The U.S. Embassy in Iraq has issued a statement condemning a wave of recent killings of gay men in the Middle East country, with estimates ranging from six to 40 murders in the past two weeks. The violence has been directed at homosexuals and young Iraqis who have adopted the “emo” look of dark colors, tight T-shirts and skinny jeans.
“We are monitoring this situation closely on the ground and in Washington, and have expressed our concern to the Government of Iraq,” embassy officials announced in a prepared statement. “These acts of intolerance have no place in democratic societies.”
As the New York Times pointed out in a weekend report, gay Iraqis have been living in peril for the last half decade, noting that, “For at least six years, gays have been bullied and harassed by security forces and beaten and killed by reactionary Islamist militias in Shiite areas of Baghdad.”
However, the campaign of intimidation and terror has been amped up in recent weeks:
Over the past month, threatening letters began appearing in Shiite neighborhoods across Baghdad, residents said.
One of the fliers, scanned and posted online, addresses dozens of gay men by name and nickname. It warns people identified as Japanese Haider, Allawi the Bra, Mohammed the Flower and others: Reform your behavior, stop being gay, or face deadly consequences.
“Your fate will be death if you don’t quit doing this,” one leaflet warns. “Punishment will be tougher and tougher, you gays. Don’t be like the people of Lot.”
Gay Iraqi dissidents blame the killings on local militias, but also on an Iraqi government that has castigated people who do not conform to traditional roles and dress.
“It’s the miltias with the support of the Iraqi government,” Ali Hili, leader of Iraqi LGBT told gay radio personality Michael Signorile on his Sirius program. “The goverment has declared war on sexual minorities. They are trying to rally the streets of Baghdad. Yesterday and the last six or seven days – we have videos and films of those patrols – with a megaphone they’re saying, ‘If anyone who has any information about anyone who is a pervert, an infidel, part of the homosexual network, you have to declare it or you face consequences.’ Anyone who harbors anyone who is, according to them, an illegal citizen, will face consequences.”
Establishing a specific death toll in recent weeks has “proved nearly impossible,” according to the New York Times:
In most cases, no family members or friends have come forward, and Iraqi officials deny that there is any campaign targeting gay men or emo teenagers. They call the stories a media fabrication designed to drum up hysteria and embarrass Iraq.
An Interior Ministry security officer said that in the past two weeks, officials had found the bodies of six young men whose skulls had been crushed. Reuters reported the toll to be 14 or more, citing hospital and security officials, while rights groups say that more than 40 young men have been killed, but have provided no evidence for this figure.
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