Archive for July, 2008
Action Alert: Uganda: Condemn the Arrest and Torture of LGBT Human Rights Defender
On July 25, 2008, at 3:00 p.m., Ugandan police arrested and tortured a key Ugandan human rights activist–one of three who had been detained slightly more than a month ago while peacefully demonstrating for access to HIV services. Usaam Mukwaaya was on his way back from Friday prayers when he was stopped by a police patrol car and taken off a motorbike taxi that he had hired to transport him. Three men in police uniform and a fourth in civilian attire put Mukwaaya in the patrol car. He was driven to a building where he was led through a dark hall to an interrogation room, and aggressively questioned about the Ugandan LGBT movement. Mukwaaya was cut around the hands and tortured with a machine that applies extreme pressure to the body, preventing breathing and causing severe pain.
Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG)–a coalition of 3 LGBTI organizations in Uganda–and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) searched unsuccessfully for Mukwaaya from 3:00 p.m. on July 25 to the morning of July 26, 2008, inquiring as to his whereabouts at five police stations in Kampala. On July 26, 2008, at about 11:40 a.m., Mukwaaya was driven from the building where he’d been held for about 30 to 45 minutes and dumped. Shaken and bruised, he boarded a motorbike taxi to the city center and telephoned colleagues from SMUG who found him weak, filthy and without shoes and some of his clothing..
IGLHRC calls upon its partners and friends to join us in condemning the arrest and torture of Mukwaaya and the violation of LGBT human rights in Uganda by the government and its agents. Please send politely worded faxes and e-mails to the following Ugandan officials:
President Kaguta Yoweri Museveni,
President of the Republic of Uganda,
Office of the President of Uganda,
State House Nakasero,
P.O. Box 24594, Kampala, Uganda.
Fax: +256 (0) 414 436 102 / + 256 41 4235459
/ +256 41 4344012
E-mail: email@example.com /
Hon. Ruhakana Rugunda,
Minister of Internal Affairs,
Jinja Rd, PO Box 7191,
Fax: + 256 414343088
Mr. Kale Kaihura,
Inspector General of Police,
Telephone: +256 (0) 712 755 999
Please copy your appeals to the following individuals responsible for monitoring human rights in Uganda:
Director, Monitoring and Inspections,
Uganda Human Rights Commission,
Plot 20/22/24 Buganda Road,
P.O Box 4929,
Fax: + 256 41 255 261
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or or email@example.com
Mr. Livingstone Sewanyana,
Human Rights House,
Plot 1853, Block 15, Lulume Road, Nsambya,
P.O Box 11027,
Fax: 256 – 41 – 510498,
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Please send a copy of all e-mails and faxes to IGLHRC Africa Regional Office at
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (attn: July 08 Uganda Action)
I am writing to you today to strongly condemn the illegal detention and torture of Usaam Mukwaaya on July 25-26, 2008 by the Ugandan police. These actions by the police are a violation of numerous human rights promised to the people of Uganda under the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights and other international treaties to which your country is a signatory. These treaties, as well as your constitution, guarantee the right to physical integrity, freedom from torture, and freedom from discrimination based on sex or other status.
I am requesting that the Government of Uganda fulfills its international responsibilities by undertaking a thorough and transparent investigation into the illegal detention and torture of Usaam Mukwaaya and that those responsible be brought to justice.
Furthermore, I would like your assurance that human rights violations targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Ugandans be halted immediately.
(Please add here a sentence about your organization and its mission, if relevant.)
IGLHRC and SMUG have documented a pattern of abuse against LGBT people in Uganda. In the past five years, the government has arrested LGBT people on sodomy charges, harassed LGBT human rights defenders, and fined a private radio station that broadcast programming on HIV prevention and men who have sex with men. In July 2005, Uganda’s Parliament passed an amendment to the constitution making Uganda only the second country in the world to use its constitution to outlaw marriage between people of the same sex. A coalition of religious leaders has marched through the streets of Kampala demanding the arrests of LGBT people with one cleric even calling for the “starving to death” of homosexuals. Inspired by the official homophobia of the state, the Ugandan media has published lists of gay men and lesbians, leading to physical violence, loss of employment and educational opportunities by LGBT people.
On June 4, 2008, Mukwaaya and two other human rights defenders, Pepe Julian Onziema and Valentine Kalende, were arrested while peacefully attending the 2008 HIV/AIDS Implementers Meeting in Kampala. They were charged with criminal trespass, a case that is ongoing in the courts. The arrest of the activists has been condemned by local and international organizations, including UNAIDS and the U.S. government, both of which were organizers of the conference. Media attention related to the trial and the strong international condemnation of the arrests may be the cause of the arrest of Usaam Mukwaaya and continued harassment of LGBT activists.
A gay couple who fled to Turkey from Iran may be separated after the United Nations accepted one man’s case and denied the other.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is meant to protect and support refugees and assist in their return or resettlement.
Kamal and Reza hoped could start a life together without the fear of being punished for their sexuality.
Kamal has been told he will be recognised as a refugee but Reza received word earlier this week that he will not.
“Reza will have a chance to appeal this decision with the aid of a different UNHCR legal officer,” said a spokesman for IRQO, the Canada-based Iranian Queer Organisation.
“We should urge UNHCR on appeal to recognize Reza as a refugee. The other option is for us to request UNHCR to present Kamal to the Canadian Embassy in Ankara for resettlement purposes.
“Then Kamal can apply for Reza as his common law partner.”
Human rights groups claim up to 4,000 gay men and lesbians have been executed since the 1979 revolution in Iran.
These are usually under the guise of honour killings, says a 2006 report released by LGBT activists OutRage!
Remember the movie ‘Das Leben der Anderen’ (The Lives of Others), where a Stasi agent was monitoring a playwriter’s life? This doesn’t translate anymore in French into ‘La vie des autres’, but rather into EDVIGE, the name of a newly created database to be used by French intelligence services and the administrative police.
EDVIGE will file “individuals, groups, organisations and moral persons which, due to their individual or collective activity, are likely to attempt to public order”. Not only these persons will be filed (without any offence committed), but also “those who undertake or have undertaken direct and non fortuitous relations with them.” Filing starts at age 13.
This, clearly, means filing everyone, in view of “informing the government and the representatives of the State” in any and all French town and region. In other words, EDVIGE, which has been created by a decree issued on 27 June 2008 in the framework of the merging of two French intelligence services (RG and DST), is the perfect instrument of a political police.
EDVIGE will contains data on “civil status and occupation; physical addresses, phone numbers, email addresses; physical characteristics, photographs and behaviour; identity papers; car plate numbers; fiscal and patrimonial information; moves and legal history.”
As highlighted by lesbians and gays associations, this will include data on sexual orientation and health, in particular HIV seropositivity. This has been confirmed by a representative of the Interior ministry, who declared that “the mention of these data will only be authorised for incidental need in relation with an activity. In the intelligence field, this mainly means activism.” Moreover, French EDRI member IRIS notes that the inclusion of “identity papers” in these data is particularly significant in the context of the newly created French biometric passport including 8 fingerprints and of the draft law in preparation on biometric ID cards.
A large mobilization against EDVIGE immediately started, with a petition calling for the withdrawal of this file. This petition is hosted and maintained by RAS (‘Réseau associatif et syndical’), an NGO acting as an ISP for its members, almost 200 activist NGOs and trade unions, among them EDRI member IRIS. The petition has already gathered since 10 July 2008 more than 16.000 individual signatures, and more than 170 signatures from associations, trade unions and political parties from the opposition. Signatories will organize into a global coordination against the EDVIGE file, and are preparing various actions starting from next September. In the mean time, some of these groups will file a complaint against the French government, requesting the annulment of the EDVIGE decree.
