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April 26, 2007

U.K. IGNORES IRANIAN GAY'S ASYLUM REQUEST--plus, Help Save a Gay Iranian Blogger in Iran

A 35-year-old gay Iranian is on a hunger strike in a U.K. jail to protest a deportation orderIran_noose  that will send him back to Iran. Saeed Faraji was arrested by British immigration police on April 20, and is currently being held in Oakington Detention Center in Cambridge.

The Home Office refused his asylum request on the grounds that he could not prove that homosexuals are subjected to “torture, inhumane or degrading treatment” in Iran.

Faraji told his story in a sworn statement to the Home Office’s Immigration Appeal Authority, a copy of which was provided to Gay City News:

Faraji is the youngest of five children from a Tehran family of practicing Muslims, and was trained at a technical school in elevator repair. “I knew that I was different from a young age,” Faraji said, “and at around 14 I found myself attracted to people of the same sex. I had no attraction for women.”

“From childhood, I had a very close friend called Ali Rahaei,” Faraji explained. “We were inseparable. Our relationship developed from being friends to being partners.”

After completing his military service, Faraji resumed his relationship with Ali, but, he said, “our relationship was always practiced behind closed doors away from prying eyes [because] homosexuality is not allowed at any level in Iran.”

“I spent my working time helping my father in his carpet business,” Faraji said, “and Ali worked for the Ministry of Agriculture. We tried to continue to see each other as often as we could.”

Faraji said that “Ali and I were happily sharing our love for each other, albeit in secret,” until one day when the couple was “in my bedroom watching an X-rated video that Ali had secretly obtained. During this time we were watching this video on the computer, Ali performed oral sex on me -- but we did not realize that my cousin had seen us. He was shocked and confused at what he had seen and left the room immediately.”

A few days later, Faraji related, it became clear his cousin had informed on him to his family. He and Ali were again having sex in his bedroom “when the door burst open, and my father, Ali’s father, and three police came in. Ali and I were scared for our lives, and without even finding my shoes I got my trousers on and ran as fast as I could, jumping from the balcony window. Fearing for my life, I left Ali -- I felt terrible [doing so], but I had to get out. While I was runnng away I heard gun shots being fired by the police, and I ran even faster.”

Faraji made his way to the house of a friend who knew of his relationship with Ali. “He told me that I couldn’t stay in his house for long -- Iran was not a safe place for me and the only option I was left with was to flee the country,” Faraji said.

His friend helped him find a “passer” who smuggled him out of the country and arranged his voyage; after a long and arduous journey, he eventually arrived in the U.K. on December 11, 1999. Faraji applied for asylum as a sexual refugee the same day, but even though Faraji has made a life for himself in the U.K. in the intervening years, it is only now that the authorities have decided to deport him.

“Since I have been in the U.K. I have experienced freedom to express my views and feelings without fearing for my life,” Fareaji told immigration officials. “I cannot return to Iran, a country that treats me as a lower kind of human being. Everyone has the right to be treated with decency regardless of their sexual orientation. I also fear revenge attacks from my family,” he said.

Irqo_logo Friends of Faraji contacted the Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO, the new name adopted by the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization, or PGLO), which is supporting Faraji’s asylum request (Left, the IRQO logo).

Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government has an abysmal record on granting asylum to gay refugees, especially from Muslim countries, and the Home Office’s claims that homosexuals are not persecuted in Iran for their sexual orientation are laughable. For example, the government of the Netherlands last year adopted a new asylum policy for Iranian gays, who are now considered a “special category” of persecuted people who no longer have to prove they are individually at risk in order to be granted refugee status.

Readers of this newspaper will be familiar with the numerous interviews by this reporter with gay Iranian victims of torture which have appeared in these pages over the last two and a half years.

As Mani, an underground gay activist inside Iran, told Gay City News last summer, “You who live serenely and comfortably on the other side of Iran’s frontiers, be aware that those who think and feel and love like you do in Iran are executed for the crime of homosexuality, are assassinated, kidnapped, and barred from working in offices. You have festivals, and they prisons. You select Mr. Gay of the Year, but they don’t even enjoy the right to have gravestones. Be fair and tell us what difference there is between us and you. Isn’t it time that all homosexuals around the world rise up and come to our defense?” (see my interview with activist Mani, “Gay and Underground in Iran,” in Gay City News, July 6, 2006)

Letters in support of Faraji, who faces imminent deportation back to Iran, should be faxed to the British Ambassador to the U.S., Sir David Manning, British Embassy, 3100 Massachusetts Avenue NW,Washington DC, 20008 -- Fax: (202) 588 7870. Please include Faraji’s prisoner number at the Oakington Detentention Centre: 20/4c.

