New York Magazine: The Hunted – How a Few New Yorkers Are Trying to Save the Hunted Gay Men of Iraq
Sami, one of the perhaps thousands of gay men recently attacked in Iraq, in an undisclosed location abroad. (Photo: Lynsey Addario/VII Network)
Thanks and appreciation to every individual and organisation that has supported and raised awareness of the plight of Iraqi LGBTs, and who has lobbied politicians and news editors to get stories on this issue published, like this excellent piece in the New York Times:
But I would also like to remind everyone that despite all the criticisms thrown at him, it was Ali Hili of Iraqi LGBT who first alerted the world to the organised killing of LGBT people in Iraq – way back in 2005. For a long time, he was a lone voice.
Although people have criticised Ali for various failings, he nevertheless deserves a great deal of praise for his pioneering, ground-breaking and life-saving work.
It is wonderful that Time Magazine, CNN and the New York Times have now reported the terrorisation of our LGBT sisters and brothers in Iraq, and that Human Rights Watch and other human rights organisations have produced some very powerful and valuable reports on the subject. Our thanks to them.
While I would not wish to detract one iota from the contributions of others, I think it is also important that we should show due generosity and humility by acknowledging that it was Ali Hili and Iraqi LGBT who first bought this issue to public consciousness. They deserve our gratitude.
New York Times: The Hunted By Matt McAllester
From Baghdad—frightening reports of gay pogroms, where homosexual men are targeted, tortured, slayed. From New York—a scurry to find those same men before they are killed, and shepherd them to safety.
Published Oct 4, 2009.
On a bright afternoon in late March, an 18-year-old named Fadi stood in a friend’s clothing store in Baghdad checking out the new merchandise. A worker in a neighboring store walked into the boutique with a newspaper in his hand and shared a story he had just read. It was about “sexual deviants,” he said. Gay men’s rectums had been glued shut, and they had been force-fed laxatives and water until their insides exploded. They had been found dead on the street.
That evening Fadi met up with his three closest friends —Ahmed, Mazen, and Namir— in a coffee shop called the Shisha café in the Karada district of Baghdad. Karada is a mixed Shia-Christian neighborhood that has a more relaxed, cosmopolitan feel than many parts of the Iraqi capital. Fadi and his friends had been meeting there nearly every evening for a year, Fadi coming from his job cleaning toilets for Americans in the Green Zone and the three others from college. The coffee shop was relatively new and attracted a young crowd. The walls were colored in solid blocks of orange, green, and blue, the glass-topped tables painted red and black. It was the closest thing to hip that Baghdad had to offer. For Fadi and his three friends, who secretly referred to themselves as the 4 Cats, after a Pussycat Dolls–like Lebanese group, the Shisha was a refuge from the hostile, often violent anti-gay climate that they had grown up with in Iraq.
Fadi has a warm, irrepressible laugh; his eyes narrow under thick black eyebrows whenever someone tells a joke. He told his friends about the newspaper story, but insisted it couldn’t be true.
“They’re doing this to frighten us,” he said.
In recent weeks, with rumors of gay death squads and torture on the rise, the four friends had lowered their profile. They no longer went to the Shisha every night. “We’ll see what tomorrow brings,” Fadi said, on the last night they met there.
On April 4, at about 8 p.m., Fadi’s cell phone rang. It was Mazen’s brother.
“Mazen and Namir have been killed,” he said.
The maimed bodies of the two friends had been discovered together in the vast Shia district of Baghdad named Sadr City, which is a stronghold of the Mahdi Army, a powerful Shia militia. Mazen had had his pectoral muscles cut off. There were two drill holes in Namir’s left leg, below the knee. Both had been shot in the head, apparently from close range.
“Two young men were killed on Thursday,” an unnamed Sadr City official told the Reuters news agency in a story published that same day. “They were sexual deviants. Their tribes killed them to restore their family honor.” In the same story, Reuters cited a police source as saying that the bodies of four other gay men had been found in Sadr City on March 25 with signs on their chests reading PERVERT.
Fadi called Ahmed. They spoke for an hour. They were devastated by their friends’ deaths, of course. They were also terrified. Under torture, Mazen and Namir may have given up their names…