San Diego – USA – 21 July 2008
“We must urge the US State Department to make foreign aid and trade conditional on the recipient countries agreeing to respect human rights, including the human rights of LGBT people. Tyrannies should not be rewarded: No US aid for anti-gay regimes,” said LGBT human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
His appeal was delivered at the San Diego Pride Human Rights Vigil on Friday evening 18 July, where he was the keynote speaker. Mr Tatchell was particularly critical of US aid to “viciously homophobic countries like Jamaica, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Uganda, Iraq and Nigeria.”
Mr Tatchell was International Grand Marshal at this year’s San Diego Pride celebrations.
At the vigil, Mr Tatchell praised San Diego-based gay reportor Rex Wockner for his 20-plus years of disseminating news of homophobic persecution worldwide and his reportage of the freedom struggles of LGBT people in every corner of the globe. He saluted Mr Wockner as “the greatest gay rights journalist of all time.”
Earlier, at lunchtime last Friday 18 July, Mr Tatchell joined San Diego LGBT groups and trade unions in a picket of the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel in downtown San Diego, where they called for a boycott.
The joint gay and union protest was over the hotel’s low wages and poor working conditions, and also over the owner’s funding of anti-gay lobby groups.
“Manchester Grand boss Douglas Manchester is financing attempts to overturn the legalisation of same-sex marriage in the state of California. He is funding Proposition 8, a referendum ballot scheduled for November that would amend the Californian constitution to state that marriage is only between a man and a woman – in effect reinstating the ban on same-sex marriage. He’s promoting
discrimination and everyone – gay and straight – should boycott his hotel,” said Mr Tatchell.
See Rex Wockner’s blog of the hotel protest:
Mr Wockner also has photos of Peter Tatchell speaking from the stage at the festival after the 150,000-strong San Diego Pride Parade on Saturday 20 July:
Organizers convinced that it will not be possible to ban the event.
Next year’s Moscow Pride is set to be staged on May 16 – the same day as the Eurovision song contest finals.
Yesterday, Eurovision officials announced that next year’s event would be staged at Moscow’s Olympiyskiy stadium.
And organisers of Moscow Gay Pride confirmed last night their intent to conduct the gay parade on the day on of the Eurovision final in Russian capital.
“We will conduct the gay pride on the day of the Eurovision final on 16 May 2009,” Nikolai Alekseev told the Interfax news agency “As usual we will notify Moscow authorities about the conduct of the event.”
He suggested that “that the public event of the fourth Moscow Pride” could be staged on one of the central streets of Moscow.
Moscow won the right to stage Eurovision next year when Dima Bilan won this year’s contest in Belgrade in May.
“We hope that the many gays and lesbians who usually attend Eurovision finals from different countries will join our Pride,” he told UK Gay News this morning.
He also said that, apart from the gay march, the organisers are planning to hold an international conference dedicated to the International Day Against Homophobia which is being marked around the world on 17 May.
The invitations to take part in the conference will be sent to the Mayors of Paris, London and Berlin as well as many European politicians.
“Russia must show that it is part of the civilized world, of the European family, that it is tolerant and that it is possible to conduct public actions of sexual minorities in Moscow,” Mr. Alekseev said.
In the next few weeks an organizing committee for the forth Moscow Pride will be formed and will include record number of people.
Pride organisers will be getting in contact with the European Broadcasting Union, the organisers of Eurovision song contest, to discuss issues concerning the security of gays and lesbians in the Russian capital.
The song contest, with its ‘camp’ acts, has become an iconic event in the gay European calendar – and the event is starting to gain popularity within the LGBT community in the USA, the world largest television market.
At the Pride London celebrations earlier this month, Labour MP Harriet Harman was heckled and booed.
The reaction of the crowd was hardly surprising. The Labour government’s handling of gay asylum seekers in the UK is a disgrace. Many asylum seekers who are fleeing from persecution in their home countries, live under threat of deportation.
Gay activist Peter Tatchell who attended London Pride, marched alongside Sir Ian McKellan and Davis Mac-Iyalla, a leader of the Nigerian gay rights movement.
