First-Ever U.N. Security Council Briefing on Violence Against LGBTI People: Focus on ISIS in Iraq and Syria

For Immediate Release

Monday, August 24, 2015

(New York) – During an historic briefing before the U.N. Security Council on violence against LGBTI people by ISIS, Jessica Stern, Executive Director of OutRight Action International, urged world governments to act urgently to protect people targeted by extremist persecution and cruel acts in Iraq and Syria.

Stern briefed the Security Council on the violence faced by LGBT people in ISIS-held areas of Iraq and Syria and outlined immediate steps to protect individuals at greatest risk in the region.

At a press briefing following the closed Security Council session, Stern said: "Given the extreme and constant forms of attack against LGBTI people we think it's of the utmost importance for the Security Council to act urgently."

Asked how the groundbreaking session might inspire governments to ask, Stern said: "Today a door was opened and now we have to find out what happens when we walk though that door."

During the Security Council session, two men targeted by the Islamic State, one each from Iraq and Syria, also shared their experiences with the Security Council. "Adnan," from Iraq, spoke by phone to keep his identity unknown, because of security concerns.

A timeline prepared by OutRight of 30 alleged killings by ISIS as punishment for sodomy and other crimes of “morality” circulated overhead in the hearing room. View timeline:

Stern urged the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and individual governments to act with urgency to assist individuals, including LGBT people, who are most in need of relocation. She urged the creation of safe houses in Iraq and also urged donor countries to support initiatives supporting psychosocial help for vulnerable individuals.

Stern said: "The heart of my message today is this: the international community must understand anti-LGBTI persecution as a component of how ISIS treats those it labels as "impure." We must recognize that these threats exist on a continuum of violence and discrimination before, during, and after conflict."

Stern noted that even before the rise of ISIS and its terror campaign LGBTI people, "LGBTI Iraqis and Syrians have been persecuted by intolerance permeating all aspects of life. It was not only the State that abdicated responsibility: some families would rather harm their own children than see their so-called “honor” besmirched. Some have twisted faith to incite violence."

Thirteen members of the Security Council were present- only Chad and Angola were not. All but Russia, China, Malaysia and Nigeria, among Security Council members, did not speak.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and Chilean Ambassador to the UN Cristian Barros Melet co-hosted the meeting and give remarks. Deputy U.N. Secretary General Jan Eliasson also briefed the Council. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon out of the country but sent a message to the assembled body.

The "Arria-formula meetings" are informal, confidential gatherings and briefings that allow Security Council members to have a frank and private exchange of views. The process is named after Ambassador Diego Arria of Venezuela, who, as the representative of Venezuela on the Council (1992-1993), initiated the practice in 1992.

Additional documentation and reporting by OutRight on violence against LGBTI people in Iraq: