people. Two days later, one of the men turned up in hospital with a throat wound claiming he had been tortured. UNAMI has not been able to ascertain the whereabouts of the other five individuals."

"UNAMI continued to follow the cases of ten men who were persecuted in Baghdad because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation. As previously reported, the men had suffered extreme forms of violence and abuse at the hands of members of the Mahdi Army, police officers, religious leaders and local criminal gangs, which had forced them to flee to a neighbouring country in May 2009 from where they hoped to seek protection in third countries. While one of these cases was subsequently resettled through UNHCR, some of these men subsequently returned to Iraq because they claimed they lacked funds and adequate means of support. One of them contacted UNAMI stating that he was homeless and alleging that he was being subjected to further acts of violence. He reported that he could not return to his family who had threatened to kill him because of his sexual orientation."
Unredacted cables from the American Embassy in Baghdad published by Wikileaks also provide additional new evidence of violence against LGBT in Iraq, although they cover an earlier period than this report.

In a 2009 cable signed 'Hill' a comment reads:
"It is clear that LGBT persons in Iraq have nowhere to turn. Hunted by religious extremists, ignored by the police and unable to ask their families for help, many have sought to resettle outside of the country. While reports of violence have subsided for the time being, LGBT individuals still face daily persecution. Due to the sensitive nature of the issue, and the unwillingness of GOI [Government Of Iraq] officials to address the topic, it is unlikely that the situation will improve any time soon. Embassy is therefore working closely with UNAMI, UNHCR, and various NGOs to help these people escape from an untenable position. End comment."
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