Arshamparsi_best In another urgent case, the Secretary-General of the IRQO, 26-year-old Arsham Parsi (left), has appealed for emergency financial support to help smuggle an arrested gay activist and blogger out of Iran.

“For security reasons we will call him Babak,” Parsi said from his base in Toronto, where Parsi was granted asylum last year as a sexual refugee from Iran. “Babak is 27 years old, and had worked as a writer and translator for the monthly, Persian-language on-line magazine of the Iranian Queer Organization, Cheraq,” Parsi said, adding, “He is also a gay blogger who actively pursued queer rights, for which he received many threats from the police. Babak had fled Iran through the mountains to Turkey, but he was stopped by the Turkish police and arrested for lack of documents.”

Babak was sent back to Iran before he could claim refugee status at the Turkish office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Parsi said that after his deportation back to Iran, Babak “was taken to jail, badly beaten and tortured, and released only after a friend paid $1500 bail to get him out.” But, Parsi said, Babak faces trial soon on charges stemming from his gay activism, and says “it is very important that he is smuggled out of Iran as soon as possible before he is summoned to court.”

“We are a global gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender family,” Parsi said, “and we need to help out members of this family who are in desperate need -- particularly individual activists like Babak who have been persecuted for the way they love and for the crime of defending the rights of our brothers and sisters.”

Parsi appealed for emergency donations to pay a “passer” to smuggle Babak out of Iran before he is again jailed and tortured.

Contributions may be made via credit card through a PayPal account on the Iranian Queer Organization’s website by clicking here.

For background on the new wave of anti-gay repression in Iran, see my previous articles: July 21, 2005 -- Iran Executes Two Gay Teenagers (Updated); August 11 -- Iran Sources Question Rape Charges in Teen Executions; August 12 -- Two New Gay Executions Scheduled in Iran, Says Iranian Exile Group; August 17 -- Iran's Deadly Anti-Gay Crackdown: With Two More Executions Scheduled, the Pace of Repression Steps Up.August 25 -- Iran's Anti-Gay Purge Grows: Reports of New Executions. September 8 -- Iran and the Death of Gay Activism. September 20 -- "They'll Kill Me" -- A Gay Iranian Torture Victim Speaks of His Ordeal ; September 29 -- Iranian Gays Urgently Appeal for Help ; October 5 --"Shocking New Photo of Hanging of Gay Iranian Teens"; October 6 -- Canada Introduces UN Resolution Condemning Iran's Human Rights Record; November 24, "Save Us"-- A Gay Iranian Who Married His Partner Begs for Help from the West ; January 12, 2006 -- "Kidnapped: Another Gay Iranian Torture Victim Speaks"; January 4, 2006 -- "Iran's Anti-Gay Pogrom"; January 27, 2006 -- "A Call to Solidarity: U.S. Gay Groups Must End Their Isolationism; February 8, 2006 -- "An Iranian Trans Torture Victim Speaks from Inside Iran."  February 9, 2006--Stop the Deportation of Saba Rawi; March 3, 2006-- "Dutch to End Freeze on Deportation of Gay Iranians"; March 4, 2006-- "Commotion in Dutch Parliament Over Deportation of Gay Iranians."; March 16, 2006-- "England: Another Gay Iranian Faces Deportation"; April 20, 2006-- "Dutch Deportations of Gay Iranians on Hold"; April 26, 2006-- "iran Hacks Websites to Bury Anti-Gay Pogrom"; May 31, 2006-- "Iran Exports Anti-Gay Pogrom to Iraq"; June 14, 2006-- "An Iranian Gay Activist's Moving Plea."  June 25, 2006 -- "Iran's Gay Refugees Find a Safe Haven in Canada." ; July 4, 2006 --"Global Protests July 19 To Commemorate Hanging of Two Iranian Gay Teens." July 5, 2006 -- "From Inside Iran, An Underground Gay Activist Speaks: 'If I'm Found Out, No Physical Sign of Me Will Remain'" August 3, 2006 -- "Iran: Setting the Record Straight" ; August 6, 2006 -- "From Inside Iran, a Message from the Gay 'Zine MAHA";  August 19, 2006 -- "Iran: A Lesbian Torture Victim Speaks"; October 15, 2006 -- "An Iranian Gay Activist Who Has Fled the Police Needs Your Help"; December 18, 2006 -- "Iranian Elections a Setback for Ahmadinejad."

