Archive for the ‘Safe House’ Category

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Iraq’s queer underground railroad

A secret network of safe houses and escape routes is saving gay Iraqis from execution by Islamist death squads

By Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner and Green Party parliamentary candidate for Oxford East

The Guardian
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/feb/25/iraq-gay-rights

In the bad old days of slavery in the United States, there was the “Underground Railroad” – a clandestine network of secret routes and safe houses – which spirited thousands of southern slaves to freedom in the north.

Today, 200 years later in Iraq, a modern version of the underground railroad is saving the lives of gay people who are fleeing Islamist death squads. It is providing safe houses in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, and is smuggling lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people to neighbouring countries, where it helps them apply for United Nations humanitarian protection. This secret network, coordinated by Iraqi LGBT exiles in London, is saving dozens of lives.
http://iraqilgbtuk.blogspot.com

Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, homophobia and the terrorisation of LGBT people has got much worse. The western invasion of Iraq in 2003 ended the tyrannical Baathist dictatorship. But it also destroyed a secular state, created chaos and lawlessness and allowed the flourishing of religious fundamentalism. The result has been an Islamist-inspired homophobic terror campaign against LGBT Iraqis.

You can watch these two short videos, which show the terror of queer life in “democratic” Iraq here
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ajSopj95CU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROUBqSkhO9U

This campaign of terror is sanctioned, some say orchestrated, by Iraq’s leading Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. In 2005, he issued a fatwa urging the killing of LGBT people in the “worst, most severe way” possible.
http://www.petertatchell.net/international/sistani.htm

This is the same al-Sistani who was praised by President Bush as a “leading moderate.” The British government concurred. We hosted him for medical treatment. He was anti-Saddam, so the West backed him, even after he issued his murderous religious edicts.

Although the general security situation has improved in Iraq, for LGBT people it has deteriorated sharply. Systematic assassinations of queers are being orchestrated by police and security agents in the Ministry of the Interior, many of whom are former members of the Iranian-backed Badr Corps militia.

Queers are being shot dead in their homes, streets and workplaces. Even suspected
gay children are being murdered.
http://www.petertatchell.net/international/ahmed.htm

The killers claim to be doing these assassinations at the behest of the “democratic” Iraqi government, in order to eradicate what they see as immoral, unIslamic behaviour.

This programme of targeted murders has one aim, according to the death squads: the total eradication of all queers from Iraq. It is, in effect, a form of sexual cleansing. The killers boast that most “sodomites” have already been eliminated.
http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/peter_tatchell/2007/03/iraqs_homophobic_terror.html
http://www.petertatchell.net/international/islamistdeathsquadshuntinggayiraqis.htm

The Ministry of the Interior is, of course, a key ministry in the UK and US-backed, government of Iraq. Some democracy! In fact, there is no democracy or human rights at all for Iraqi queers. If the government in Baghdad is not actively encouraging the mass killing of LGBT people, it is definitely allowing rogue police and Islamists to do so.

To protect against this terror and save lives, Iraqi LGBT has created its underground queer railroad, complete with safe houses and escape routes.

“Since establishing the safe houses project in 2006 we have provided refuge for dozens of gay people who were being hunted by death squads,” reports Ali Hili, coordinator of Iraqi LGBT.

“We have also assisted people to escape from Iraq to neighbouring countries, where we have established resettlement projects. Our efforts have got gay refugees registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and we’ve already moved some of them a third safer country, in Europe or North America. These lucky ones are now beginning to rebuild their lives,” said Mr Hili.

K is a 33 year old architect who escaped to Amman in Jordan. He now helps run the Iraqi LGBT support group there; aiding other LGBT refugees from Iraq. So far, seven out of 23 Iraqi LGBT refugees who have been smuggled to Jordan have had their applications for asylum approved by the UNHCR and been able to secure asylum in countries like the United States, Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany.

