Organizations Call for UN Focus on Imperiled LGBT Individuals in Iraq During Special Session

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, IGLHRC Communications Director, 212-430-6018 / 201-247-5057 (mobile), strimel@iglhrc.org;
Diana Duarte, MADRE Communications Director, 212-627-0444, media@madre.org

(New York) – Ahead of the Human Rights Council special session on Iraq on Monday, two organizations, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and MADRE, urged the United Nations’ top human rights body not to ignore the plight of imperiled lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals in its response to conditions in Iraq. The organizations said it was disappointed that the Council’s draft resolution did not reference LGBT Iraqis in light of ISIL’s documented atrocities and its hostile statement that anyone engaged in homosexual acts “should be killed.”

In an environment in which there have been documented grave human rights abuses in Iraq and Syria against religious minorities, women and other groups, including mass killings, beheadings, crucifixions, convert-or-die ultimatums, rapes and sexual slavery, IGLHRC and MADRE are monitoring the safety of LGBT individuals, who already faced a hostile environment in Iraq prior to the rise of ISIL.

“One clear indication of the high danger is the Islamic State’s website, which specifically prescribes death as a punishment for homosexual acts,” said Jessica Stern, Executive Director of IGLHRC.

The “Nusr” (victory in Arabic) website, which claims to be the Islamic Caliphate website, states: “The religiously-sanctioned penalty for sodomy is death, whether it is consensual or not. Those who are proven to have committed sodomy, whether sodomizer or sodomized, should be killed...”

“In the context of extreme violence against all Iraqis, the international community must condemn and respond to the ways that specific groups are harassed, intimidated and targeted.  As a result of ISIL’s actions and homophobic statements, LGBT Iraqis, men who have sex with men, and women who have sex with women, are living in a climate of utter fear. Therefore, along with all other minority groups named in the council resolution, the international community should add language noting the risks facing those targeted on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, sexual conduct, gender identity or gender expression,” said Stern. 

"The Islamic State has clearly set its sights on anyone perceived to threaten its fundamentalist, discriminatory worldview. For this reason, women, LGBT people, and ethnic minorities under their rule are in grave, constant danger," said Yifat Susskind, Executive Director of MADRE, an international women's human rights organization. "As people concerned with women's human rights, LGBT rights and the full range of human rights, we must understand the ways that gender identity and sexual orientation are used to turn individuals into targets, and we must join our strategies to confront these threats."

The organizations are calling on Human Rights Council members and observers to raise the dire needs of the LGBT community in Iraq and provide adequate protection and support for the vulnerable members of this community.