The act is so depraved so violent, so sickening, one shudders at the thought of what else percolates in the minds of those perpetrating it. Some of the details get lost in the translations, but evidence coming out of Iraq in the form of photographs and first-hand accounts make the torture at Abu Ghraib seem like child’s play by comparison.
According to reports, a program of “sexual cleansing” is being perpetrated against homosexuals in Iraq.
One of the methods, known as either “American Gum” or “Iranian Gum,” involves using industrial strength glue manufactured in Iran, which sticks to the skin, and can only be surgically removed. Death squads targeting homosexuals proceed to glue their anuses shut and then force feed them diarhetics, causing them to die an excruciating death.
Much like photographs of blacks being lynched in the American South were subsequently circulated by the proud perpetrators, videos of this violent form of torture are being virally distributed on mobile phones in Iraq.
While life under Saddam Hussein was no picnic, Iraq was far more secular than it is today, and while America’s “liberation” of Iraq put an end to the Baathist dictatorship, the absence of any post-invasion plans for rebuilding and restructuring allowed for the rapid spread of Islamic fundamentalism, resulting in a campaign of terror that has been waged against gay Iraqis.
In 2005, Iraq’s leading Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued a fatwa urging the killing of gays, lesbians and transgendered people in the “worst, most severe way” possible. “Ahl al-Haq” (the Followers of Truth) have stepped up attacks in recent months.
Attacks against homosexuals have increased significantly in Shiite neighborhoods, as well as the southern provinces and in the Hurriya, Sho’la and Sadr neighborhoods in Baghdad. In Sadr City a lists of the names of allegedly gay men were circulated including a quote stating, “You, prostitutes, we will punish you!”
Gay assassinations are reportedly being orchestrated by police and security agents in the Ministry of the Interior.
“Honor killings” in Iraq are widely accepted, whereby fathers or brothers are given wrist slaps and virtually hailed as heroes for killing daughters and sisters if they “bring shame” on the family by having pre-marital or adulterous sex (even if she is raped). The same barbaric culture applies to homosexuals. In newly liberated Iraq, homosexuality is a crime, punishable by seven years imprisonment or, de facto, by execution.
Reminiscent of World War II, London based Iraqi LGBT, comprised of Iraqi exiles, have set up an underground system of safe houses and escape routes in Baghdad and other cities, smuggling gays and lesbians out of Iraq into neighboring countries and helping them apply for United Nations humanitarian protection. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs believes up to 30 people have been killed during the last three months alone.
Men are targeted simply for being perceived as gay. Men who dress in Western styles, or who shave their beards, are suspected of being gay. Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, (who reportedly has assumed the title of Grand Ayatollah), and his Mahdi army militias are suspected of being involved in these murders, although an Iraqi government source told ABC News (one of the few media outlets actually reporting on this) that Ahl al-Haq was suspected of playing a role.
The Rainbow Fund and Gays Without Borders are among organizations in the United States that are seeking to draw attention to the crisis and raise money to support the Iraqis in imminent danger.
At a rally held at Harvey Milk Plaza in San Francisco on May 17th, 2009, a group of politicians, religious leaders and activists sought to raise awareness of the plight of gay Iraqis and raise money for the Rainbow Fund. (See photos|video)
California Senator, Mark Leno, stated: “Once again we see the results of radical religious zealots, whether they are in Iraq, California or anywhere else…who are insistent that their particular interpretation of their particular religious book should become state law.”
San Francisco Supervisor, Bevan Dufty called the violence and torture perpetrated against gay Iraqis “unspeakable,” adding, “to have ridicule place upon dead bodies, and left in shallow graves, to have families that disown their own, and subject them to torture and murder is absolutely unspeakable.”
San Francisco Police Commission President, Theresa Sparks, whose son is a marine serving in Iraq, Karen Koi of the Rainbow Fund, Reverends Don Fox and Lea Brown of the Metropolitan Community Church, and Deborah Walker from the Harvey Milk Democratic Club spoke out forcefully against the violence and torture of Iraqis based upon who they are or who they choose to love.
San Francisco Supervisor, Ross Mirkirami, an Iranian, denounced the atrocities, stating, “San Francisco stands tall with the people of Iraq in this case that is not okay to watch people be publicly executed, allow them to be persecuted for any reason whatsoever, but because they are singling out people for being LGBT, and allowing this to happen at U.S expense, is why there should be a complete outcry from Americans.”
Michael Petrelis, the renowned activist and organizer of this event used the old Act Up call to action, reminding the audience: “We say no to homophobia. Gays and lesbians under attack, what do we do, Act Up, fight back.”
The final speaker, Gary Virginia from Gays Without Borders, voiced his disgust at Speaker of the House and San Francisco representative, Nancy Pelosi, who recently visited Iraq and said absolutely nothing, despite the fact that these reports have been out there for quite some time now. Years from now, there will be ample evidence of what she knew about this torture, and when she knew it. Yet as mind-boggling as Pelosi’s silence may be, the fact that none of the national gay organizations have uttered a word about this either shrieks volumes.
As one of the speakers, my focus was on the quandary America finds itself when it comes to this issue.
It is astounding that in 2009, we find ourselves, as Americans, in an awkward situation where we are not able to exercise the moral authority to speak out forcefully against Iraq’s treatment of homosexuals. Our military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, which treats gays and lesbians as second class citizens, coupled with our refusal to acknowledge, investigate or prosecute our use of torture, in violation of our international obligations, renders any criticism of Iraq hypocritical at best.
Former Vice President, Dick Cheney's recent assertion that the Bush Administration was "committed to using every asset to take down [al Qada] networks," is laughable, but unfortunately, President Obama cannot make such a claim either.
As long as America continues to implement the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy against gay servicemembers, discharging highly skilled, valuable assets at a huge cost -- both financially and tactically -- such highfalutin claims have no merit and cannot be taken seriously.
President Obama punts to congress, who in turn punts to the Pentagon (who says they have no plans to do anything about it), requiring Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to contradict the Pentagon, despite no evidence to suggest that anyone is actually doing anything about it.
Political stalling and hedging on this issue, (when fired translators could potentially be intercepting communications to prevent a terrorist attack), demonstrates that fear and prejudice trump a genuine commitment to national security.
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was a terrible compromise from day one, but fourteen years later, under a Democratic congress and President, its continued implementation is inexcusable, bordering on treason.
Gay marriage may be the civil rights focus right now, and recent successes lessen the disappointments of the dismally fought opposition to Proposition 8, (which did little more than squander upwards of 40 million dollars), and the cowardly decision to uphold it by the California Supreme Court.
National gay rights organizations are nothing more than over-bloated, self-obsessed, self-congratulatory embarrassments, more adept at tackling dinner menu items than serious agenda items, and with more to say about Miss California runner-up, Carrie Prejean’s, breast implants than they do about gays and lesbians being slaughtered in Iraq.
And while gay marriage is worth of demanding as an equal right under the law and guaranteed by the constitution and despite its ultimate federal recognition being all but inevitable, the prejudices against it do not threaten national security. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, on the other hand, remains a dangerous policy in urgent need of the attention of thinking Americans, regardless of one’s sexual orientation.
It’s time to place your elected representatives on notice regarding their attention to a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and demand that either Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton – or both -- speak out decisively against the torture of gay Iraqis.
At this point, both are slightly more important than the right to use a word to define a government-sanctioned relationship, no matter how pathetic the arguments against it.