This heroic work is not without its risks and sacrifices. Many of the underground activists have been assassinated, in a series of grisly homophobic and transphobic murders:
http://www.petertatchell.net/international/sexualcleansing.htm

Two lesbians who ran the safe house in the city of Najaf were butchered, together with a young boy they had rescued from the sex industry. Last summer, the coordinator of a Baghdad safe house, Bashar, was gunned to death in his local barber’s shop by an Islamist hit squad. Previously, five gay activists who organised another Baghdad safe house were massacred.
http://www.petertatchell.net/international/fivegayactivists.htm

The lack of funds is a perpetual problem. Three of the five safe houses in Baghdad had to close last year because of a lack of donations to keep them running. Two of the houses have since been reopened but it is a constant struggle to fund them. Money is needed to pay rent, electricity and food bills for the 10-12 LGBT refugees who are crammed into each house.

Many more LGBT Iraqis need a place to hide. Don’t let them be killed for want of a safe refuge. Please make a cheque payable to “Iraqi LGBT” and send it to the address on their website, or make a credit card donation via their website PayPal link. See here:

http://iraqilgbtuk.blogspot.com

Help Iraqi LGBT continue its brave, inspiring, life-saving work.

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Iraq’s underground queer railroad

Safe houses and escape routes save LGBT lives

By Peter Tatchell

Guide (USA) – January 2009

In the bad old days of slavery in the United States, there was the “Underground Railroad” – a clandestine network of secret routes and safe houses – which spirited thousands of southern slaves to freedom in the north.

Today, 200 years later in Iraq, a modern version of the underground railroad is saving the lives of LGBT people who are fleeing Islamist death squads. It is providing safe houses in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, and is smuggling LGBT people to neighbouring countries, where it helps them apply for United Nations humanitarian protection.

Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, homophobia and the terrorisation of LGBT people has got much worse. Militia’s linked to Shia political parties in the US-backed “democratic” government of Iraq are shooting dead queers in their homes, streets and workplaces.

This programme of targeted assassinations has one aim: the total eradication of all “sodomites” from Iraq. It is sanctioned by Iraq’s leading Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who has issued a fatwa urging the killing of LGBT people in the “worst, most severe way possible.” Sistani is praised by President Bush as a “leading moderate”.

“Since establishing the safe houses project in 2006 we have provided refuge for dozens of gay people who were being hunted by death squads,” reports Ali Hili, coordinator of Iraqi LGBT.

“We have also assisted people to escape from Iraq to neighbouring countries, where we have established resettlement projects. Our efforts have got gay refugees registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and we’ve already moved some of them a third safer country, in Europe or North America. These lucky ones are now beginning to rebuild their lives,” said Mr Hili.

K is a 33 year old architect who escaped to Amman in Jordan. He now helps run the Iraqi LGBT support group there; aiding other LGBT refugees from Iraq. Seven out of 23 Iraqi LGBT refugees who have been smuggled to Jordan have had their applications for asylum approved by the UNHCR and been able to move to countries like the United States, Sweden and Germany.

This heroic work is not without its risks and sacrifices. Two lesbians who ran the safe house in the city of Najaf were assassinated, together with a young boy they had rescued from the sex industry. Last summer, the coordinator of the Baghdad safe house, Bashar, was machine-gunned to death in his local barber’s shop by an Islamist hit squad.

The lack of funds is a perpetual problem. Two of the four safe houses in Baghdad had to close earlier this year because of a lack of donations to keep them running. Right now, Iraqi LGBT will soon run of cash. Money is needed to pay rent, electricity and food bills for the 10-12 refugees who are crammed into each house.

Don’t let our queer martyrs die in vain. Please make a credit card donation via PayPal to Iraqi LGBT. Help them continue their brave, inspiring, life-saving work: http://iraqilgbtuk.blogspot.com

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Do Kill

Nobody wants to talk about gays in Iraq, much less who is killing them.
By Lennox Samuels | Newsweek Web Exclusive
Aug 26, 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…

Full Article

IRAQI LGBT SAFE HOUSE CAMPAIGN

Video: Treatment of LGBT People in Iraq by Police

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U.S. invasion has made life worse for Iraqi LGBT community

BY MELISSA MEINZER

Iraq has never been a great place to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. But since the U.S. invasion began five years ago, it has become much worse, according a gay Iraqi who fled to London two years ago.