When asked about the dire situation facing the gay community in Iran, Tatchell said:
“Ahmadinejad leads a regime that arrests, jails, flogs, tortures and sometimes executes gay people. It also terrorises trade unionists, students, women activists, journalists, bloggers, Sunni Muslims and ethnic minorities like the Ahwazi Arabs, Baluchs and Kurds.
I don’t support a military attack on Iran, but I do urge greater international solidarity with democratic, liberal and progressive Iranians who are struggling to overthrow the clerical dictatorship from within.”
Tatchell has been unfairly accused of being Islamophobic, whereas in fact he is opposed to religious fundamentalism and bigotry in all religions. He has defended Muslim victims of injustice and in his writing has pointedly condemned Islamophobia: “Any form of prejudice, hatred, discrimination or violence against Muslims is wrong. Full stop.”
Taking on the Iranians for their human rights record, is viewed by some on the left as giving comfort to American hawks. Given the record of the Iranians when it comes to the treatment of homosexuals, looking the other way is simply not a viable option.
During his trip to the US, Ahmadinejad said “In Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country (US).”
This is a preposterous lie that masks an ugly reality. Gay Iranians live in fear of persecution. Many have fled to Turkey and destinations in Europe to escape the suffocating climate in Iran, where “coming out” in an overtly public fashion can have dire consequences.
The Iranian people deserve better. But the choice has to be theirs. American aggression is not the answer.
Those activists who support the right of Iranians to live in a society free of oppression, are walking a fine line between the politics of Tehran and the politics of Washington. But it is a line that has to be staked out in the name of justice and human rights.
The UK Independent reports that Ahmet Yildiz, an openly gay 26 year old physics student was shot as he left a cafe near the Bosphorus Strait this week. He tried to flee from the attackers in his car, but lost control of the vehicle and crashed. Yildiz died shortly afterwards in hospital.
Yildiz’ friends and associates believe he was the victim of so-called honor killing.
Turkish sociologist, Mazhar Bagli, has done extensive research involving people who have been convicted for honor killings. Bagli has little doubt that Yildiz’ death could indeed fall into the honor killing category:
“Honour killings cleanse illicit relationships. For women, that is a broad term. Men are allowed more sexual freedom, but homosexuality is still seen by some as beyond the pale.”
In Turkey it is believed that around 1,000 honor killings have been committed over the past five years. In virtually every case, the victims are young women who have transgressed against patriarchal rules governing conduct. In some cases females have been murdered for the ‘crime’ of having premarital sex. They have also been murdered for falling victim to rape and even for the offense of speaking to a stranger.
Ahmet Yildiz was openly gay. This was an affront to members of his family who believed his lifestyle brought shame on the family name.
Prior to the shooting, Yildiz was pressured by relatives who wanted him see a doctor so he could be “cured.” When he was in the company of relatives, there were continual arguments.
Yildiz openly gay lifestyle even made him the target of death threats. Yet despite the enormous pressure to underplay his homosexuality, he had the courage to stand his ground.
The courage of Ahmet Yildiz is the more remarkable since gay rights in Turkey have recently taken a few hits. As the Turkish gay community has become more visible, there has been a reactionary backlash with gays targeted for beatings, insults and threats.
Istanbul’s largest gay rights group, LAMDA, was forced to close in May as a result of a court order. The court proceeding against LAMDA was initiated by the Istanbul governor’s office that claimed the organization was “against law and morality.”
A former neighbor of Ahmet Yildiz said that his refusal to live-a-lie may have been too much for some people:
“He could have hidden who he was, but he wanted to live honestly. When the death threats started, his boyfriend tried to persuade him to get out of Turkey. But he stayed. He was too brave. He was too open.”
