Monday, April 27, 2009

Global Equality's Oral Talk With State Dept;

Iraqi Gay Deaths Spurs Activist Letter to Maliki
I had an exchange today with Mark Bromley, the head of the relatively new Council for Global Equality, to see what his group is doing about the torture and murder of gay Iraqis.
I've been checking your web site, to see if your group is doing or saying anything about the atrocities our LGBT brothers and sisters are suffering in Iraq. Haven't found any statements or copies of any letters sent to the State Department or White House, regarding the torture and killing of gays in Baghdad.

Last week, the Human Rights Campaign blog reported they were working with you on this matter:

The Council for Global Equality, of which HRC is a member organization, has been in communication with the State Department in Washington, as well as the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, calling on them to investigate this critical situation and to interve ne with the Iraqi government.

Some questions for you today:

When did you communicate with State and our embassy? May I have a copy of your written communications with State and embassy officials? What has the response been?

I'd like to blog about your council's work on gay Iraqis by the end of today. If you can get me some answers, along with the text of your letters and any replies, I'd appreciate it.
His reply:
Many thanks for contacting us, Michael. I’ve communicated orally with a few folks at the State Department, and they are looking into the Iraq reports. They really are well aware of the reporting, and I have to say that they are treating it seriously.

At the same time, a variety of human rights organizations that have better connections than we do in Iraq are also investigating. As more detailed reporting surfaces in the next few weeks, we will continue to follow up with the State Department. Hopefully by then they will have verified some of the reports internally as well.

In any case, I plan to follow up with the State Department next week to see where they are in formulating a response. I do believe they are trying to do the right thing, and I will continue to talk to them to see where they are in the process. Hope that’s helpful.
This was my response:
You're welcome, Mark, and thanks for the quick reply. I will get it up to my blog today. Seems odd you're not creating an email or written trail with State over gay Iraqis. Is it enough to communicate only orally with a federal agency?

Also, will you post anything on your site about your oral communications with State? I think that would do much to keep the community interested in gay Iraqis.
Mark replied:
Thanks, Michael. I will try to start writing and posting more once State has a little more time to reply. I do think they are trying to find an appropriate response, so I want to give them some room to maneuver – but not too much. I will try to push with more than phone calls in the coming weeks. And I hope the NGO documentation that is in the works will give us additional leverage very soon.
I sincerely hope Mark and his Global Equality advocacy group put things in writing, build an email trail, and get updates posted to their web site. Iraqi gays, and global gay advocates, would greatly benefit if we all knew what Mark was doing in his pushing of the State Department. We need lots of continuing visibility over the gay Iraqi pogrom, especially from professional lobbying organizations.

And speaking of written communication over gay Iraqis, here is the text of the letter that was delivered a few weeks ago by gay activists in Manhattan to the Iraqi government. They have not received a reply, but big points go to the activists for creating a paper trial in their advocacy:

April 10, 2009

Prime Minister of Iraq Nouri Al-Maliki
c/o Dr. Hamid Al-Bayati,
Representative of Iraq to the United Nations
Mission of the Republic of Iraq to the United Nations
14th East 79th Street
New York, New York 10021

Prime Minister Al-Maliki:

For the past four or five years your government has presided over gross human rights violations against Iraq’s gay community. Many hundreds of gay men, lesbians, and transgendered people have been beaten, raped, kidnapped, tortured, and murdered. They have been falsely convicted of crimes, imprisoned, and executed. They have been forced into heterosexual marriages on pain of death. Many have fled the country. Many more are in hiding.

These have not been isolated or sporadic acts of violence. They constitute a widespread practice of terrorism against the entire Iraqi gay community.

Iraqi authorities ranging from religious leaders to police on the street publicly state that it is their goal to root out homosexuality from Iraqi society.

Prejudice against homosexuality is something that the fundamentalist strains of the world’s three great religions all have in common. In recent centuries, however, they have usually drawn the line at killing fellow human beings. When they cross that line, it is the most fundamental duty of civil society to intervene.

In late 2005, when Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani announced a fatwa against homosexuals, saying “The people involved [in homosexuality] should be killed in the worst, most severe way of killing,” he crossed that line.

As the prime minister of the Republic of Iraq and the defender of its constitution, which protects the lives and rights of every Iraqi, you had a duty to intervene. But you did nothing.

The fatwa helped spark a campaign of hatred nationwide. More than 400 gay men are known to have been murdered, but human rights officials estimate that the death toll is much higher, since even to report the murder of a homosexual to the police is dangerous.

Gay Iraqis now live in a state of terror. To appear in public as openly gay is to risk your life. Those who are fighting to save their community, like members of the activist group Iraq LGBT, are targeted for assassination or execution.

Your government has been presented with evidence of this campaign of anti-gay violence more than once. To our knowledge, you have never spoken of it publicly.

Your Human Rights Council said it “had too many other things to worry about.” The police dismiss these murders as tribal or familial “honor killings” or random acts of violence amidst the larger sectarian strife.

But investigations by the New York Times, Newsweek, CNN, the BBC, Amnesty International, and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs have all found that many of the killers are members of religious fundamentalist militias as well as former members who have joined the Iraqi interior ministry or the security forces.

How high up in your government this trail of blood leads is not yet known.

What is known is that rather than protect the victims, you are protecting the perpetrators.

Events this week have conspired to bring these atrocities to the attention of the world. It was reported on the front-page of The New York Times that amidst a recent police crackdown, the bodies of six murdered gay men were found in Sadr City, some marked with the word “Pervert” as a threat to other homosexuals.

And while on a tour of Iraq, US Rep. Jared Polis presented a letter to your Human Rights Council and US state department officials in Baghdad outlining allegations of gay men awaiting execution on death row. One has already been killed.

“We will see whether the Iraqi government is serious about protecting the human rights of all Iraqis,” Polis said when he returned to Washington.

We join Rep. Polis in urging you to take this seriously. We demand that you take every possible measure to protect the lives of all gay Iraqis and the future of Iraq’s gay community and culture.

Condemn anti-gay violence against gay Iraqis, including the public hate sermons of fundamentalist clerics.

End the participation of the interior ministry and the security forces in these murders.

End the assassination of Iraqi LGBT members and supporters.

Order the police to treat reports of attacks on gay Iraqis as potential crimes requiring thorough investigation.

Investigate the many deaths and disappearances of gay Iraqis since al-Sistani’s fatwa and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Do public education that affirms the human dignity and equal rights of gay Iraqis.

We cannot demand that Islamic culture or Iraqi society accept homosexuality. But in the name of the Iraqi constitution and international law, we can demand that you stop hunting and killing homosexuals. It is beginning to look like a crime against humanity.

In solidarity with gay Iraqis,

Walter Armstrong

Brendan Fay

Jesus Lebron

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