“Are gay people in the United States, Britain and Australia aware of what their governments have done to our country?” writes Ali Hili on his group’s blog, Iraqi LGBT (iraqilgbtuk.blogspot.com). “Their armies invaded and occupied our land, destroyed the infrastructure of government, and created the chaos and lawlessness that has allowed religious fundamentalism to flourish and to terrorize women and gay people.”

The chaos and resulting power grabs have made Iraq an extremely dangerous place to be queer or gender variant. “Violence against gays has intensified sharply since late 2005,” he writes.

So Hili formed Iraqi LGBT, a group dedicated to providing safe houses for LGBT people living in the war-torn nation. And the University of Pittsburgh’s LGBT group, the Rainbow Alliance, is hoping to help.

The group, which recently had to close three of its five houses because of financial constraints, provides safe group housing, food and medical care for LGBT people living in Iraq. Many of the residents it serves need medical treatment for HIV or gender transitioning.

“With strong social and political oppression against homosexuals and specific targeting by Islamic militia groups, LGBT Iraqis face abduction and death in the streets,” says Sean Casey, director of the Global Equality Network for Heartland Alliance. A Chicago-based nonprofit human-rights organization, Heartland Alliance handles U.S. fund-raising for the group.

Aaron Arnold, the president of Pitt’s Rainbow Alliance, interned with Casey last summer and learned about Iraqi LGBT through him.

“We’d done some international issues before; we figured our membership would be pretty interested,” says Arnold, a junior majoring in sociology with certificates in African studies and women, gender and sexuality studies. The student group is collecting funds and plans to match students’ donations with money from its own coffers. Next week is Pride Week at the university, so Rainbow will be staffing a fund-raising table on campus and hopes to collect money then. (To donate without visiting campus, click the donation button on iraqilglbtuk.blogspot.com.)

Some students, says Arnold, have objected to their fund-raising efforts, but he thinks it’s because they’re misinformed about what the group seeks to do.

“I think a lot of people on the surface hear that we’re trying to support LGBT people in Iraq and [think] that it’s antiwar or not patriotic,” he says. “We’re just trying to emphasize that these are human beings that were leading relatively normal lives until the infrastructure of their country collapsed. It’s not a statement about war; it’s a statement about humanity.”

iraqibenefitparty.jpg

Benefit Party for Iraqi LGBT at the North Star Fund
Tuesday, April 22, 2008, 6:30 – 8:30
520 Eighth Avenue, 22nd Floor
New York, NY 10018

Due to lack of funding, Iraqi LGBT has been forced to shut down three safe houses in southern Iraq. These houses sheltered LGBT Iraqis receiving death threats from Islamic militias.
Help keep Iraqi LGBT’s two remaining safe houses open and protect 40 LGBT persons who need shelter, food, and medical care. Several of the Iraqis are HIV-positive and ill. This fundraiser will be addressed by Iraqi LGBT’s London-based coordinator, Ali Hili, via speaker phone. Please come and bring your checkbook!

Doug Ireland

Iraqi LGBT

Heartland Alliance, Benefit Party, New York, April 22, 2008

Iraqi LGBT have recently obtained new video evidence highlighting the brutality of the Badr Corps and police treatment of LGBT people in Iraq. It shows LGBT people being arrested, held in custody and having their heads shaved and taunted with songs of hate and revenge.

The first video shows two gay men celebrating a wedding ceremony when they are stopped at a checking point between Al-Kut and Baghdad and violently pulled out of their car.

The second video is of Ali, a Trans member of Iraqi LGBT, he was living in a Basra safe house supported and run by the group. Many LGBT people face threats and violence, and these shelters are the only refuges from attacks.

In November, Iraqi LGBT was forced to close the three safe houses it ran in the south of Iraq, including the one in Basra, due to lack of funds.

