New Arrests of Gays in Iraq
A report of a fresh raid on a gay party in Northern Iraq has led to concerns that a fresh wave of repression may be happening.
LGBT people in Iraq have been subjected to a violent backlash since 2003. Hundreds are known to have been killed with many thousands seeking sanctuary in neighboring countries, some making their way to the west.
According to Ali Hili, chair of Iraqi LGBT, a London-based human rights group, police recently raided a gay party in Kalar, a small town in Kurdistan, in the north of Iraq, arresting 25 men.
“The men were attending a party at a private house on 15th of September when the police raided the address. After fierce protests against the raid by human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, all but three men have since been released from the city’s Garmyan Prison. Several of those detained claim to have been subject to violent beatings while being held in solitary confinement. The authorities in Kalar refuse to disclose the whereabouts of those still in detention, the conditions in which they are held, or the charges they face.”
The news is particularly concerning as the Kurdish region has been reportedly free of the scale of anti-gay violence, largely from Sunni and Shia militias, in Baghdad and the south of Iraq.
Hili told Michael Luongo of Gay City News
“In the south, there are still quite a few raids we were not able to document, and some we were not able to publicize because of protecting men from their families. We have seen a pattern of monitoring individuals. The government and the militias are now informing family members about behaviour. They are creating a system that has led to the deaths of so many individuals, because families are taking revenge. The militias are taking details like in text or video and sending it to families about their sons and daughters. And these people go crazy and kill their sons and daughters and brothers.”
So-called ‘honor killings’ of women in the Kurdish region are well-documented and it is believed that this also extends to LGBT victims.
“It is going to get worse before it gets good at any point,” Hili said. “We’re watching carefully at how the situation is going to go. I think it is not going to be any worse than what we have seen in the past two to three years. The US invasion brought to the gay community nothing but catastrophe. It was a mistake, it brought fundamentalism and lack of civil society, and then there was the ruling by an Iraqi Shia religious government. They have been put in power because of that big mistake.
“I don’t think the US withdrawal will be better for us in general. Iraq will be another Afghanistan. There is no stability for anyone, and most of all for us, the gay community. I don’t see any future for us.”
In September, a report, released by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) said that attacks on LGBT in Iraq continued in 2010.
Documenting the Lives of Iraq’s Gay Refugees
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