New Disappearances in Iraq

BY DOUG IRELAND | Ali Hili, the 33-year-old gay Iraqi exile who is the founder and coordinator of Iraqi LGBT, which has members, supporters, and informants throughout Iraq, told Gay City News this week by telephone from London, “New reports tell us that the seven gay men were arrested by the police in the cities of Karbala, Najaf, Basra, and Ammara, and no one has been able to obtain any news of them since December 2.”

Hili said the men – named Hussein, Mawla, Najim, Haydar, Khalid, Basim, and Rasool – are all presumed dead, but their last names cannot be published on the slight chance that one or more of them might still be alive. He added that three transgendered Iraqis also disappeared last month in different parts of Iraq “after receiving multiple threats of death if they didn’t move out of the neighborhoods where they lived.”

“The situation is getting worse day by day, and most of our group’s members and contacts inside Iraq are so afraid that even talking about the situation of Iraqi LGBT people over the phone or through chat rooms on the Internet is something they’re too scared to do,” Hili said. “Most of the gay community are using secret code words to mislead authorities about their locations, identities, and activities when speaking on the phone or communicating in chat rooms.”

Since its founding in November 2005 by Hili and 30 other exiled gay asylum-seekers in the UK, Iraqi LGBT has documented well over 400 separate cases of LGBT Iraqis who have been murdered by the death squads. Most of these killings have been the work of the Badr Corps, the armed militia of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the largest Shiite political formation and the core of the current US-backed government. The Badr-Corps’ spiritual guide, the 77-year-old Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued a death-to-all-gays fatwa in 2005.

Last year, the Badr Corps was integrated into the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior, and its anti-gay death squads now wear police uniforms, have full martial powers, and can carry out kidnappings and murders of LGBT Iraqis with impunity. This reporter has been chronicling the anti-gay murder campaign in the pages of this newspaper since early 2006, and links to previous articles on Iraq may be found at the bottom of the web version of this article

Also this week, Iraqi LGBT released a video of the muscular interrogation of a transgendered gay man by Iraqi police. “His name is Ali, but he was living his life as a woman, and was a member of our group,” Hili told Gay City News, “and was one of those who had been living in the safe house we ran in Basra for those threatened with death.”