Human Rights Watch (HRW), a leading independent organization dedicated to defending and protecting human rights across the globe, released a 68-page report on Monday that details the horrific campaign to torture and murder gay men in Iraq.
The report is based on interviews with over 50 Iraqi men who identified themselves as gay, though the report also notes that men who are simply “not ‘manly’ enough” also face persecution and murder. HRW reports that even “the most trivial details of appearance – the length of a man’s hair, the fit of his clothes” can determine whether a man lives or dies.
According to the report, the killing campaign began “in the early months of 2009.” Militiamen “invade the privacy of homes, abduct [gay] sons or brothers, [and] leave their mutilated bodies in the neighborhood the next day.” The report illustrates the gruesome torture wrought on the men, some of whom are “executed by injecting glue up their anuses.”
An Iraqi Interior Ministry Official told Associated Press that estimating the number of men already killed is nearly impossible “because in most cases the family members themselves are either involved in the killing or prefer to keep silent, fearing shame.” An official at the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) told HRW in April, however, that the death count was probably already “in the hundreds.”
In an article published Monday, The Washington Post quoted Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights program at HRW, as saying “The [Iraqi] government has done absolutely nothing to respond.” And, indeed, the report even claims that HRW “heard accounts of police complicity in abuse – ranging from harassing ‘effeminate’ men at checkpoints, to possible abduction and extrajudicial killing.”
The Post goes on to say that both “the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and American lawmakers have expressed concern about the reports of slayings.”
Although procedural laws in Iraq do not call for the death of a man who has consensual sexual relations with another man, the HRW report points to special religious laws called fatwa that may circumvent that code:
A young man in Sadr City told an Iraqi columnist that ‘the killing operations [against gay men] are not crimes since they fall under jurisdiction of a religious fatwa.
HRW concludes its report by calling on the Iraqi government to put a stern halt to its anti-gay killings and bids that the U.S. and its allies do all that is possible to assist in that effort:
The Iraqi state must desist from silence, and fully and immediately investigate the murder and torture of people targeted because they do not correspond to the norms of ‘masculinity’ or are suspected of homosexual conduct. [The Iraqi state] must appropriately punish those found responsible… [and] the US and the US-led multinational forces in Iraq should assist the Iraqi government wherever possible in investigating these crimes.
GLAAD will continue to monitor the media’s coverage of the anti-gay killings in Iraq.