“A Spreading Campaign of Torture and Murder” Against Gay Iraqis

Human Rights Watch has released a report confirming what Care2 members have been aware of for some time: Iraqi militias are “carrying out a spreading campaign of torture and murder against men suspected of homosexual conduct” in Iraq.

Released Monday, the 67 page report confirms many of our worst fears as to the situation for gay Iraqis after the fall of Saddam. The report documents 2009′s “extrajudicial executions”, kidnappings and the horrific anal glue torture gay men have been subjected to and, as we reported quite some time ago, points the finger at Moqtada al-Sadr’s militia, a group aligned to a particularly vehement anti-gay cleric.

Chillingly, the report also reinforces suggestions that certain members of Iraq’s security forces may have worked with the militias, “colluding” to spread fear about the “feminization” of Iraqi society and promoting only one remedy: eradicating homosexuality.

In a press release for the report, the full scale of this violence becomes apparent:

“The killers invade homes and pick people up in the street, witnesses and survivors said, interrogating them before murdering them to extract names of other potential victims. They practice grotesque tortures, including gluing men’s anuses shut as punishment. Human Rights Watch spoke to doctors who said that hospitals and morgues have received dozens of mutilated bodies, living and dead.”

Significantly, the Human Rights Watch report, entitled They Want Us Exterminated,  demonstrates, at length, that these abuses not only violate International Human Rights laws, but also violate key standards of Sharia law, including the right to a trial, countering the claims of the militias that say they are enforcing Islamic tenets.

Also worthy of note is that the report succinctly categorizes some of the violence being perpetrated against homosexuals in Iraq as being part of the gender-based violence that is found throughout the country but is usually reserved for penalizing women based on so called “honorable motives”.

The report establishes a link between violence against gays and the perception of “unmanly” men in Iraq, which is seen as a key feature of Westernization thought to have been brought to the country by occupying forces.

Essentially, the claim that homosexuality appears to indicate a man lacking masculinity is the main focus of these attacks; not the victim’s actual or perceived sexuality in and of itself. If this is true, the apparent hatred against homosexuals runs deeper than mere disapproval, but speaks to the very foundations of Iraqi society, exposing the strict gender norms that are enforced in the country and ties to the Women’s Rights situation in the country also. 

The report vociferously condemns the lack of action from Iraq’s authorities, and compels the United Nations to co-ordinate with Iraq’s government to create “rapid resettlement” plans for endangered Iraqis.

And just how dangerous is the situation for gay Iraqis?

“They beat me all over my body; when they had me hanging upside down, they used me like a punching bag. They used electric prods all over my body. Then they raped me. Over three days. The first day, 15 of them raped me; the second day, six; the third day, four. There was a bag on my head every time.” – Excerpt from the Human Rights Watch Report They Want Us Exterminated; Nuri’s Story; 17 August 2009.

As to what has galvanized militia forces against Iraq’s homosexual and transgender population, the Los Angeles Times points to a video captured on a mobile phone of men “dancing provocatively” at a party in Baghdad at the start of the year. This video, the report claims, was circulated widely and served to ignite anti-gay feeling. 

Once confined to Sadr city, the wave of violence against Iraq’s gay population seems to be spreading outward, with incidents being reported in places like Basra and Kirkuk. It doesn’t seem radical to suggest that it would not take much for the situation to escalate with devastating force and speed if nothing is done to stem the violence.

You can read and download the full Human Rights Watch report on the worsening humanitarian crisis for gay Iraqi’s by clicking here.

How Can I Help Gay Iraqis?
Sign this Care2 petition urging President Obama to continue to apply pressure on the Iraqi government over the human rights violations Iraq’s gay citizens face.

Furthermore, Human Rights Watch is running a petition to urge the United Nations to actively take a global stance against the violent, perhaps even lethal, punishments that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people face for no other reason than their sexuality or gender identity. Find out more about the petition and sign it by clicking here.

Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to Iraqi LGBT.


Ernest R.
Ernest R5 years ago

Under Saddam, secular Iraq was the most westernized country in the Middle East. George Bush changed all that. American soldiers are proud of their mission accomplished Now while many of Saddam’s laws remain, the majority Shiites have brought back religion into people’s lives, with the traditional Islamic crimes. More women.now wear black tents, more find themselves in crowded jail eells on trumped up charges, subjected to torture and death. Christians, part of Iraq society since Jesus, are forced to flee or die. Homosexuals face what is here described. Mission accomplished.

pam w.
pam w8 years ago

Marty, I'd be willing to bet abuse toward women has increased since Saddam was removed, too. Don't you think that men often (too often) strike out with violence when they're feeling threatened? PLEASE DON"T CALL ME A SEXIST! I'm just saying....crime against the vulnerable tend to increase in wartime.

Marty H.
Marty H8 years ago

Thanks Steve! I really enjoy your GLBT articles! It's also very nice to see all the supportive people on here. So many times there are so many homophobic comments. Funny how the situation got worse after Saddam was toppled and I don't mean ha ha funny. Weird.

Yvonne B.
Yvonne Baker8 years ago

Shame on anyone committing acts of cruelty or death on those that society thinks of as "different". We must stand up for our brothers and sisters, and stop this persecution!

Dustin Booska-moulton

this disgusts me in every possible way!

Jessica F.
Past Member 8 years ago

@firewolf B: Not all from the south are this way. I live in Southern U.S. and I believe that homosexuality is not a choice. It's very disgusting, what they did to your uncle.

Ray L.
Lindell L8 years ago

Perhaps it would help if we took the U. of Ga. study that showed the more vehemently anti-gay a person was, the more likely he was himself aroused at the sight of a nude male, translate it and pamphlet the entire area. Then again, by the time you're killing another human, all reason has left the stage.

Firewolf B.
Firewolf B.8 years ago

Oh Yes - before I get the whole "How do you know this happened in the South?" line of accusations, I'm a Native American woman who had a Two- Spirited (Gay) Uncle. I stress 'had' because some bastards Redneck hill folk, slit him from his ass up to his belly button! He died in agony because he was in with love his life partner. Don't think it can't happen here!

Firewolf B.
Firewolf B.8 years ago

A very dear gay friend of mine, who was very openly gay & proud, told me that if he had been given a choice for his life, he still would have chosen NOT to be gay! It's a hard life, but if you are gay, it's not a choice as some idiots seem to think it is. OK & these brutal homophobes committing these crimes against these men are what? RAPING THEM?! IF you hate gay men, why the HELL are you fucking men up the ass repeatedly?! This is bullshit! It is either a faction of the cruel bastards who horribly brutalize innocent women for letting their veils slip, or else it's some terrifying hypocritical homosexuals, trying to stay in the closet by torturing others & getting their own jollies at the same time. If it's door number 1, then unfortunately it's not uncommon. Right Wing racist, anti-gay Hillbillies in the Southern U.S. have doing shit like this for years - and worse! Both need to stop!