Thursday, June 04, 2009

Pelosi Sorta Ends Silence
on Gay Iraqi Torture

Two long months back, the mainstream media reported on escalating torture and killing of gay Iraqis.

Over the first weekend in April, a handful of members of Gays Without Borders/SF organized a quick news conference at Harvey Milk Plaza to demand U.S. government action over the anti-gay abuses in Baghdad. Our action received a good deal of local TV coverage, which subsequently was picked up by European and Arab newspapers and satellite stations.

Shortly thereafter, reports emerged from Arab media and NGOs that gay Iraqi were having their anuses glued shut, then fed laxatives, causing death by diarrhea, filmed on cell phones and broadcast on the web. Other gruesome forms of torture have been perpetrated against gay Iraqis, including mutilation of genitals and tearing off nipples, and making gay and mainstream news.

On May 17, San Francisco gays staged a rally and fundraiser in support of Iraqi gays
, and a key leader, Gary Virginia, during the protest, demanded action from our Congressmember, Nancy Pelosi.

I put in some time emailing and leaving voice mail for Pelosi's openly gay district manager, Dan Bernal. My question, over and over, to him was simple: When will Pelosi end her silence about the torture of gay Iraqis?

Last week, Bernal called me back and said because of a new super-duper spam House email filter, it took a really long time for emails to reach him. He requested I send him more messages, but I said no, and reminded him that the issue was widely out there, and if he wasn't aware of it by now, it showed him to be very out of touch on important gay issues in Pelosi's district. Bernal made a vague promise, to get back to me.

Yesterday, this email came my way:

-----Original Message-----
From: Bernal, Dan
Sent: Wed, 3 Jun 2009 4:40 pm
Subject: Torture of LGBT Iraqis

Hi Michael. Here's a statement from the Speaker's spokesperson Drew Hammill you can use:
"The Speaker condemns torture whenever and wherever it occurs and believes the Iraqi government should take immediate action to prosecute such acts of hate. These crimes clearly violate international law and have no place in Iraqi society."

And as background, please note that as Ranking Member of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee in the 1990s, she helped secure the first funding for the Torture Victims Relief Act to assist those suffering from the physical and psychological effects of torture.

Jeez, I hope Pelosi and her staff didn't break out in a sweat preparing this statement, which, very carefully omits mentioning the word "gay" in her two-sentence comment. Sure, Bernal says "LGBT" in his subject line, but I guess Pelosi would gag if she had to say the word in her statement.

Okay, I mildly applaud Pelosi for finally getting around to a weak statement on torture of Iraqis whose sexual orientation cannot be spoken of, and it's laudable she calls on the Iraqi government to take action, but, um, there is the matter of moving our embassy in Baghdad and the State Department to investigate the circumstances of the torture.

I would add that Pelosi, if she were a bit more concerned about this unquestioned torture, might say a few words about getting gays out of Baghdad and granting gay Iraqis political asylum in the United States.

She might also direct her staff to post the above statement on her Speaker's site or her district office site. If there is anything on either site about the torture of gay Iraqis, I can't find it.

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