“We have, sadly, lost contact with many of those who were sheltered in our safe houses which we were obliged to close,” Ali Hili of Iraqi LGBT explained, adding, “Of those with whom we have still had some contact, we know that they have sold everything they had to survive and rent a room to live in, as they were all rejected by their families because of their homosexuality. Some have been forced to work as prostitutes because they are too obviously gay and can get no other work.”

Iraqi LGBT members obtained the above listed video by bribing a police officer with $200.

“The video, apparently made by police for their amusement, is disturbing[...] in addition to showing the police standing around and laughing and making crude remarks in Arabic about Ali’s sexuality, it is also dubbed with hate and revenge music in Arabic.”

Iraqi LGBT has documented over 400 separate cases of LGBT Iraqis who have been murdered by Shia militias.

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.

New reports we have received from underground gay contacts inside Iraq suggest intensified homophobic abuse, threats, intimidation and violence by fundamentalist supporters of Sistani and other Shia leaders.Sources inside Iraq report new arrests and disappearing of gays and trans people.

These killings are just the ones information is available about. They are the tip of an iceberg of religious-motivated summary executions. Gay Iraqis are living in fear of discovery and murder.

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.

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.

Friends can send Donations to IRAQI LGBT:
The immediate urgent priority is to Support and Donate Money to LGBT activists in Iraq in order to assist their efforts to help other Lesbians, Gay, Bisexuals and Trans gender Iraqi’s facing death, persecution and systematic Targeting by the Iraqi Police and Badr and Sadr Militia and to raise awareness about the wave of homophobic murders in Iraq to the outside world.
Funds raised will also help provide LGBTs under threat of killing with refuge in the safer parts of Iraq (including safe houses, food, electricity, medical help) and assist efforts help them seek refuge in neighboring countries.

You can review these videos on this link.

iraqilgbtuk.blogspot.com/2008/01/new-video-footage-show-treatment-of.html

More Iraqi LGBT news:

iraqilgbtuk.blogspot.com/

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 at gaycitynews.com.

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.”

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See Also : Iraq : The Targeting of Gays and Lesbians

iraqilgbt3.jpg

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Lack of funds may force group to return imperiled gay Iraqis to the streets
Julie Weisberg, The Raw Story
Published: Tuesday October 16, 2007

Iraq’s lesbian, gay and transgendered residents have become an all-too frequent target of that occupied nation’s lawlessness. Now they face the possibility of losing the lone organization that has sought to protect them from violence.

Friends of Iraqi LGBT, an all-volunteer human rights organization currently based in London, runs a series of safe houses in Iraq for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Iraqis who have been targeted for persecution — including beatings, imprisonment and even death — by militant Shia death squads that roam the war-torn nation’s streets.

Last year, five members of the group were taken into custody by Iraqi police during a raid on Iraqi LGBTs headquarters in Baghdad. So far, only one of the five has been accounted for.

Amjad, 27, was found dead and mutilated in the same area three days later.

Iraqi LGBT was formed early last year after reports of homophobic violence in Iraq spiked. The organization provides financial assistance to LGBT individuals in particularly dangerous areas of Iraq, allowing them to move to relatively safer parts of the country, or seek refuge in neighboring countries.

In all, the group has assisted some 40 gay Iraqi asylum seekers in the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as Sweden, Germany, Canada, Holland, Lithuania, Romania, Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.

But now Iraqi LGBT’s life-saving work is in jeopardy, as the organization is facing a critical shortage of funding. Ali Hili, the group’s founder and coordinator, spoke to RAW STORY in a recent phone interview from London.

According to Hili, 34, the cost of funding a safe house — which serves 10 to 12 people at a time — is about $1,800 a month: $800 for rent, usually paid three months in advance; $400 for the salaries of two armed guards for each house, an essential part of securing each facility; and $600 per month for gas, fuel for electricity generators, food, clean drinking water and hygienic supplies…
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See also : En Irak, la chasse aux gays est ouverte, Blaise Gauquelin, Rue 89





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