Posted by Direland at 05:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

April 22, 2007

Updated: French Election Results and Analysis: WHY SARKOZY IS DANGEROUS

Here, direct from France 2 TV News (broadcast live in the States via TV 5, the international francophone channel) are the UPDATED exit poll projections from today's first round of France's two-stage presidential election:

NICOLAS SARKOZY -- UMP (conservative) 31%

SEGOLENE ROYAL -- Socialist Party  25%

FRANCOIS BAYROU -- UDF (centrist) 18.8%

JEAN-MARIE LE PEN -- Front National (neo-fascist) 10.5%

This means that the Socialist Royal will be in the run-off in two weeks against the right-winger Sarkozy. The results also reveal a stinging rebuke for the Socialists' Mariegeorge_buffet habitual allies in government -- the Communist Party, whose candidate, Marie-Georges Buffet (left), got only 1.8%, and the Greens, whose candidate, Dominique Voynet, got just 1.5%. Independent left-of-the-left candidate José Bové -- the antiglobalization, farmers' union, and environmental leader --also did badly with just 1.3%, while the young candidate of the largest Trotskyist party, the Ligue Besancenot_postman_costume Communiste Revolutionnaire's Olivier Besancenot (right), broke away from the left-of-the-left pack with 4.3% (triple the score of Trotskyist Arlette Laguiller of Lutte Ouvriere, who had only 1.4%). It is evident from these results that left voters' fear of a repeat of the 2002 first round of presidential voting, in which the neo-fascist Le Pen displaced the Socialist candidate for a place in the runoff against Jacques Chirac, operated to the detriment of the smaller left parties, whose combined score is much less than half of what they got five years ago (the exception is the LCR's Besancenot, the popular 33-year-old postal carrier, who is getting a vote nearly identical to his 2002 score). (Note: the above results are almost identical to real vote totals released by the Interior Ministry with 63% of polling places reporting.)

And the same exit poll by Ipsos for France 2 showed that, in the runoff, Sarkozy will beat Royal by 54% to 46% (while the number of undecideds for the runoff, said the poll's director, is rather small.)

ANALYSIS:  "I'm glad this campaign is over -- j'en ai marre! (I'm fed up)," my friend Claude Angeli, editor of Le Canard Enchainé, told me from Paris at the end of the week. And he had reason to be disgusted, for the uninspiring presidential campaign had, in the last number of weeks, veered off into base appeals to racialism, nationalism, and discredited genetic theories.

Sarkozy_frown In his final rally of the campaign, the neo-fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen (right)Le_pen_grim  complained that the other candidates were "stealing his ideas." There was more than a grain of truth to Le Pen's claim. When the hard-right conservative candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy (left), a few weeks ago proclaimed that, if elected, he would create a new Ministry of Immigration and National Identity, it was a blatant appeal to Le Pen's electorate. By amalgamating "French identity" and "Immigration," Sarkozy was implying that immigrants were somehow devoid of the qualities that make them good French citizens -- and this conflation was immediately denounced by all the anti-racist organizations and by Francois Bayrou, the so-called centrist candidate (who, it should not be forgotten, has a long history of participating in conservative governments under Jacques Chirac.)

But it took Socialist Segolene Royal (right) days to react to Sarkozy's immigrant-baiting proposal -- andSegolene_white_suit even then she did so only in rather mild terms..Moreover, after reading polls that said the French approved Sarko's Immigration-Identity Ministry by 55%, Royal then blatantly played the nationalist card, by saying in a major campaign speech that every French household had the duty to have a French national flag, and to display it on national holidays.

Not only that, Royal began to urge her rallies to sing La Marseillaise, declaring that France's national anthem was "neither xenophobic nor bloodthirsty." Now, most of the French left has long shunned La Marseillaise precisely for those reasons -- like its famous chorus, "Marchons, marchons! Qu'un sang impur abreuve nos sillons!" (Translation: Let us march, let us march, May impure blood soak the furrows of our fields.) Groans of protest and ridicule came from much of the left, including Royal's own Socialist Party, at her nationalist tap-dance and her obviously false declarations defending the outdated, racist, and sanguinary lyrics of La Marseillaise.

Another controversy that raged for a week occurred shortly before the election when theSarko_onfray  magazine Philosophie asked the best-selling philosopher Michel Onfray to interview Sarkozy (right, the cover photo of Philosophie with Sarko and Onfray). And, in the course of the interview, Sarko expressed the view that one was born Bayroua pedophile or suicidal (a genetic theory traceable to the works of Alain de Benoist, the philosopher of a Nordic Aryan revival who was the intellectual fountainhead of the dissolved extreme-right group-let GRECE, and whose racialist works are favored by Europe's neo-fascist movements.) Again, it was Bayrou (left), not Royal, who first rushed to denounce Sarko's declarations as a return to "eugenics" and the discredited theories of the Nazi past. By the time Royal did speak out against Sarko's declaration, even France's senior Catholic, Cardinal Vingt-Trois of Paris, had already excoriated Sarkozy's declaration. (Michel Onfray, on his "presidential blog" for the newsweekly Nouvel Observateur, traced an acid portrait of his interview with Sarkozy that is a must-read.)

It is obvious from Le Pen's relatively low score today -- he was doing better, between 13-15%, in the last pre-election opinion polls, and he got roughly seven points less than in 2002 -- that he was not able to repeat his 2002 success in large measure because Sarkozy had stolen much of his electorate with thinly-veiled appeals to racism and nationalism. In addition, Le Pen, at 79, confined his campaigning in the last five weeks almost entirely to press conferences in his partyMarine_le_pen_poster headquarters, eschewing rallies and visits to the French provinces (leaving those handshaking tours to his daughter and apparent successor as Front National leader, Marine Le Pen, at right.) Also, Le Pen had tried to moderate his image this year by toning down his anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic language and using images of dark-skinned supporters of the Front National in his advertising, in the hope of increasing his vote. Obviously, this did not work. Le Pen's pugnacity got him his biggest successes, and his traditional electorat likes their rhetorical meat raw and red.

The impressive score of centrist Francois Bayrou -- who tripled the vote he got in 2002 and became the "Third Man" (as the French press called him) in the race -- is a sign of real danger for Royal. The fact that Royal -- a self-proclaimed fervent admirer of Tony Blair and his so-called "Third Way" -- campaigned on family values, a tough line on law-and-order (like proposing all juvenile delinquents be turned over to the military for "re-education") and executed a nationalist tap-dance at the end of her campaign helped drive many left voters to Bayrou (as pre-election polls had indicated), who in addition was seen as having a better chance than Royal of beating Sarkozy in a runoff by a goodly number of them (which is what nearly every poll in the last two months had shown). Can Royal recover those defectors to Bayrou?

Moreover, the feeble score of the left-of-the-left parties -- and especially of the two parties who have been the Socialists' traditional allies in government, the Communists and the Greens -- means that there is a smaller pool of left voters for the Socialists to draw on than in previous presidential runoffs. And the Socialist Royal's accumulation of votes today is nearly identical with that which the Socialist Lionel Jospin received in the last presidential election, in which he was defeated. The Communists, who have an aging electorate -- and who, in the last municipal elections, lost most of the city halls in working class towns and cities that had been their fiefdoms for decades -- are now on life support, and have little influence left. The Greens, who have been riven with internal squabbles andDominique_voynet  unable to produce any leaders with wide appeal, clearly made a mistake by nominating this year the former Minister of Environment in the Socialist-led Jospin government, Dominique Voynet (right, whose tenure as a Minister was severely judged by many environmentalists.) It appears that only a back-room deal with the Socialists for parliamentary seats in the legislative elections later this year can conserve the Greens as on the national political scene -- but the incentive for the Socialists to give them many seats is sharply reduced by Voynet's extraordinarily feeble showing today...As the election soirée wore on, the Trotskyist candidates Besancenot of the Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire and Laguiller of Lutte Ouvriere both called for a vote for the Socialist in the runoff (the first time Laguiller had done so in her six presidential campaigns), as of course did the Greens' Voynet and the Communists' Buffet.

But even if Royal picks up half of Bayrou's vote in the run-off, the total score for all the left parties was only 36% -- the lowest its been since the presidential campaign of 1969 -- and adding those two figures together still brings her up significantly short. It's hard to see how she can win -- especially since first-round turnout was so massive, a record 84%, and so there are vew non-voting strays to pick up.

Sarkozy, in his election victory speech to supporters tonight, clearly had his eye on the runoff in two weeks. Having made significant inroads on the Front National's vote today, he felt he needed to portray himself as more moderate and compassionate, and tonight reeled off a list of the categories who "deserved all the love, respect, and dignity possible: the poor, the handicapped, the aged, the workers, the salaried, those left on the side of the road, who are under the pressure of economic insecurity," etc. etc, and he appealed for a France in which "diversity" is "hailed as a plus, not a negative."

Jean_francis_kahn But for those who read last week's explosive issue of the influential and iconoclastic centrist newsweekly Marianne, the real Sarkozy is to be feared. Under the direction of its creator, Jean-Francois Kahn (left) -- a formidable polemicist (he's a sort of French Lewis Lapham) and a prolific author who's been a well-known fixture on the French media scene for decades -- Marianne last week delivered a dossier on Sarkozy last week that portrayed him on the cover as Napoleon Bonaparte. The Marianne Sarko dossier sold out its first printing of 300,000 almost as soon as it hit the stands, and so another 60,000 copies of the mag were reprinted and rushed to the kiosks.

And what did Marianne (whose journalists voted narrowly to endorse the centrist Bayrou over the Socialist Royal) say about Sarko? It assembled a series of anecdotes (some previously known, others recounted -- anonymously -- by leaders of Sarkozy's own party and business leaders) which portrayed Sarkozy as a self-absorbed, mercurial assassin who treats all criticism as "a declaration of war." Sarko explodes with anger at his critics, screaming, "I'll fuck 'em all, I'll fuck 'em!" or "I'll cut their balls off!" or "I'll have their skin," and he puts his yelled threats into practice (this is particularly true of critical journalists -- Sarko is very, very palsy with the French media barons who control 90% of the print and broadcast outlets, and has the scalps of several offending editors and journalists, both print and broadcast, on his belt.) Of his fellow conservative, the current Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, the mag quoted Sarko as saying, "I'll make sure he ends up hanging from a butcher's hook!"

The magazine portrayed Sarko -- one of the few French politicians to have supported the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq -- as a cruel martinet whose self-absorption is so severe Sarkozy_satire that it makes him "crazy," adding that "the nature of his folly is of the kind that, in the past, has served as fuel for the ambitions of many apprentice dictators." "This craziness does not erase Sarkozy's talents, his intelligence, his intuition, or his energy," Marianne wrote, but the magazine then quoted a member of parliament from Sarkozy's conservative UMP party as saying, "It is said that Sarkozy is a narcissist, an egotist -- the words are too weak. I've never encountered anyone with such a capacity to spontaneously erase from his surroundings everything that is not a reflection of himself. He's sort of a blind man regarding the exterior world who can only look at his interior world. He looks at himself, in fact he looks at himself constantly, but he can't look at anything else." (At right, a widely-circulated satirical poster that lists future victims of Sarkozy above his campaign slogan, "Together, Everything Will Be Possible."

This self-absorption, the magazine related, means that Sarkozy is ethically blind, and recounted both his use of fiscal blackmail to attain his political goals and his association with a band of greedy political crooks in his home fiefdom of the Hauts-de-Seine region  to maintain his control of its politics. And the magazine went on to list his numerous violations of civil liberties in his two terms as Interior Minister in charge of the police.

Marianne is not the only one to have recently dissected Sarkozy's performance as "France's first cop." A well-known judge, Serge Portelli -- vice-president of the Paris courts and the author of many works on the French justice system who has frequently appeared on television as a expert on that system -- wrote a book on Sarko's two Interior Ministry tenures cleverly entitled "Ruptures" (Sarko's campaign has been based on what he calls a "rupture" with politics-as-usual, the French mixed economy, and the welfare state.) The book was supposed to have been published a couple of weeks before the election but, as a number of news media reported, pressure from Sarkozy caused the publisher to cancel publication plans for it, too late for Judge Portelli to find another publisher. But the book was quickly made available on line by the Syndicat de la Magistrature, the Judges Association (so, if you read French, you can read the judge's eye-opening book by clicking here.) It is a rather frightening portrait of a liberticide who brooks no limits on his ruthless methods and is devoid of any humanism -- the same portrait sketched by Marianne.

Serious European newspapers who have watched Sarkozy up close are similarly severe in their judgements about him. For the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Sarko is "a macho without scruples who plays on the fear of the people." For the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Sarkozy is "the most ambitious and pitiless politician in Europe who has no real convictions, but who chooses to align himself with the worst whims of the electorate." The Spanish daily El Pais sees in Sarko "the regenerators of the Spanish right of the end of the 19th century." And the Italian press frequently compares Sarkozy to Gianfranco Fini, the former Berlusconi vice-premier who is the leader of the so-called "post-fascist" Alleanza Nationale (the party Fini, a former fascist youth leader, built on the ruins of the neo-fascist, Mussolini-worshiping Italian Social Movement.)

Judge Portelli's censored book also underscores why Marianne concluded its dossier by saying that Sarkozy "represents a formidable danger for the conception we have of democracy and of this Republic." The magazine wasn't wrong.

Curzio_malaparte P.S. It is rather revealing that, in a recent survey by a French literary magazine to find out what the presidential candidates were reading, Sarkozy said he was in love with Curzio Malaparte's Kaputt -- Malaparte (left), who had participated in Mussolini's March on Rome and was for years a member of the Fascist Party, wrote Kaputt as a novelistic paean to the Nazi Wehrmacht's combat on the Russian Front, and the book is full of very bloody descriptions of massacres and includes a hate-filled scene in which homosexual prisoners on a train are giving birth to dolls!

UPDATE: NEW POLLS SHOW SARKOZY RUN-OFF VICTORY  Monday's Le Monde reports that, in all five independent opinion surveys taken Sunday night after the election by the major polling firms, Sarkozy beats Royal in the runoff. The conservative candidate gets between 52-54% of the vote, depending on which poll one looks at, while the Socialist candidate's score varies between 46-48%. Sarkozy has consistently come out ahead of Royal in polls of head-to-head match-ups for the last Michel_onfray_best_2 several months. And this year, these polls' predictions were fairly accurate in predicting the actual first-round outcome of the voting.....And the prolific libertarian socialist philosopher Michel Onfray (left) wrote a stinging analysis of the election soiree for the Nouvel Observateur that brilliantly captures the post-election mood -- you can read it by clicking here.

FOR MORE BACKGROUND INFORMATION, see my earlier reports on France's presidential election:

March 10, "Can Bayrou Beat Segolene Royal?"

February 22, "Segolene Royal in Free-Fall"

February 9, "France: Bad News for the Left";

February 1, "Jose Bove Complicates the Contest"

Posted by Direland at 02:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (41)

April 10, 2007

IRAQ: NEW MURDERS OF GAYS

Iraqi_lgbt_logo My apologies for not having blogged these last two weeks -- I've been seriously under the weather. The following article was written for Gay City News, New York's largest gay weekly, which will publish it tomorrow:

Iraqi LGBT -- the London-based group with a network of members and supporters inside Iraq that documents anti-gay violence -- last week released details on the latest series of murders of Iraqi gays by fanatical Islamist death squads. At the same time, the group says lack of money will force it to close two of the five safe houses it maintains in Iraq for gay Iraqis who have been threatened with death and forced to flee their homes. And the group’s coordinator has himself been targeted for death by an anti-gay fatwa.

“I received a death fatwa sent to my personal e-mail address last month,” Ali Hili, the 33-year-old gay Iraqi exile who is the full-time volunteer coordinator of Iraqi LGBT, told me by telephone from London. “It came from the official headquarters of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Qum, Iran, and was stamped with his signature.”

The 78-year-old Ayatollah Sistani (right), the Iranian born-and educated cleric who is theAyatollah_sistani_best  spiritual leader of all Iraqi Shia Muslims, issued an infamous fatwa calling for death for all gays and all lesbians in “the most severe way possible” in October 2005, inspiring the deployment of anti-gay death squads by the Badr Corps, military arm of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the most powerful political Shia group in Iraq and now the cornerstone of the current Iraqi government. The Badr Corps was integrated into the Iraqi Interior Ministry last Fall, and its members now wear police uniforms and are able to operate with full police powers. Gay City News first broke the story about the systematic murder of Iraqi gays last March (see this reporter's article, "Shia Death Squads Target Iraqi Gays-U.S. Indifferent," March 23, 2006).

Ali_hili_gq Hili (left) -- who was the subject of an excellent, lengthy profile in the February issue of GQ magazine by openly gay journalist David France -- said the fatwa targeting him called on him to “repent” his homosexuality or face killing, was dated February 5, and was received by Hili shortly after Hili’s own brother, who was not gay but who had been helping Iraqi LGBT and received death threats for his activism, was murdered in Baghdad. “I reported this death threat against me to the Metropolitan London Police, and am now under their protection,” said Hili, who is also the Middle East spokesman for the militant British gay rights group OutRage.

“Our ability to report on the assassinations of gays in Iraq by the death squads has increased in the last few months as word of our Iraqi LGBT group has spread among Iraqi gays, both by Internet and by word of mouth,” Hili explained. “That means we now have contacts, supporters, and members in a number of cities, for example in the south of Iraq, which we didn’t have a year ago,” he added.

Iraqi LGBT reported it had documented the following new murders, which Hili told me are “only the tip of the iceberg”:

-- Anwar, a 34-year-old taxi driver, was a member of Iraqi LGBT and had helped run one of the group’s safe houses in Najaf. After he was stopped at a police checkpoint and arrested in January this year, he disappeared. His body was found in March, and he had been subjected to an execution-style killing;

-- Nouri, a 29-year-old tailor in Karbala, had received many death threats by letter and phone accusing him of leading a gay life. He was kidnapped in February, and found dead a few days later, his body mutilated and his head severed;

-- Hazim, a 21-year-old Baghdadi who was well-known to be gay, received death threats because of his homosexuality, and was seized in his home in February by police on an arrest warrant accusing him of leading “a scandalous life” because of his homosexuality. Hazim’s body was subsequently found with several gunshots to the head, and his family was forced to leave their home in fear;

Iraq_victim_khalid -- Khalid (left), a 19-year-old student who lived in the al-Kadomya district of Baghdad, was kidnapped in December 2006. Last month, his family received a phone call from police telling them to reclaim Khalid’s body from the Baghdad morgue -- where they found the body had been tortured and burned;

-- Sayf, a gay 25-year old, worked as a translator for the Iraqi police. He was kidnapped in February in Baghdad’s Al-Adhamya suburb by men in Ministry of Interior uniforms who were driving a vehicle bearing police markings, but who were wearing black head masks. Several days later, Sayf’s body was discovered, with his head cut off;

Iraq_victim_hasan_sabah -- Hasan Sabeh (left), a 34-year-old transvestite who was also known as Tamara, worked in the fashion industry designing women’s clothes. Hasan, who lived in the al-Mansor district of Baghdad, was seized in the street by an Islamist death squad and hanged in public on a holy Shia religious day on January 11, and his body was then mutilated and cut to pieces. When Hasan’s brother-in-law tried to defend him, he was also murdered;

-- Rami, a 29-year old Basra shopkeeper, was the subject of rumors widely circulated in his neighborhood saying he was gay. He was kidnapped, and his dead body was found in January;

-- Khaldoon, a 45-year-old gay man who worked as a chef, lived in the majority ShiaMuqtada_alsadr  Baghdad district of al-Hurriya. He was kidnapped in November 2006 by the Mahdi Army -- the armed militia of extremist Shia cleric Hojatoleslam Moqtada al-Sadr (right), who is now in hiding and, according to an article in the April 10 Times of London, is believed to be in Iran), whose death squads also have been executing gays. Sadr's political formation is also a key component of the curent government. In February of this year, Khaldon’s decaying corpse was found;

-- Occasionally, some victims of the Islamist extremists have been able to buy their survival. Hamid A., a 44-year-old bisexual man from Baghdad’s al-Talibya district, was kidnapped twice by the Sadrist militia. The first time, in April 2006, he, his nephew and brother were all kidnapped and tortured. They were members of a very large extended Sunni family which paid a huge ransom to save their lives. Hamid was kidnapped a second time in November 2006 after an informant reported to police and the Sadrist militia that he was suspected of being gay and was drinking alcohol. He was held in a large office building in Sadr City -- a poor Baghdad suburb that was named after Moqtada al-Sadr’s father, a prominent Grand Ayatollah, and is a Sadrist stronghold -- along with other detainees, mostly Sunnis and Christians. Hamid was again ransomed, and is now in hiding, a rare survivor of the Sadrist militia’s interrogation centers;

-- Heterosexual friends of gays are also executed. This happened to Majid Sahi, a 28-year-old civil engineer who was not gay but who had been helping Iraqi LGBT members in Baghdad. Majid was abducted from his home by Badr Corps members, and his family was told he was kidnapped because of his “immoral behavior” in helping Iraqi gays. His body was found with bullet wounds to the back of his head on February 23, 2007.

Iraq_victim_alan -- Alan Thomas (left) was a 23-year-old gay Iraqi Christian who lived in al-Gadeer, a majority Shia district of Baghdad. He received many threats for being gay and was eventually kidnapped and executed by Shia death squads in late 2006.

“These killings and kidnappings are hit-and run, and most of the information we have been able to confirm says they are carried out by people wearing police uniforms and riding in police cars -- it’s become a pattern,” Hili told me.

Hili says he and a handful of volunteers -- all gay Iraqis in exile -- telephone Iraq at least three times a week to collect and confirm information about the murders of gays. “The phone is safer for our communications with Iraq than the Internet, which can be easily monitored, and also it’s hard to have Internet access for most Iraqis -- it’s expensive, and phone connections to the Internet are often very poor,” Hili recounted.

A January Human Rights Report of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) confirmed the organized “assassinations of homosexuals” in Iraq (see this reporter’s article, “U.N. Confirms Iraqi Gay Killings,” January 25, 2007.) The report said UNAMI had been “alerted to the existence of religious courts, supervised by clerics, where alleged homosexuals would be 'tried,' 'sentenced' to death, and then executed."

The UNAMI report added that, "The trials, presided over by young, inexperienced clerics, are held... in ordinary halls. Gays and rapists face anything from 40 lashes to the death penalty…One of the self-appointed judges in Sadr City believes that homosexuality is on the wane in Iraq. 'Most [gays] have been killed and others have fled,' he said. Indeed, the number who have sought asylum in the U.K. has risen noticeably over the last few months... [This judge] insists the religious courts have 'a lot to be proud of. We now represent a society that asked us to protect it not only from thieves and terrorists but also from these [bad] deeds.'"

Hili told me that “there are lots of these courts run by self-appointed clerics, both Sadrist and from SCIRI, operating in neighborhoods in Baghdad like Sadr City and al-Shola and even more in the south, in Najaf, Kerbala, and Basra. And one of the few points on which Sunnis and Shias are united is hatred of homosexuals. We’ve even tried to contact Christian churches in Iraq, but they, too, are so homophobic it’s unbelievable -- I thought maybe they’d have a little charity, but they hate us too. I have Christian gay friends who have tried to seek help from their churches in Iraq and have been refused.”

Hili said the Iraqi LGBT group is suffering from a shortage of funds so severe that it will be forced to close two of the five safe houses it operates in Iraq for men who have been threatened with death for being gay and forced to flee their homes. “They are told to repent and change their ways or else be killed. We currently have two safe houses in Baghdad, one in Diwaniya -- a large city an hour and a half south of Baghdad -- and also one each further south in Nasiriiya, Basra, and Najaf. We’ve reluctantly decided we have to close two of the safe houses in the south by the end of this month, because we can’t pay the rent for May and June,” Hili sadly reported. “We are considering trying to move the guys in those southern safe houses to Baghdad, which means they’ll be far from their families.”

Iraqi LGBT does not yet have a bank account, Hili explained. “Operating an LGBT acount in Baghdad would be suicide -- and all our group’s members in London are Iraqi refugees seeking asylum status, so their lack of proper legal status makes it difficult for them to open a bank account,” he said. That is why, if you want to help Iraqi gays, you are asked that checks be made payable to OutRage, with a cover note marked “For Iraqi LGBT,” and sent to OutRage, P.O. Box 17816, London SW14 8WT, England. OutRage then forwards the contributions to Hili and Iraqi LGBT for wire transfer to Baghdad.

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