Death squads targeting gays in Iraq
September 26, 2006 Issue
Copyright by The Advocate Magazine
Shiite Muslim leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani issued a death-to-gays fatwa in Iraq last October, and now squads of the local Badr Corps are systematically targeting gay Iraqis for persecution and execution, veteran political journalist Doug Ireland reports on his Web site. Iraqi gays who have sought protection from U.S. authorities in the “Green Zone” around Baghdad say they have been met with indifference and derision.
“The Badr Corps is committed to the ‘sexual cleansing’ of Iraq,“ Ali Hili, a 33-year-old gay Iraqi exile in London who fled to the United Kingdom five months ago, told Ireland. “We believe that the Badr Corps is receiving advice from Iran on how to target gay people.”
The Islamic Republic of Iran has been in the news in recent months for persecuting and executing young gay men. According to Ireland, the well-armed Badr Corps is the military arm of the Iranian-backed Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the powerful Shia group that is the largest political formation in Iraq’s Shia community.
The Ayatollah Sistani, 77, an Iranian-born cleric who is the supreme Shia authority in Iraq, is revered by the Supreme Council as its spiritual leader. His antigay fatwa says that “people involved” in homosexuality “should be killed in the worst, most severe way of killing.”
"There is a very, very serious threat to life for gay people in Iraq today," Hili told Ireland. "We are receiving regular reports from our extensive network of contacts with underground gay activists and gay people in Iraq—intimidation, beatings, kidnappings, and murders of gays have become an almost daily occurrence. The Badr Corps was killing gay people even before the Ayatollah’s fatwa, but Sistani’s murderous homophobic incitement has given a green light to all Shia Muslims to hunt and kill lesbians and gay men.
"Badr militants are entrapping gay men via Internet chat rooms," Hili continued. "They arrange a date and then beat and kill the victim. Males who are unmarried by the age of 30 or 35 are placed under surveillance on suspicion of being gay, as are effeminate men. They will be investigated and warned to get married. Badr will typically give them a month to change their ways. If they don't change their behavior or if they fail to show evidence that they plan to get married, they will be arrested, disappear, and eventually be found dead. The bodies are usually discovered with their hands bound behind their back, blindfolds over their eyes, and bullet wounds to the back of the head.”
Tahseen, a 31-year-old correspondent for the British Abu Nawas Group living in Iraq, told Ireland by telephone from Baghdad that “just last week, four gay people we know of were found dead. I am afraid to leave my room and go out in the street because I will be killed. We all live in fear.“ Tahseen said that men who seem obviously gay “cannot walk in the street. My best friend was recently killed for being gay.”
Tahseen confirmed the murderous efficiency of the Badr Corps’ Internet entrapment program. “Within one hour after they meet a gay person in an Internet chat room, that person will disappear and be found dead,” he said, adding that “since Sistani’s fatwa, the life of a gay person is worth nothing here, and the violence and killings have gotten much, much worse.”
Tahseen lives in a Baghdad apartment with his two brothers. “Right now, I have five gay men hiding in my room in fear of their lives, because they cannot go outside without risking being killed,” he said. “They are all listening to me as I speak with you.” All those hiding with Tahseen are in their late 20s or early 30s and by their mannerisms would be easily identified as gay by most Iraqis, Ireland wrote.