GAY HOMELAND FOUNDATION
19 July 2008
Vigil commemorating Gay and Lesbian victims of Iran’s Ayatollah regime for 19 July 2008 in Cologne, Germany
The Gay Homeland Foundation, an organization dedicated to furtherance of a Gay national movement and cultural progress of the Gay-Lesbian community, and baraka, an international self-organization group of Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual immigrants in Cologne, have for the second time organized a political demonstration commemorating all Gay and Lesbian victims of the Ayatollah regime in Iran in Cologne on 19 July 2008. The action started at 17:30 with a talk on the human rights situation of Gays and Lesbians in Iran, presented by Dr. Viktor Zimmermann, and continued with a vigil at the “Memorial for Lesbian and Gay victims of National Socialism” in Cologne at 19:30. Jacek Marjanski from baraka, and Ensi, an Iranian Lesbian refugee from Iran, read the common statement in German and Farsi.
RUBICON, Cologne’s counseling center for Gays and Lesbians, also supported the event.
19 July 2008 is the anniversary of the 2005 execution of two homosexual teenagers, Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, who were believed to be lovers and were denounced to the police by a family member.
Authorities later distributed official information suggesting that the two teenagers were executed because of a rape of a 13-year old boy. In Iran, such accusations are routinely applied against homosexuals to justify a death sentence, since the regular proof by four witnesses (as prescribed by Sharia) can not be realistically supplied.
Gay Homeland Foundation greatly appreciates the accurate research performed by Simon Forbes from the British group Outrage!. The two executed teenagers will always remind us of the fate of many of
our brothers and sisters in Iran who were tortured and murdered by the Ayatollah regime and its death squads.
In today’s Iran, Gays and Lesbians still suffer the worst oppression and live in daily fear of denunciation. The country’s harsh Islamic regime has declared a downright war against homosexuals, reminiscent of ethnic cleansing in its perfidy: Specially trained agents routinely entrap Gay men in internet forums. In this atmosphere of constant fear, many commit suicide or undergo unnecessary sex-change operations.
The Gay Homeland Foundation (GHF) appeals to the international community to cease deporting Gay and Lesbian asylum-seekers to persecuting countries, and to consider instead the establishment of a self-administered territory for the Gay and Lesbian people.
The Gay Homeland Foundation is an organization dedicated to furtherance of a Gay national movement and cultural progress of the Gay-Lesbian community; the administrative center is located in Cologne, Germany. The Foundation is actively investigating the possibilities for establishment of self-administered GLBT settlements and organizing the LGBT community in a sovereign political entity.
A gay Iranian asylum seeker has been granted refugee status by the UN after eighteen months of campaigning.
Kamal and Reza fled Iran for Turkey so they could start a life together without the fear of being punished for their sexuality.
Kamal has been told he will be recognised as a refugee while Reza is hopeful he will receive notification soon.
Human rights groups claim up to 4,000 gay men and lesbians have been executed since the 1979 revolution in Iran.
These are usually under the guise of honour killings, says a 2006 report released by LGBT activists OutRage!
In a speech given to Columbia University in New York in September 2007, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, “In Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country.”
Kamal and Reza fled Iran and arrived in Turkey in December 2006.
As Turkey does not recognise non-European refugees, anyone seeking asylum must register for refugee status within five days of arriving in the country.
It has taken until now for Kamal to be recognised as a refugee.
A diabetes sufferer, Kamal had been suffering from fits due to lack of medication.
This has caused his partner, Reza, so much worry he has developed depression. Both of them have been living in unsanitary conditions with very little income.
Reza is still waiting to hear back from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) but is optimistic he will receive news of his refugee status in a couple of days.
The Iranian Refugee Queer Organisation, who have backed Kamal and Reza’s campaign, called the news of Kamal’s refugee status “a testament to what the international community can achieve.”
After details of Reza and Kamal’s case were reported by the international news media, the UNCHR received a plethora of emails urging them to act on behalf of these two asylum seekers.
Turkey has a long history of offering safety for refugees. Between 1923 to 1997 1.6 million people fled to Turkey, displaced by WW2, the Cold War and the Gulf conflicts.
Millions have fled Iran since the 1979 revolution and many either have settled in Turkey or claimed refugee status and emigrated to another country.
Amnesty International has reported cases of non-European asylum seekers registering for refugee status and then being forcefully deported by Turkish authorities.
There have been cases where refugees have been handed directly to the authorities of the country they were fleeing.