Monday, 25 May 2009

Report: The Iraqi anti-LGBT pogrom

Photo Bill Wilson Copyright © 2009

The following report - sourced from all media reports, agency, organisation and representative statements concerning the pogrom - is made available for reuse under a Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons license.


The anti-gay pogrom

Iraqi gays report that their lives are in danger, that they live in continuous fear of people finding out that they are gay.

Gays are being sadistically tortured, mutilated and murdered, some by the method of sticking a special glue (which can only be removed by surgery) up their anuses then forcing diarrhea. This method is being employed not just in Baghdad but in smaller town and cities all over Iraq. Videos of this form of torture are being distributed on mobile cellphones in Iraq. There are reports of hospitals turning away gays with glued anuses.

Attacks against gays have been abundant in Shiite neighborhoods, especially poor regions and remote areas such as the southern provinces and the Hurriya, Sho’la and Sadr neighborhoods in Baghdad.

Although gays could be tried and imprisoned under the Saddam regime Iraqi gays report that "now they kill people like us."

The campaign started in 2004, following the religious decree of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani that said gay men and lesbians should be “punished, in fact, killed .. The people should be killed in the worst, most severe way of killing.”

Since then Iraqi LGBT has received reports and information of over 600 LGBT people killed.

But Iraqi gays and media reports say that the killings have massively escalated since the end of 2008.

Iraqi LGBT has received reports of 63 killings in the last four months but does not have correspondents or members in large parts of Iraq and believes that the actual number of gays killed since December 2008 is much higher.

Amnesty International says that 25 boys and men were killed in Baghdad this spring "following calls from religious leaders to eradicate homosexuality."

There are reports that religious leaders, both Sunni or Shiite, have used Friday sermons and satellite channels as a platform to incite hatred and violence toward homosexuals.

Reporting about the murders by anal glue of gays in Sadr City in April by Iraqi daily newspapers and many television stations branded gays as 'perverts' and 'terrorists who are undermining the moral fiber of Iraqi youth'.

Posters and leaflets distributed in the Baghdad neighborhoods of al-Shola, al-Hurya and Sadr City contain orders to "cleanse Iraq from the crime of homosexuality."

Lesbians are reported as being burned to death in Kadhimiya, Hurriya Al-Olaa, Hurriya Al-Thaniya, Dolaai and Dabaash.

Baghdad US Embassy workers are reported as saying that the killings are not tribal or familial disputes.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says that homosexuals are a specific group which have been identified as at risk of violence.

State involvement and lack of action

Human Rights Watch says that Iraqi LGBT are vulnerable to attacks from both state and non-state actors.

Mobile phone footage circulating in Baghdad shows uniformed police harassing LGBT. There are reports of police extracting bribes.

Police have been quoted as waging a campaign to "clean up the streets and get the beggars and homosexuals off them.”

Iraqi LGBT has received reports that police and the Ministry of the Interior are behind some of the murders.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) says that despite the legal obligations of the Iraqi government to protect all citizens, crimes committed against LGBT Iraqis and those believed to be homosexual are not properly investigated or prosecuted.

US Vice President Joe Biden is reported to have said 'the Iraqi .. government is either too ineffectual to act, or is afraid of offending the religious zealots who perpetuate the attacks'.

The US State Department, following representations by Rep. Jared Polis and the Council for Global Equality, is investigating reports of trials and executions of LGBT, including for membership of the Iraqi LGBT group, as well as reports of arrests, beatings and rape by Ministry of Interior security forces. Polis says that at least one gay man has been executed by the government for 'membership of a banned organization' and that "gregious human rights violations ... [are] being carried out by Iraqi government officials from the Ministry of the Interior."

Amnesty International has expressed concern at the government’s failure to "publicly condemn the killings." It urged the government to make sure that the killings are "promptly and effectively investigated, and to see that the perpetrators are brought to justice." They also condemned police statements that,"appear to condone or even encourage the targeting of members of the gay community in Baghdad."

The Australian government has questioned the Iraqi Ambassador to Australia and Australia’s Ambassador to Iraq has questioned the Iraqi government over the pogrom.

On April 8, 2009, IGLHRC and Human Rights Watch submitted an urgent appeal to the Special Procedures of the United Nations to ask for an investigation.


Statements by Iraqi LGBT

This letter was written to Los Angeles councillor Bill Rosendahl in response to the passage by Los Angeles City Council of a resolution in opposition to the Iraqi gay pogrom.

I’m a 25 year old graduate student from Baghdad and my name is Ahmad.

I want to thank you very much for caring about me and my problem. Finally, after many desperate years of hopelessness I found a group of people that understand and care about me.

My problem is that I’m a gay, and as a gay man I can’t live a normal life in Iraq because:
  • My life is in danger. I live in continuous fear of people finding out that I’m gay.
  • I can’t express my deepest emotions. I can’t love...I can’t tell those who I care about that I love them... It is like being tortured from inside.
In the past few months I have heard of many cases of violence against gay men, including killing, torturing, and public humiliation of us. The religious vigilantes (known as Maghawer) have kidnapped many men suspected of being gay. No one knows anything about the fate of those gays.

The Maghawer’s most popular method of torture for homosexuals is putting silicon glue on their anus to shot down their digestive system and then force them to take laxative drug to make them suffer.

Every time I walk on the street I wonder what may happen to pen to me today. To protect myself, I have to lie to everyone and pretend that I am a straight person. It is really hard to be a 24/7 liar out of the fear of death…I keep asking myself if this is going to be MY LIFE!!!

I have no one to turn to. Not even other gay men or my family members. Recently I have been blackmailed by men I had sex with in the past. They told me either I have to have sex with them again or they will out me to my family, neighbors and even classmates. I had to choose between scandal and public humiliation and prostitution. But I decided that I can’t have sex with people I don’t love … so I decided to transfer to another college in Northern Iraq.

My family doesn’t know about my homosexuality…if they find out, they will disown me because I will become a disgrace to them. They may even try to kill me to protect their honor. I always have to pretend in front my family that I ‘m “normal”…but like any other straight man, my family wants me to marry a woman … I try to avoid that conversation as much as I can but there is a lot of pressure on me to get married.

I am not happy with myself. I am not proud of who I am.

A while back I went to a psychologist to see if he can treat me. I told him about my problem…he told me that homosexuality has no treatment in Iraq and only experienced doctors in developed countries can give me therapy.

The news made me so depressed that I started thinking of committing suicide. I feel even without vigilantes killing me, I AM ALREADY DEAD FROM INSIDE.

I just want to know what wrong I have done. Do I have a choice to be gay? Do I want to humiliate myself? Do I want to live in constant fear and anxiety? Do I want my family & friends to hate and abandon me if they discover my truth? Do I want myself to be killed on the hand of uneducated people for something I didn’t choose?

I don’t want to make it long for you…but I want to let you know that I have already suffered too much and I don’t have the power to go through more pain and suffering.

And finally I want to thank you for your support and help…

My Regards and Best Wishes to ALL of YOU…

Comment by Hasan given to The Independent

My boyfriend was killed by the police because of his sexuality.

Policemen came to his house, 10 minutes away from mine, put him in a police car, arrested and killed him.

They told his parents it was because of his job. He was working for Iraqi LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender). For six months I didn't go out, I didn't do anything – just grieved for him. He was killed because of who he is.

After the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, we – the gay community – were very optimistic. We thought that we would live in a democracy and felt safe with US troops around. So we started to print leaflets that promoted freedom for gay and lesbian people.

But members of our group started being arrested for it. The leaflets weren't political, they were just spreading gay rights.

We have the right to exist and be who we are, but this offended the government. The leaflets had our email addresses and telephone numbers, so the government and the militias came to find out who was distributing the leaflets.

In 2004, the situation got much worse. People began to be killed in the streets, burnt alive and mutilated for being gay. We were a target for the government and militias. I fled to the UK; I feel very safe here but get emails every day about more killings in Iraq. And the problem is that the UK Government doesn't allow us to stay with refugee status even though Iraq is one of the most dangerous places on earth for homosexuals and a war is being waged by the parts of the Iraqi government on gay people. In the UK, I can't work or study because I've been denied the right to asylum, but my only option is to go back to Iraq, face my family and my community and be killed.

Four members of our organisation have already been deported. I am fighting for my right to stay by re-applying for asylum with the help of Iraqi LGBT. Otherwise, I have no future. On Thursday, we will protest outside the Home Office to highlight the homophobic killings. I wish someone would listen and help us; this has been going on in Iraq for years and no one cares.

Hasan, 26, is gay. He moved to the UK nine months ago from his home in Babel province, south of Baghdad, after receiving death threats. His boyfriend was killed because of his sexuality.

Call for help

My name is [name and address removed], Baghdad, Iraq.

I was detained at my residence December 15, 2008 after midnight, by the Ministry of Interior. During the detention process, they hit me on the head and my rear end to make me confess that I am a member of the Iraqi-LGBT. Later on the Ministry of Interior transferred me to the criminal justice court in al Karkh, and after a short trial I was sentenced to death.

I was sentenced without given the chance to defend myself or to hire an attorney. Two days later I was returned to the same place and was told that the execution will take place in two weeks.

Please pass this message to [my friend] in London. I just wish to tell him not to forget about my mother and siblings, I was their only supporter.

I am all hopeful that Allah will show Iraqis a life with no death sentences. And lastly, I ask you for help. Is there anyone to help me before it is too late?


The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) advises favourable consideration for people belonging to specific groups from these areas which have been identified as at risk, including members of religious and ethnic minorities; Iraqis perceived as opposing armed groups or political factions; Iraqis affiliated with the multinational forces or foreign companies; media workers; UN and non-governmental organization (NGO) workers; human rights activists; and homosexuals.

Improving security prompts UN to revise guidelines for Iraqi asylum claims

What you can do

There are a number of ways in which you can take action.

Support Iraqi LGBT through fund raising and donations

This support is desperately needed and will be put to good use both inside Iraq itself and to support the exiled movement. The group needs £10,000 a month in order to keep its safe houses and other support for beleaguered LGBT inside Iraq going.

You can find out how to do this on the Iraqi LGBT website

Alternatively, in the USA, tax-deductible donations can be made at

Contact your local representative to urge them to ask for your government's pressure on the Iraqi government to take action

In the USA -
You can get contact information for Representatives and Senators on this website
The only statement so far from the State Department is carried in this post

In the UK -
Contact your MP through this website

Suggested letter

The following is a letter for a UK MP which you can adapt for your locality


I write to draw your attention to the pogrom of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people which is currently taking place in Iraq.

Although this has yet to draw much mainstream media attention the reports are truly horrifying and escalating. They have draw the attention of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and US Representatives.

However the UK Foreign Office does not appear to be taking any action.

I refer you to the statement of Bill Rammell [].

The following report covers the pogrom:

I would urge you to ask the Foreign Office why they are not taking stronger action in this matter.



Please take action today!


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