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Saturday, April 4, 2009

Gays Killed in Iraq as Clerics Urge Clamdown

From Reuters - April 4, 2009

Gays Killed in Iraq as Clerics Urge Clamdown

By Wisam Mohammed and Khalid al-Ansary

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Two gay men were killed in Baghdad's Sadr City slum, a local official said on Saturday, and police said they had found the bodies of four more after clerics urged a crackdown on a perceived spread of homosexuality.

Homosexuality is prohibited almost everywhere in the Middle East, but conditions have become especially dangerous for gays and lesbians in Iraq since the rise of religious militias after U.S.-led forces toppled Saddam Hussein six years ago.

"Two young men were killed on Thursday. They were sexual deviants. Their tribes killed them to restore their family honor," a Sadr City official who declined to be named said.

The police source who declined to be named said the bodies of four gay men were unearthed in Sadr City on March 25, each bearing a sign reading "pervert" in Arabic on their chests.

Sermons condemning homosexuality were read at the last two Friday prayer gatherings in Sadr City, a sprawling Baghdad slum of some 2 million people. The slum is a bastion of support for fiery Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mehdi Army militia.

The Mehdi Army has frozen its activities over the last year and government forces have wrested control of the slum.

Many young men who might have cut their hair short and grown beards when religious gangs controlled much of Iraq now dress in a more Western style as government forces take back control.

Some are now accused of being gay, and residents of Sadr City say at least one coffee shop has become a gay hangout.

A member of the slum's Sadrist office said the Mehdi Army was not involved in the killings, but said homosexuality was now more widespread since the Mehdi Army lost control of the slum.

"This (homosexuality) has spread because of the absence of the Mehdi Army, the spread of sexual films and satellite television and a lack of government surveillance," said the office's Sheikh Ibrahim al-Gharawi, a Shi'ite cleric.

Homosexual acts are punishable by up to seven years in prison in Iraq. A gay Iraqi man said any alleged crimes should be left to the law to deal with.

"If they've committed a crime, then there is the law. Killing is a big sin," he said, giving his name as Laith.

(Additional reporting by Ahmed Rasheed, Writing by Mohammed Abbas: editing by Tim Pearce)

2 Gay Men Killed in Iraq

Iraqi police: 2 gay men killed in Baghdad slum

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi police say the bodies of two gay men have been found in Baghdad's Shiite slum of Sadr City after a leading cleric repeatedly condemned homosexuality.

A police official says the two men were believed killed Thursday by relatives who were shamed by their behavior.

The killings come after Shiite cleric Sattar al-Battat repeatedly condemned homosexuality during prayers, saying Islam prohibits homosexuality.

The official says no family members have claimed the bodies or demanded an investigation.

The killings come weeks after Iraqi police found four bodies near Sadr City with the word pervert written on their chests.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Picture of the Week: Activist in a Veil; Islam's Soft Revolution

Islam's Soft Revolution

Dalia Ziada champions women's rights and free speech.
Olivia Arthur / Magnum for TIME

Activist in a Veil

Dalia Ziada, a champion of women's rights and free speech, translated a comic-book history of Martin Luther King into Arabic in order to promote civil disobedience. She is also the organizer of Cairo's first human rights film festival. When authorities shut down the movie theater she had rented for the affair, she moved the entire opening night proceedings to a boat on the Nile, where the films could be shown beyond the reach of the law.

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