Archive for August, 2008
When militiamen from the Mahdi Army came by the compact, two-story stone home in the Doura neighborhood of Baghdad, they weren’t looking for Sunnis to harass. They were hunting gays. “Bring us your son’s cell phone,” one ordered the middle-aged man who came to the gate. They wanted to check if his son, Nadir, had been calling foreigners–and in fact he had only hours earlier called this reporter to set up a meeting, and he had repeatedly called a gay nongovernmental organization (NGO) in London. Fortunately, Nadir was ready for them and produced a “clean” phone he keeps for just such a threat. This time they left, but vowed to come back if they found any evidence he was gay–or was talking to undesirable foreigners. Now that Iraq’s sectarian war has cooled off, it’s open season on homosexuals and others whose lifestyles infuriate religious hardliners.
Sometimes the act of reporting a story is revealing in itself–especially when it proves particularly difficult. This was the case when NEWSWEEK began looking into the problems of Iraq’s homosexuals after hearing reports of secret safe houses around Baghdad where many of them were taking refuge from the militias’ self-appointed morality police. After weeks of inquiries, NEWSWEEK managed to find Nadir and persuade him to arrange a visit to one of the safe houses he helps run. Instead, the Mahdi militia rousted him the night before. Established in 2004, the militia is the armed wing of the organization led by radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who has been an implacable foe of the Maliki government. Terrified, Nadir contacted people at the London-based gay NGO that finances the safe house, and they instructed him to break off the visit.
That was only one of many problems reporting on gays in Iraq. Iraqi authorities scoffed at the subject–when not scolding a reporter for even asking about it. Some of NEWSWEEK’s own local staff were wary of the story. Virtually no government officials would sit for an interview. And the United Nations human-rights office, which has a big presence in Iraq, dodged the subject like a mine field. As with a number of Muslim societies where homosexuality is officially nonexistent but widely practiced, the policy in Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s rule was “don’t ask, don’t tell.” But that has changed. Iraqi LGBT, the London NGO that Nadir works for, says more than 430 gay men have been murdered in Iraq since 2003. For the country’s beleaguered gays, it’s a friendless landscape…
Gay rights activist Peter Tatchell has accused the Vatican of “shameful, dishonourable betrayal” after it decided to move the body of Britain’s most famous Catholic convert.
Cardinal Newman, who died in 1890, was buried alongside his close friend Ambrose St John.
There has been much speculation about the nature of the relationship between the two priests.
The Catholic Church claims the move is in preparation for Newman’s beatification, the third stage of recognition of sainthood.
His remains will be moved to a sarcophagus in Birmingham Oratory.
Peter Tatchell told The Independent:
“The Vatican’s decision to move Cardinal Newman’s body from its resting place is an act of grave robbery and religious desecration.
“It violates Newman’s repeated wish to be buried for eternity with his life-long partner Ambrose St John.
“They have been together for more than 100 years and the Vatican wants to disturb that peace to cover up the fact that Cardinal Newman loved a man.
“It’s shameful, dishonourable betrayal of Newman by the gay-hating Catholic Church.”
Writing at the time of St John’s death in 1875, Newman said:
“I have ever thought no bereavement was equal to that of a husband’s or a wife’s, but I feel it difficult to believe that any can be greater, or any one’s sorrow greater, than mine.”
Though Cardinal Newman was a lifelong celibate, and many scholars argue that his love for his fellow priest was merely Platonic, this move by the Catholic Church has fuelled speculation that they are embarrassed by the close nature of the friendship between the two men.
Cardinal Newman has to have one more miracle performed in his name before he can become a saint.
He was a pillar of the Oxford Movement, which tried to bring the Anglican church back to its Roman Catholic roots. After this failed he converted to Roman Catholicism.
Pope Benedict XVI was presented with pictures of Cardinal Newman during a private meeting with the Blair family in 2007.
Cherie Blair is reported to have said: “I believe you are very familiar with him and he is on the journey to sainthood.”
The Pontiff responded, “Yes, yes, although it is taking some time – miracles are hard to come by in Britain.”
Tony Blair converted to Catholicism in December last year, after he left office as Prime Minister.
Text of the petition :
In the light of the cases of Pegah Emembakhsh and Mehdi Kazemi, Iranian LGBT asylum seekers, who sought asylum in the UK, we call upon the Prime Minister for an urgent review of the treatment of all LGBT asylum seekers. In particular we think that the following are needed for fair treatment –
1. Compulsory training for all asylum staff on sexual-orientation and trans-awareness.
2. Explicit instructions to all immigration and asylum staff, and asylum judges, that homophobic and transphobic persecution are legitimate grounds for granting asylum.
3. Clearer and up-to-date guidance from the Home Office for asylum judges to reflect the accurate scale of LGBT persecution throughout the world using expert information from NGOs like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
4. Legal-aid funding for asylum claims needs to be substantially increased.
Submitted by Phelim Mac Cafferty, Amy Kennedy and Nigel Tart – Deadline to sign up by: 05 February 2009
LGBT Greens have launched a petition on the Downing St website to push urgent review of Home Office approaches to asylum for gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people.
The political group wants compulsory training for all asylum staff.
Earlier this year, gay rights groups were taken aback by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith’s assertion that gay men and lesbians who are “discreet” are not in danger in Iran.
The Iranian regime’s record of brutality towards sexual minorities is well-documented and the Islamic nation regularly uses torture and the death penalty.
The issue has not only been taken up by various LGBT equality rights groups such as the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration group, but has also attracted attention in the US.
In April, during the race Democratic nomination for President, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s campaign teams both condemned Gordon Brown and the UK government policy to deport LGBT people to countries where they face persecution, citing the controversial case of gay Iranian teenager Medhi Kazemi.
Phelim Mac Cafferty, media spokesperson for LGBT Greens stated: “After much campaigning on the issue since the cases of Iranian LGBT asylum seekers Pegah Emembakhsh and Mehdi Kazemi came to light, we have got clearance from the web team on the Prime Minister’s website for our petition.
“We now challenge the government to start treating LGBT asylum seekers with the fairness that they deserve.
“These are people who’ve often fled persecution, rape and torture who flee to our country and our response is to lock them up like criminals. We say enough is enough of this inhumane policy- we need to stick our necks out now and stand up for LGBT asylum seekers.”
The petition also calls for explicit instructions to all immigration and asylum staff and judges that homophobic and transphobic persecution are legitimate grounds for granting asylum.
The Philippine Forum on Sports, Culture, Sexuality and Human Rights (TEAM PILIPINAS) is inviting every Filipino lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and transsexuals in Europe and North America to come, play and represent the Philippines in the Copenhagen 2009 World Outgames happnening on 25 July to 2 August 2009. TEAM PILIPINAS is coordinating and organizing the delegation from the Philippines and elsewhere and we would like to invite you to support us by letting your Filipino friends know about the group so they can organize a similar effort to liaise and connect with us.
For more details, please inform them to contact
email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope we can work together in presenting a big and diverse Philippine delegation in the 2nd World Outgames in Copenhagen next year.
Coordinator, TEAM PILIPINAS
TEAM PILIPINAS is a member of GLISA-Asia Pacific