A report from Human Rights Watch this month has focused attention back on the campaign of murder being waged against gay Iraqis. They will not speculate on the numbers, but Iraqi LGBT, a group running safe houses across Iraq and Syria, know of 82 killings since December.
Many have occurred in the Shiite neighbourhoods of Baghdad, but Sunnis are involved too and the campaign has spread as far south as Basra, and as far north as Kirkuk in Kurdistan.
The killers’ methods are horrific, with victims often raped and tortured to force them to beg their families for ransoms or give up the names of other homosexuals before they are finally murdered. Usually families find the bodies of their loved ones in trash piles, but sometimes they are strung up as a warning to others.
And although the Iraqi poets of antiquity once wrote love odes to beautiful youths, the killers say homosexuality is an imported vice. Earlier this year, one such -˜executioner’ told journalists from the UAE that his kind were eradicating a serious illness-¦ that has been spreading rapidly among the youth after it was brought in from the outside by American soldiers. These are not the habits of Iraq or our community and we must eliminate them.
Homosexuality is not illegal in Iraq, and its Interior Ministry claims it is taking the issue seriously despite allegations that some of the killers are its own employees.
In 2007, a doctor was sentenced to six months prison for publishing an article explaining scientific views on homosexuality. No surprise then that even heterosexual Iraqis find the issue difficult to discuss.
But finally, a member of Iraq’s Parliament is speaking out.
Mithal al-Alusi is a secular Sunni legislator and the Democratic Party of the Iraqi Nation’s only MP. No stranger to controversy, he became the first Iraqi politician to visit Israel in 2004, leading to his expulsion from the Iraqi National Congress.
A year later his car was ambushed in a Baghdad street. He survived but two sons and a bodyguard were killed. The killers later confessed they were under orders from Iraq’s then Culture Minister -” since convicted in absentia.
Now al-Alusi has broken ranks again, telling USA Today that these murders are the thin edge of a campaign against all Iraqis by those who want to educate the society to accept killers on the street-¦ Why did Hitler start with gays? They are weak. They have no political cover. They have no legal cover.
Al-Alusi is just one voice, but the longest journey starts with a single step.

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