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Are gays being summarily executed in Iraq? What is the involvement of US forces?

Doug Ireland writes of death squads, working under the religious edict of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, that find and execute Iraqi civilians for the crime of … being gay. Iraqi exile Ali Hili has alleged personal knowledge of the Badr Corps’ activities:

“Badr Corps agents have a network of informers who, among other things, target alleged immoral behavior,” Hili continued. “They kill gays, unveiled women, prostitutes, people who sell or drink alcohol, and those who listen to Western music and wear Western fashions.”

“Badr militants are entrapping gay men via Internet chat rooms,” Hili said. “They arrange a date, and then beat and kill the victim. Males who are unmarried by the age of 30 or 35 are placed under surveillance on suspicion of being gay, as are effeminate men. They will be investigated and warned to get married.

“Badr will typically give them a month to change their ways. If they don’t change their behavior, or if they fail to show evidence that they plan to get married, they will be arrested, disappear, and eventually be found dead. The bodies are usually discovered with their hands bound behind their back, blindfolds over their eyes, and bullet wounds to the back of the head.”

A gay man by the pseudonym of Tahseen who is still living in Iraq tells Ireland:

Just last week, four gay people we know of were found dead. I am afraid to leave my room and go out in the street because I will be killed. We all live in fear…. Within one hour after they meet a gay person in an Internet chat room, that person will disappear and be found dead…. Since Sistani’s fatwa, the life of a gay person is worth nothing here, and the violence and killings have gotten much, much worse…. Right now, I have five gay men hiding in my room in fear of their lives, because they cannot go outside without risking being killed. They are all listening to me as I speak with you.

Perhaps the most serious allegation made by Tahseen is that:

When we go to the Americans, they laugh at us and don’t do anything. The Americans are the problem…. These assaults and murders have been reported to the Green Zone, but the Americans don’t want to upset the religious authorities, and so they do nothing or treat gay Iraqis with contempt or as an object of humor.

It is important to note that the Badr corps is alleged to work under the edict of, and not the organizational control of, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Sistani issued a fatwa late last year that calls for homosexuality to be punishable by death.

It is also important to note that both Hili and Ireland are gay rights activists and not dispassionate journalists on the subject.

… so because all this information (excluding the religious fatwa of Sistani) comes through the one person Ali Hili or his direct contacts, I am inclined to take this report with a grain of salt. This is NOT to say that I don’t believe the story, but just to say that before I jump whole-hog on the outrage bandwagon I’d like to see a second independent source on this. If you know of one, please share it.

That said, because this allegation is so serious and alleges the enabling of such killings, it is critical that American forces respond to it in an active and public manner. Do American military forces know of these killings? If so, what have they done to stop them, when, where, and how? Are gay Iraqis being sacrificed on the altar of realpolitik? We need to know. We need to hear something in detail from the Pentagon on this.

If these reports are accurate, we have great reason to fear that a “free” Iraq will be anything but, tearing to bitter pieces the last justification for an unnecessary, thoroughly regrettable war.

29 thoughts on “Are gays being summarily executed in Iraq? What is the involvement of US forces?”

  1. HareTrinity says:

    Almost as bad as the allegations is that it’s not totally unbelieveable that such things could be ignored or mocked on the grounds of religion.

  2. Bob S-K says:

    I’ve looked and looked on the English version of the Sistani site, and I can’t find anything about homosexuality in their Q&A section. The site mentions the Arabic version, but I don’t see a corresponding Q&A on the English site. Did anyone else find a direct English link?

  3. Jim says:

    Hi, Bob! I found this National Review Online (a good source because it’s 1. tied to a professional magazine that is 2. not a hairy fairy liberal gay luvin’ publication) article:

    A human-rights group in London which lobbies for homosexuals alleged last week that Sistani had held a press conference in which he’d issued a fatwa setting forth his judgment on gay sex. According to the group, Sistani pronounced that the conduct was “forbidden” and that those who engage in it should be “punished, in fact, killed. The people involved should be killed in the worst, most severe way of killing.”

