BY NATASHA BARSOTTI -
Reports coming out of Iraq say that
close to 40 people have been kidnapped, brutally tortured and murdered because
of their perceived sexual orientation, according to the International Gay and
Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC).
So far, Iraqi authorities have not responded to, or
denounced, the violence, which is believed to be the work of a group of the Shiite
militia, the IGLHRC says in a release.
particularly demand the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights denounce the anti-gay
violence in Iraq and launch an official investigation into these heinous
crimes," IGLHRC's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator,
Hossein Alizadeh, says.
have seen these atrocities before," IGLHRC executive director Cary Alan
Johnson says, noting the 2009 vigilante murders of Iraqis because they were
perceived to be gay or lesbian. "There are no excuses for such heinous
human rights violations."
The IGLHRC says the latest targeting began in early
February with the posting of death threats against so-called "adulterous individuals" in predominantly Shiite neighbourhoods of
Baghdad and Basra. "The threats gave the individuals, whose names and ages
were listed, four days to stop their behaviour or else face the wrath of
God," the organization reports.
"Iraq observers say attackers are targeting men who
are seen as 'too feminine' and women who are perceived as 'masculine' rather
than focusing solely on people's sexuality," according to a Gay Star News
IGLHRC spokesperson Roberta Sklar told Xtra that the
organization is doing "deep research" to get further confirmation on
what it's been hearing.
News of the latest atrocities comes on the eve of a
United Nations panel on queer rights to be held in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 7,
marking the first time the UN's Human Rights Council focuses on sexual orientation
and gender identity.
The panel is also taking place in the midst of opposition
by 56 Islamic states in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which
refuse to acknowledge gay rights as human rights.
On behalf of the 56, the permanent representative of
Pakistan to the UN, Zamir Akram, says in a letter that the OIC "are
concerned that the panel will discuss issues that relate to personal behavior and
preferences, and have nothing to do with fundamental human rights."
Akram says the 56 also "note with concern the
attempts to create controversial 'new notions' or 'new standards' by
misinterpreting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international
treaties to include such notions that were never articulated or agreed to by
the UN membership."
UK gay rights advocate Peter Tatchell has called on the
Pakistani president and prime minister to reject the "intolerant, ignorant
letter, saying Akram's rejection
of universal human rights is "deplorable" and casts the government of
Pakistan in a bad light.
Tatchell points out that Pakistan is a member of the
Commonwealth, whose secretary general, Kamalesh Sharma, has repeatedly come out
in support of queer rights and "declared homophobic discrimination and
violence incompatible with Commonwealth values."
Click here to follow the UN's live panel discussion March
Check back later for an update on Iraq.