Iraq: IGLHRC Calls for Immediate Investigation into Reports of Gay Iraqis Targeted for Violence, Kidnappings and Murder

After reports from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) that gay Iraqis are increasingly targeted for violent threats, kidnappings, attacks, and murder solely because of their sexual orientation, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) has written to the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and called on the Bush Administration to take all appropriate measures to publicly condemn the escalation of violence against gay men and lesbians in Iraq and take all possible measures to ensure their protection.

In addition to the letter to the State Department, Paula Ettelbrick, executive director of IGLHRC, has issued the following statement:

IGLHRC is alarmed by the documented escalation of violence against gay people in Iraq. We call on the United States, political leaders around the world, and Iraqi authorities to take responsibility for speaking out and stemming the targeting of gay people for kidnapping and murder, and seeing that those committing these crimes are punished.

The acts of violence within the Iraqi community are part of a larger pattern of violence that has arisen out of the current war and sectarian tensions. We believe it is the responsibility and obligation of the United States, considering its present involvement in Iraq, to protect and support the most vulnerable and marginalized populations being targeted for this violence.

It has been well documented and observed that war, particularly one as chaotic as the one in Iraq, leads to targeting and violence against groups that are more marginalized. The rape of women being used as a weapon of war in Bosnia and the targeting of gay people in addition to millions of Jews during the Holocaust in Europe are only two such horrific examples. The violent atmosphere of war often provides cover for more personalized violence, such as that against LGBT people.

We are grateful to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for reporting on the targeting of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) people in Iraq for violence and abuse. We expect that the US State Department will condemn these acts as it recently has condemned homophobic acts in Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates.

Whenever public leaders—whether political or religious—espouse homophobia one can expect an increase in violence against our community. Their calls for discrimination or murder of LGBT people create an atmosphere of impunity, as police and the public in general get the message that they won't be punished for kidnapping or torturing someone who is gay. By the same token, the leaders who condemn such brutality have the power to stop it.

IGLHRC will diligently follow up on these reports and offer whatever strategic assistance we can to Rainbow for Life, the Iraqi LGBT group cited in the UNOCHA report.

Full text of IGLHRC's letter to Condoleezza Rice Regarding Violence Against Gay Iraqis:

April 20, 2006

The Honorable Condoleezza Rice
United States Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Rice:

I am writing to draw your immediate attention to alarming reports about escalating violence against gay men and lesbians in Iraq and to ask that you unequivocally condemn these attacks.

According to the attached reports issued by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, gay Iraqis have been increasingly targeted for violent threats, kidnappings, attacks, and murder specifically because of their sexual orientation. As experiences elsewhere can attest, violence against vulnerable groups often escalates within the context of war and the kinds of general violent conditions that currently exist in Iraq. For gay men and lesbians, the added threat of the fatwa calling for the murder of anyone who engages in homosexual conduct, as issued last October by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, is most certainly a factor in the escalation of violence against this community as well as the impunity with which those to track them down, kidnap and murder them are allowed to act.

Considering its present involvement in the war in Iraq and the work that the State Department has done recently to identify, report, and condemn human rights violations against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, we ask that the Administration publicly condemn these acts. We ask also that US military and civilian personnel in Iraq call these abuses to the attention of Iraqi authorities and demand a response from them as well. The building and maintenance of democratic institutions cannot succeed without a determined devotion to ensuring the human rights of all people in society.

Sincerely,

Paula L. Ettelbrick
Paula Ettelbrick
Executive Director
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission