There are growing fears that GLBT Iraqis may be facing an escalating campaign of state persecution on top of ongoing attacks by Islamist militia groups in the country.

On June 16 a safe house run by the rights group Iraqi LGBT was raided and set on fire by 12 police officers who beat the six people they found inside before throwing them in vans.

Of the six, two gay men, a lesbian and two transgender people are still missing, while another man turned up in hospital with a slash wound across his neck.

Iraqi LGBT fear the five have been taken to the Interior Ministry building in Bagdad, which has a reputation as a place where gays are tortured and executed.

Then on June 25, a male beauty parlour in the city of Kerbala was raided by police who claimed the building was being used for prostitution.

Police armed with cattle prods arrested four men who worked at the business and carried away another on a stretcher.

A Kerbala newspaper later reported, “a number of gay, mostly college students were caught red-handed, and have confessed openly their shameful work which is contrary to public decency – they were seduced by the devil to commit these acts”.

Male beauty parlours which supply services such as waxing and massaging are not uncommon in Iraq, which has a cultural tradition of body building.

However, a number of religious leaders have released edicts against the parlours and male beautification in general.

Iraqi LGBT say they know of over 720 GLBTs who have disappeared or been murdered in Iraq since the removal of the regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

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