    Not wanting to take an interest group’s allegation at face value, this report stirred the operators of a blog called “Healing Iraq” to check Sistani’s website. I discussed that site here on NRO a few weeks ago in connection with Sistani’s stated view that non-Muslims should be considered in the same category as “urine, feces, semen, dead bodies, blood, dogs, pigs, alcoholic liquors, and “the sweat of an animal who persistently eats [unclean things].”

    Healing Iraq found a relevant page in the Arabic section of Sistani’s site. The page is evidently not available in the English section (suggesting that the grand ayatollah is familiar with the practice, turned into an art form by Yasser Arafat, of shielding gullible Westerners with whom one is ingratiating oneself from some of the more alarming things one says to Arabic-speaking audiences). The Arabic page is here. I’ve confirmed with language experts that the following translation of the relevant passage is accurate:

    Q: What is the judgment on sodomy and lesbianism?

    A: Forbidden. Those involved in the act should be punished. In fact, sodomites should be killed in the worst manner possible.

    So this begins to give me a bit more of an indication of a legitimate niblit, although it would be nice to see this picked up and treated elsewhere, either to confirm or disconfirm it. Does anybody here know Arabic (Layla?) well enough to visit the page and take a look-see?

  4. HareTrinity says:

    I don’t know any Arabic, though I’m not so bad with online translators, but I might be able to find someone if IrregularTimes doesn’t have its own Arabic-speaker.

    What got me was this segment:
    …Non-Muslims should be considered in the same category as “urine, feces, semen, dead bodies, blood, dogs, pigs, alcoholic liquors, and “the sweat of an animal who persistently eats [unclean things].”

    Just which category is that?

    Dead bodies have rituals for their disposal because they’re usually considered important and treated with respect
    Dogs are companion animals frequently used to guard or hunt
    Pigs are usually kept as livestock or not at all
    Alcohol is a drug

    Is there ANY one category all the things in the list go into?

  5. Layla says:

    Where’s American Mick? Uncle Mick could sort this out in a fraction of the time it’s taken me to get this far. This is apparently Modern Standard Arabic, a constructed language that is spoken by no one nowhere but is the language of newspapers and is more or less understood throughout the Arab world. The verb forms are killing me but here’s what I make of it:

    Q: Ma hoowa hokum al-lewat wa al-sufaqueeya?

    What his judgment the sodomy and the lesbian?

    A: Haram. Wa yafaba fa-alhama bil yaqtal fa-alhama bil yaqtal fa-al al-Lewat ashd qatala.

    Forbidden. And punishes him to the one who (accusative construct, particle-accusative noun following) them to kill him to the one who (accusative construct, particle-accusative noun following) sodomy (unknown word) kill.

    The above was taken from #5 on the Sistani website:

    A translation of this from an anti-occupation Italian website:

    Q: What is the judgment on sodomy and lesbianism?
    A: Forbidden. Those involved in the act should be punished. In fact, sodomites should be killed in the worst manner possible.

    Your real question is whether the story is “plausible.” In the dictionary sense of the word, I think so.

  6. Jim says:

    Thanks, Layla.

  7. An American Mick says:

    I’m going to have to look that up when I get home. My Arabic is not as good as it used to be, and I have to go back to Hans Wehr most of the time. A quick reading, though, conveys to me that “It is forbidden, and ‘they’ should be punished ‘by being killed’ in the worst ‘manner of killing’ (a horrible death). This is what I get from the connotations of context, as well as the denotations of the words. I’ll check it out tonight, though, and get back to you.

  8. An American Mick says:

    It’s actually:
    “Haraam. Ya’aaqib faa’alhima bil iaqtil faa’il alliwaat ashid qatila”
    Specific translation pending. But again, the meaning is clear that gays should be killed in the most horrific manner.

  9. An American Mick says:

    And yes, it’s plausible. The Religion of Peace most definitely teaches (unabashedly) that gays and converts to christianity are to be killed.
    I’ve also hear christians say, equally unabashedly, that gays should be killed. It’s in Ye Olde Testament, of course.

