Iraq: IGLHRC Asks the Iraqi Government to Protect LGBT People

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) has sent a letter to the Iraqi Minister of Human Rights, Wijdan Salim, requesting that she takes specific measures to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Iraqis and prevent hate crimes against those perceived to be gay. IGLHRC’s letter, written to coincide with Ms. Salim’s visit to Washington D.C., responds to a recent wave of violent crimes against Iraqi citizens perceived to be gay.

Just hours before IGLHRC sent its letter, an Iraqi group identified as "Fazilat" (Virtue) posted flyers threatening homosexuals with death on walls in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad. The flyers, distributed on April 17, list the names of some of the would-be targets and states that “we will soon punish all you perverts.” Residents of Sadr City say the people who were outed in these fliers have gone into hiding.

Previous acts of anti-LGBT violence in Iraq include the April 2, 2009 murder of two men in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad. An unidentified local official described these men as “sexual perverts (Monharef Jensiyan) who were killed by members of their tribe to restore their family honor.” Prior to death, the men’s relatives had disowned them and they were also thrown out of their tribes. So far no one has claimed their bodies and the government has not launched an investigation into the case. These murders took place one week after Iraqi authorities unearthed the bodies of 4 men killed by gunshots in Sadr City on March 25. The words “pervert” and “son of a bitch” (jaravah: a derogatory term to describe homosexuals) were written on the chests of the victims. As part of this new wave of violence, a coffee house in Sadr City that was frequented by gay men has also been burnt down.

Apart from these cases, IGLHRC has also received reports of the arrest, torture, and murder of several members of the group Iraqi LGBT amid a nationwide government crackdown on gay-friendly businesses across Iraq. Several other reports indicate dozens of extra-judicial murders of LGBT people across Iraq during the past few months.

In response to these violent murders, on April 8, 2009, IGLHRC and Human Rights Watch submitted an urgent appeal to the Special Procedures of the United Nations to ask for an investigation.

IGLHRC is also working closely with the D.C.-based Council on Global Equality to bring the plight of gay and lesbian Iraqis to the attention of U.S. government officials, who will be meeting with the Iraqi minister next week.

No Action is requested at this time. Below is IGLHRC’s letter to the Iraqi Minister of Human Rights.

April 17, 2009

Her Excellency Wijdan Mikhail Salim
Minister of Human Rights
Unios (Naqabat) St. Mansour
Baghdad, Iraq
Fax: +964-1-5372017

Your Excellency:

On behalf of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), I am writing to express deep concern about an alarming increase in violence based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity in Iraq over the past few weeks. Iraqi officials have recently confirmed the murder of six men whose bodies were found in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad. The Iraqi authorities unearthed the bodies of 4 men killed by gunshots on March 25, 2009. On April 2, Iraqi police found the bodies of two additional men who were reportedly killed by members of their tribe to restore their family honor. Media reports suggest that vigilantes killed these men because of their perceived sexual orientation.

This wave of violence coincides with an arson attack against a Sadr City coffee house that was popular among gay men. IGLHRC has also received reports of official persecution—abduction, torture, trial without due process, and execution—of Iraqis who the government believes to have been part of a gay organization. In addition, IGLHRC learned today that an Iraqi group known as "Fazilat" (Virtue) has circulated flyers around Sadr City threatening gay men with death and listing the names of their potential targets.

As a signatory to international treaties that assure the right to privacy, liberty and security of the person and the right to non-discrimination, it is Iraq’s obligation to protect its citizens and ensure that human rights violations are fully investigated and that perpetrators are brought to justice.

The new Iraqi Constitution protects the equality of all citizens before the law (Article 14), guarantees everyone’s right to enjoy “life, freedom, and security” (Article 15) and reiterates the right of all Iraqis to live “in freedom and with dignity” (Article 35). The mob murder of men perceived to be gay also violates the Iraqi Constitution, since the law protects the private lives of all citizens (Article 17), makes any kind of violence against family members a crime (Article 29) and prohibits extra-judicial punishment (Article 19, Section 2). Despite the legal obligations of the Iraqi government to protect all citizens, crimes committed against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Iraqis and those believed to be homosexual are not properly investigated or prosecuted.

In accordance with Article 2 of the Charter of the Ministry of Human Rights (CMHR), which was passed by the Iraqi parliament as law number 60 in 2006, it is the responsibility of your ministry to “promote …and secure the implementation of…. the culture of human rights and personal freedom in accordance with international treaties that Iraq has entered... and prevent its violation.”

To fulfill this mandate, we request that your ministry take the following steps:

  • Actively and thoroughly document cases of human rights abuses against LGBT people and include this information in your annual report on the status of human rights in Iraq for submission to parliament and the cabinet. (Article 3, Section 2, CMHR)
  • Prepare a comprehensive report on state, community and family violence based on sexual orientation with concrete recommendations on how to stop such human rights violations. (Article 3, Section 3, CMHR)
  • Launch an investigation into the Iraqi legal system—including police, judiciary, and penal systems—to assure the full enjoyment of human rights principles by all people, regardless of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Promote a culture of tolerance and respect for the rights of LGBT people at the tribal level and within the larger Iraqi society. (Article 3, Section 11, CMHR)

IGLHRC is ready to support the efforts of the Iraqi government to secure the rights of its same-sex practicing citizens through training, consultation and information exchange.

We trust that you will give this matter due attention.

Yours sincerely,

Cary Alan Johnson
Executive Director
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission