March 24, 2006
a death-to-gays fatwa issued last October by Grand Ayatollah Ali
al-Sistani, death squads of the Badr Corps have been systematically
targeting gay Iraqis for persecution and execution, gay Iraqis say. But
when they ask for help and protection from U.S. occupying authorities in
the "Green Zone," gay Iraqis are met with indifference and derision.
"The Badr Corps is
committed to the 'sexual cleansing’ of Iraq," says Ali Hili, a 33-year-old
gay Iraqi exile in London who, with some 30 other gay Iraqis who have fled
to the United Kingdom, five months ago founded the Abu Nawas Group there
to support persecuted gay Iraqis, (Abu Nawas was a great 8th century
classical poet of Arab and Persian descent who is known throughout Middle
East cultures, and is famous for his poems in praise of same-sex love.)
Said Hili, "We
believe that the Badr Corps is receiving advice from Iran on how to target
gay people." In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the regime of President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been carrying out a lethal anti-gay pogrom against
Iranian gays, notably through entrapment by Internet -- and this tactic
has recently begun to be used by the Badr Corps in Iraq to identify and
hunt down Iraqi gays.
The well-armed Badr
Corps is the military arm of the Iranian-backed Supreme Council of the
Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the powerful Shia group that is the
largest political formation in Iraq’s Shia community, which was
headquartered in Tehran until Saddam Hussein's fall. The SCIRI’s Badr
Corps is trained and commanded by former Iraqi army officers.
Sistani, the 77-year-old Iranian-born cleric who is the supreme Shia
authority in Iraq, is revered by SCIRI as its spiritual leader. His
anti-gay fatwa (available on Sistani’s official website) says that "people
involved" in homosexuality "should be killed in the worst, most severe way
telephone from London, the Abu Nawas Group's Hili said that, "there is a
very, very serious threat to life for gay people in Iraq today. We are
receiving regular reports from our extensive network of contacts with
underground gay activists and gay people in Iraq -- intimidation,
beatings, kidnappings and murders of gays have become an almost daily
occurrence. The Badr Corps was killing gay people even before the
Ayatollah’s fatwah, but Sistani’s murderous homophobic incitement has
given a green light to all Shia Muslims to hunt and kill lesbians and gay
Hili says," Badr
Corps agents have a network of informers who, among other things, target
alleged 'immoral behavior'. They kill gays, unveiled women, prostitutes,
people who sell or drink alcohol, and those who listen to western music
and wear western fashions.
"Badr militants are
entrapping gay men via internet chat rooms. They arrange a date, and then
beat and kill the victim. Males who are unmarried by the age of 30 or 35
are placed under surveillance on suspicion of being gay, as are effeminate
men. They will be investigated and warned to get married. Badr will
typically give them a month to change their ways. If they don't change
their behavior, or if they fail to show evidence that they plan to get
married, they will be arrested, disappear and eventually be found dead.
The bodies are usually discovered with their hands bound behind their
back, blindfolds over their eyes, and bullet wounds to the back of the
Tahseen is an
underground gay activist in Iraq, and a correspondent there for the
British Abu Nawas Group. A 31-year-old photography lab technician, Tahseen
told me by telephone from Baghdad this weekend that, "Just last week, four
gay people we know of were found dead. I am afraid to leave my room and go
out in the street because I will be killed. We all live in fear." Tahseen
said that men who seem obviously gay "cannot walk in the street. My best
friend was recently killed for being gay."
the murderous efficiency of the Badr Corps’ Internet entrapment program.
"Within one hour after they meet a gay person in an Internet chat room,
that person will disappear and be found dead," he said, adding that "since
Sistani’s fatwa, the life of a gay person is worth nothing here, and the
violence and killings have gotten much, much worse."
Tahseen lives in a
Baghdad apartment with his two brothers. "Right now, I have five gay men
hiding in my room in fear of their lives, because they cannot go outside
without risking being killed," he said, with anguish audible in his voice.
"They are all listening to me as I speak with you." All those hiding with
Tahseen are in their late twenties or early thirties, and by their
mannerisms would be easily identified as gay by most Iraqis. I spoke
briefly with one of them, who expressed his fear in a soft, shy voice.
One of those being
given refuge by Tahseen is Bashar, a 34-year-old stage actor, who was
forced to go into hiding after receiving death threats against him and his
family. Before he went underground, his house was raided several times by
the Badr Corps. Fortunately, he was not at home, otherwise he fears he
would have been kidnapped and killed.
"We desperately need
protection!" pleaded Tahseen. "But, when we go to the Americans, they
laugh at us and don’t do anything. The Americans are the problem!" The Abu
Nawas Group’s Hili confirmed from London that representations to officials
of the U.S. occupation in Baghdad’s famous "Green Zone" had been made by
underground gay activists, only to be met with disdain and indifference.
Hili, who has a
bachelor’s degree in English literature, and who used to work for Iraqi
radio and television, fled to the U.K. in 2002 after having been
persecuted for being gay under Saddam Hussein. "In the late '80s and early
90s there were a couple of gay clubs in Baghdad, but they were all shut
down in 1993 after sanctions were imposed against Saddam’s regime and
Iraq. We had a weekly gay nightclub in the Palestine Hotel that became the
gathering place for gay people, especially for actors and others in the
entertainment world, but it, too, was shut down. I was arrested three
times for being gay, and tortured. After several attempts, I finally was
able to escape the country, going first to Dubai, then Jordan, then Syria,
and finally reaching England." Now, Hili says, he is heartbroken to see
that, three years after Saddam’s fall, life for gay people in Iraq is even
more unbearable than before.
"Just last night I
spoke via Internet with a young gay man in his mid-20s who was caught by
SCIRI agents. He had no identification with him -- gay people are afraid
to carry their I.D.s when they go in the street in case they are caught,"
because both the police and the Badr Corps agents would inform their
families and add them to a list of known homosexuals, which would be used
later to target them for killing. "This young man had his left arm broken
by the SCIRI thugs -- I saw this with my own eyes via Internet camera,"
Hili said the Abu
Nawas Group is accumulating evidence that Iranian agents are advising
SCIRI and the Iranian police on how to implement anti-gay persecution. Not
only has Iran’s Internet entrapment campaign targeting gays been adopted
in Iraq, he says, but there are reports that Iranian agents have been
involved in interrogations, questioning those arrested in Persian through
translators. "This is particularly true in Basra in the south," Hili says.
information on the cases of several gay victims of the Badr Corps, but
said, "These killings are just the ones we have been able to get details
about. They are the tip of an iceberg of religious-motivated executions.
Gay Iraqis are living in fear of discovery and murder." The victims
Haydar Faiek, aged
40, a transsexual Iraqi, was beaten and burned to death by Badr militias
in the main street in the Al-Karada district of Baghdad in September
Ammar, aged 27, was
abducted and shot in back of the head in Baghdad by suspected Badr
militias in January 2006.
Naffeh, aged 45,
disappeared in August 2005. His family was informed that he was kidnapped
by the Badr organization. His body was found in January 2006. He, too, had
been subjected to an execution-style killing.
Sarmad and Khalid
were partners who lived in the Al-Jameha area of Baghdad. Persons unknown
revealed their same-sex relationship. They were abducted by the Badr
organization in April 2005. Their bodies were found two months later, in
June, bound, blindfolded and shot in the back of the head.
The al-Arabiya TV
network reported this weekend that a backroom deal had been reached to
nominate Abdel Mahdi (left), a leading SCIRI figure and currently Iraq’s
vice president, to be the new Iraqi prime minister (the accord is said to
have been reached by representatives of SCIRI, the Kurdish list, and the
Sunni Iraqi Concord Front.)
There is great fear
that the Badr Corps-SCIRI campaign against gay people will become official
Iraqi policy, especially if the report that a top SCIRI politician may
become the new prime minister turns out to be true. Under the Iraqi
Constitution -- virtually written by U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay
Khalilzad (right) and his associates -- Sharia law, which mandates death
for homosexuals, is the foundation of all Iraqi law. Reuters reported last
August 20th, under the headline, "U.S. Concedes Ground to Islamists on
Iraqi Law," that the U.S. brokered a deal "making Islam 'the,' not 'a,'
main source of law -- changing current wording -- and subjecting all
legislation to a religious test." Reuters quoted a leading Kurdish
politician as saying at that time,
"We understand the
Americans have sided with the Shi'ites," he said. "It's shocking. It
doesn't fit American values. They have spent so much blood and money here,
only to back the creation of an Islamist state ... I can't believe that's
what the Americans really want or what the American people want."
* If you would like
to help support gay Iraqis, the Abu Nawas Group desperately needs money to
expand its work on their behalf. The Abu Nawas Group works closely with
the British gay rights group OutRage! -- so if you'd like to make a
donation to the Abu Nawas Group, checks should be made payable to: "OutRage!",
with a cover note stating it is a donation for "Abu Nawas Iraqi LGBT --
UK" and mailed to: OutRage!, PO Box 17816, London SW14 8WT, England, UK.
a longtime radical journalist and media critic, runs the blog
where this article first appeared. Links to more of Doug's writing on this
topic can be