Iraqi Government Executing Gays & Lesbians

8

April 4, 2009 by Gsmith

iraqi-police

Since the U.S. and U.K. installed its own fascist dictatorship in Iraq, a series of bizarre developments have surfaced. This may be one of the most horrifying.

It’s no secret that LGBT life in Iraq these days is as dangerous as it gets – quite possibly the most dangerous in the world. Secret underground networks have emerged to help escort LGBT Iraqis out of the country. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein (no friend to LGBT rights himself), the safety situation for LGBT Iraqi citizens has become even more dire. And there’s concern this week that the Iraqi government is going to start executing LGBT people.

The UK-based group Iraqi-LGBT is reporting that approximately 128 individuals have been arrested and sentenced to death for nothing more than being LGBT. And according to Iraqi-LGBT, executions are scheduled this week to start in “batches of 20.”

If true, this is shocking, and quite possibly one of the gravest consequences of the Bush administration’s War in Iraq. Groups like Amnesty International have called for investigations into executions in Iraq based on sexual orientation discrimination, but sadly little has been done to address LGBT discrimination in Iraq.

If LGBT people are being systematically murdered in Iraq, it’s something the Obama administration and the U.S. Congress need to address. The U.S. government shouldn’t be in the business of propping up administrations around the globe that execute people because of their sexual orientation. We’ve created an action here where you can write your members of Congress, express concern about the reports coming out of Iraq that people are being executed simply because they are LGBT, and ask them to investigate these atrocious killings.

Less than a few weeks ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a promise that the persecution of gays and lesbians around the globe wouldn’t be ignored by the Obama administration. Here’s her words: “Human rights is and always will be one of the pillars of our foreign policy. And in particular, the persecution and discrimination against gays and lesbians is something that we take very seriously. It is terribly unfortunate that right now in unfortunately many places in the world violence against gays and lesbians, certainly discrimination and prejudice are not just occurring but condoned and protected. And we would hope that over the next few years we could have some influence in trying to change those attitudes…”

Given how much money and military power we’re pumping into Iraq, there may be no country where the U.S. has greater influence right now. These alleged executions need to be investigated, and they need to be investigated now.

One other thing about Iraq. Since the U.S. invasion, the death penalty in Iraq has soared to levels that not even Texas approaches. According to Amnesty: “The use of the death penalty has increased rapidly in Iraq since it was reinstated in mid-2004. Since then more than 270 people have been sentenced to death and at least 100 people have reportedly been executed…. [S]ince [2005], there has been a rapid rise in executions with at least 65 people, including at least two women, reportedly executed by hanging in 2006. Iraq now figures among the countries with the highest numbers of executions reported in 2006. Higher totals were recorded only in China, Iran and Pakistan.”

Those death penalty numbers should raise some serious concerns for both the Obama administration and the U.S. Congress when it comes to the human rights situation and the criminal justice system in Iraq.

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8 thoughts on “Iraqi Government Executing Gays & Lesbians

  1. Tariq Khan says:

    It is blatantly hypocritical of the Obama administration to say that they won’t ignore persecution of gays and lesbians and that they take discrimination based on sexuality very seriously, when here in their own country there is still legal discrimination against same sex couples when it comes to marriage or adopting children, and, in the presidential debates, Obama said that he does not believe gay marriage should be legal. Not to mention the alarmingly high numbers of queer people murdered every year by bigots right here in the USA and the alarmingly high suicide rate of LGBTQ people which are the direct result of the constant abuse, both physical and emotional, directed at queer people by good Christians. The LDS Church’s own bigoted characterization of queer people as “attacking our families” only reinforces this social climate in which it is okay to persecute and discriminate against LGBTQ people. If the USA wants Iraq to respect the human rights of queer folks, then it should stop setting an example that says otherwise.

  2. Grégoire says:

    Dear Brother Tariq,

    If the USA wants Iraq to respect the human rights of queer folks, then it should stop setting an example that says otherwise.

    I think there’s an obvious difference between the various defense of marriage acts, and rounding up gays and lesbians for extermination. The police in the USA aren’t arresting gays and lesbians and executing them in groups of twenty.

    in the presidential debates, Obama said that he does not believe gay marriage should be legal.

    Wanna know something funny? In the presidential debates, Obama was promising to re-negotiate NAFTA. Ten minutes after he appeared on television saying as much, his staff was on the phone to the Canadian government re-assuring the people in charge that he had no intention of doing any such thing. “Don’t worry,” he said, “I’m just lying…”

    Back to the topic at hand, do you think it’s worth condemning a society that exterminates people for being gay, or for possessing the perception that they might be gay? What do you think about the Iraqi government’s plans to murder gays and lesbians?

  3. Tariq Khan says:

    Gregoire,
    I’m not criticizing the article. In fact, I’m glad to see this article because persecution of queer people is a topic that Mormons – even progressive minded Mormons – seem to shy away from. I absolutely condemn the Iraqi government for murdering queer people, no doubt about it. I also condemn the seemingly innumerable Islamic fundamentalists who create a social climate in which that type of behavior by the government is acceptable. If the Iraqi government wasn’t rounding up queer people and murdering them, then you can bet that those psychopath religious nuts would be doing it instead, and do in many cases. That being said, I was simply trying to point out the hypocrisy of our own politicians who also discriminate against queer people. Yes, it’s far safer to be LGBTQ in the U.S. than it is in the middle east. But let’s not forget that alot of queer folks get murdered by Christians here in the states, and even though it’s illegal, it’s very rare for someone to actually get convicted of this crime, and when they do get convicted, they are often treated with alot more leniency than someone who killed a straight person would. For example, the ex-cop who murdered Harvey Milk in cold blood only had to do a few years in prison. There are people who go to prison for longer time than that just for petty drug charges or petty theft. But the judge and the jury took pity on the ex-cop because, after all, it was only a gross gay guy, not a real human being. And there are very high numbers of queer people who commit suicide due to constant bigotry against them, and they are taught to hate themselves. Many such suicides have occured in Utah, and Mormons need to be honest and self-critical enough to admit that those suicides are the direct result of homophobic attitudes within mainstream Mormon culture. We have to understand this kind of treatment of LGBTQ people as the symptoms of a society that denigrates people based on sexuality and gender, and not simply as isolated incidents. When an entire Church characterizes queer people not as human beings, but as enemies out to “destroy the family”, that directly creates a social climate that is conducive to attacks on queer people and contributes greatly to suicidal feelings in queer people. And government laws that prohibit same-sex couples from marrying or adopting children only further justifies authoritarian-minded people in thinking that something is wrong with being LGBTQ. Being gay is not a disease that someone needs to be cured of, nor is it a reason to deny a person rights. These so-called “defense of marriage acts” don’t defend marriage, they do quite the opposite. I am legally married in a heterosexual relationship, but a couple of gay men getting married does not hurt my marriage in any way whatsoever, and it does not hurt my child. However, there are plenty of queer couples and children of queer parents who are hurt daily by our prejudiced society that is far too controlled by small-minded, fear-filled Christians. Yes, I am glad to see this article condemning the horrifying human rights violations of the Iraqi government, but let’s not just safely rail away at foreign powers across the sea. Let’s have the courage to apply the same standards to our own society. If Obama was lying when he said he doesn’t support gay marriage, then I haven’t seen any evidence to support that. He certainly hasn’t done anything so far that would indicate he was lying about that.

  4. Grégoire says:

    Dear Brother Tariq,

    Thanks for such a comprehensive response.

    I’m going to be totally open about my own evasiveness here. I’m not an admin on this blog. I’m just a regular guy with a Mormon background who posts an occasional message. What I’m about to say is my own opinion and doesn’t reflect on The Mormon Worker or any of the other people in the collective.

    I agree with everything you’ve posted. I was married in 1995 (to my wife – who is a female) in British Columbia (I always have to explain that BC is part of Canada, and is not in South America).

    Ten years after we got married, the high court in Ottawa ruled that same-sex couples could marry also.

    The idea that keeping gays and lesbians from marrying is *defending* marriage is something I can personally attest to being a fraudulent idea. My marriage has remained valid since 2005. Society has not broken down because two dudes can go tie the knot at the marriage commissioner’s office. If anything, society is more in line with traditional Jewish/Christian/Mormon mores and values, since respectable gay people now have the ability to get married before shacking up together and having kids. There aren’t any more excuses to *live in sin* (LOL!) and with the penalty of divorce enforceable for infidelity, “the party” is over. The family unit has been strengthened by marriage equality, and not the other way ’round.

    There is a wide bit of diversity here on this site, and among Mormons generally. Our position is probably not the dominant position in the debate (which is fine).

    However: There ought to be no disagreement about the insanity of having radical religious leaders in Iraq sending the police out to round up gays and lesbians for extermination. It’s interesting to note that the same Islamic religious men who are now writing the laws and doing this were freed by the neo-conservatives and put in charge of the government. When Saddam Hussein was in power, most of those clerics (lunatics in my opinion) were either in prison or living abroad to escape prison.

    Let’s also be honest enough to apply criticism wherever it’s merited. There is a difference between Islamic religious leaders saying “homosexuality is sinful” (as Fred Phelps does) and the same leaders using the government to commit mass-murder against homosexuals. If Christians were murdering gays in the U.S., as you’re asserting, I’d be glad to criticize them too. I haven’t seen any evidence of this in recent memory.

  5. Tariq Khan says:

    Gregoire,
    I appreciate your comment. It seems like Canada usually is ahead of the U.S. when it comes to social issues these days. And yes, I agree that there is a difference between religious leaders saying “homosexuality is sinful” and governments rounding up gay men for extermination. As I said, it’s much safer to be gay in the U.S. than it is in the middle east, no doubt. But there have been alot of murders of LGBT people in the U.S. just in the past year. I don’t have the statistics or details off the top of my head, but do a search of violence against LGBT people and alot will come up if you want specifics. And you’re right that these crimes aren’t committed by Christian leaders themselves or in the name of any official church, but the majority of the murderers are males who come from Christian backgrounds. Beyond actual murders, there is alot of other kinds of violence that bigots in the U.S. inflict on LGBTQ folks; in fact, just about every LGBTQ person I know has stories they can tell of being physically bullied by Christians who think they are doing the right thing by hurting queer people. What I’m saying is that while Christian leaders themselves aren’t committing this violence, by preaching that queer people are sinful and abominations who destroy the family, these leaders are contributing to a social climate that is conducive to this violence. For example, during the Proposition 8 battles in California, Christian churches, including the LDS Church, really increased the amount of “same-sex couples are destroying the family” rhetoric, and the level of violence against LGBTQ people also increased significantly during that time. In Northern Virginia just this past Monday members of the Westboro Baptist Church picketed at my school, George Mason University, and they were holding signs that said, “God Hates Fags”. They were doing this action to protest Pride Week at GMU, which is a week that LGBTQ students use to educate the student body and faculty about issues of gender and sexuality and to assert the rights, dignity, and humanity of LGBTQ students who are daily pushed around by good Christians. I believe that the only reason why these bigots don’t round up queer people and kill them like the Iraqi government did, is because there is a growing number of dedicated human rights activists who won’t let them get away with it.

  6. kristina grace k. says:

    I have taught in several workshops and classes basic gender theory and fostered discussion in educational spaces on queer and transgender issues (my expertise in the latter but only as an ally and daughter of a parent who is trans). Attached is a link I usually give to students. http://www.rememberingourdead.org/about/core.html It lists murders of trans folks and the violence these people went through is beyond unacceptable. It says something about a society that silently condones homophobia, sexism, and transphobia. It says something about a government when perpetrators of these acts barely experience justice for their crimes, if at all. Frankly, I don’t care if the murderers are religious or not. What I do care about is when those of us who know that this is wrong – whether from a spiritual sense or not – fail to speak up for those who are being abused, taunted, or bullied. A trans friend of our community was groped and beat up in the streets just two weeks ago. For LGBTQ people this is a scary and realistic part of life. Asking a group of LGBTQ people in the United States if they’ve ever experienced violence or fear of violence against them for being queer would be a joke. I have personally had Christians (waving bibles and crazy religious signs and all) threaten my family on the street when I was just a child (among other incidents, actually, all committed against me by professed “Christians”). I think this discussion so far is great. But I also think that trying to get proof Christians are murdering queer folks (which, of course, they do) is beside the point. Whatever country, religion, or government this violent behavior is messed up and LGBTQ folks need allies the world over. Without allies, abuse and violence will continue.

  7. Tariq Khan says:

    I know I’ve already written my fair share on this thread, but for those who wish to do something to help stop the Iraqi government from murdering these 128 Iraqis, here is a link to a petition to save these peoples’ lives:
    http://www.petitiononline.com/iraqgay/
    There are also phone numbers of government officials that you can call. Normally I don’t support petitions or asking government officials to do what they shouldn’t have to be asked to do, but this is a real life and death situation for these Iraqis who are facing execution and maybe if they know the public is watching them, they will back down from this horrifying human rights violation they are committing.

  8. Grégoire says:

    Dear Brother Tariq and Sister Kristina:

    Christian churches, including the LDS Church, really increased the amount of “same-sex couples are destroying the family” rhetoric, and the level of violence against LGBTQ people also increased significantly during that time.

    You’re absolutely right about that. I’ve written a couple of things on that very topic, though they don’t appear on this particular site.

    In Northern Virginia just this past Monday members of the Westboro Baptist Church picketed at my school, George Mason University, and they were holding signs that said, “God Hates Fags”.

    I guess I wouldn’t find what’s going on in Iraq to be quite as shocking if it were limited to a few fringe nutters shouting slogans.

    In the U.S. it’s not a crime to have crazy or violent ideas. It’s not a crime, for example, to worship the devil, or to wear a swastika, or to do any number of other crazy, distasteful things in public. It ought to be perfectly permissible for Iraqis who hold these insane ideas to express them in Iraq also. Unfortunately that’s not what’s going on.

    I also think that trying to get proof Christians are murdering queer folks (which, of course, they do) is beside the point.

    I wasn’t being sarcastic. If gays are being murdered in similar numbers here I’ll be the first to write and criticize the people who are doing it. I really don’t think that what’s going on in Iraq can even be equated to anything that’s happened in the U.S. in the past 100 years.

    Mormons will disagree about many things, but I don’t think even the most religious Mormons would find this sort of “final solution” to the “gay problem” to be anything less than tragic.

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