  10. Layla says:

    It’s not in MY Old Testament. Although Paul does refer to it as “shameless” (Romans 1:26,27), besides saying a few other things that makes some people wish he was martyred just a tad bit sooner. Jesus makes no mention of homosexuality, but I’ve always wondered about that bit about “the disciple Jesus loved” (John 19:26, 20:2), although the rumor mill ususally places Jesus romantically with Mary Magdalene.

    Thanks, Mick for coming to the rescue and straightening out the translation. Sorry about repeating that one phrase, I saw it after I already posted. I never studied foosHa, but learned some colloquial levantine Arabic.

    It still doesn’t answer other questions–is it a bona fide website (fake websites happen in middle east), and did it really happen. People are claimed to be disappearing, do they disappear because they are gay or because they are in a war zone. And the response of American military. What I can’t imagine is that five guys would be staying in one house in iraq somewhere and the neighbors wouldn’t see what was going on. Everyone knows everyone’s business in that culture, they see who visits you, and they will go through your trash too.

    In my experience, gays do exist in the Arab culture, but they are very far underground. I knew of one house that had a collection of gay males living there but was so abhorant to the locals, something happened, I was never able to find out what. The thing was shut down, but nothing bad happened to the people. It was wasta, ‘de facto immunity from prosecution’; they were from an influential family, but the community wouldn’t tolerate whatever was going on there.

    Then there was Lawrence of Arabia, who seemed to think homosexuality was common in the bedouin army. He also had some claims about being sodomized in a Syrian jail, which were later questioned. I knew someone who did time in Syria and I believe the story.

    Then there was my friend, a street vendor. He openly had a boyfriend. He was regularly harrassed by straight males, and was so swish in his exchanges with them, it regularly cracked me up. His friends had a hard time getting him to stay away from underage guys. He shaved and prayed as a male in an all-male mosque, but people whispered that he was really female, which was his boyfriend’s story also, so there wasn’t any question of sodomy there. All I can say is he looked memorable in a negligee and was a very good cook, if a bit pouty.

    Doesn’t the Religion of Peace require 4 witnesses to kill someone? What’s with the summary justice?

  11. An American Mick says:

    Leviticus 20:13 isn’t in your bible?

    I think the Religion of Peace would have little trouble finding four ‘witnesses’ to testify against a gay guy. I guess I could be wrong. But it seems Islamic leadership is more than willing to kill a guy for reading the bible instead of the koran. That sort of diminishes my faith in their sense of justice.

  12. An American Mick says:

    I suppose I should make clear that I unequivocally believe that Leviticus 20:13 is a crock, and should be left in the dark age from whence it came.

  13. Layla says:

    Mick, that’s a nasty one. Certainly not in my religious training. There’s another one that says if your child disobeys you can take him outside the city gates and stone him to death. That stuff belongs to the religious right, and those who take every word of Bible literally. It’s the old Hebrew law and not the New Testament.

    The ‘four witnesses’ is about adultry. It is from when the prophet’s favourite wife Aisha was inadvertantly left behind on a trip and someone went back and discovered her. So it was the classic case of a man and a woman alone together and, according to the hadith, the third one present is then the devil. Aisha had the opportunity for adultry, so they wanted to kill her, but the prophet said there had to be four witnesses to the actual act. This is obviously very hard to do since adultry is usually accomplished in privacy, so this has been taken as an indication of Allah’s reluctance to condemn to death. But it’s not my religion, so maybe it’s hard for me to get inside of it.

    Nearly every book of Koran starts with “bismallah, al-rahman, al-rahim…” so where is the mercy and compassion, do they forget so quickly?

  14. Layla says:

    Is there a more specific translation pending, or was the meaning clear enough?

  15. Tracy says:

    Mick and Layla,

    Thank you both for the translations — this is a real help you’re both offering to the likes of me, who doesn’t understand Arabic.

  16. Jim says:

    Yes! What Tracy said. Thanks.

  17. An American Mick says:

    That was pretty much it. It’s straightforward:

    “Forbidden. The punishment to be done to them is to kill those who engage in sodomy by the most severe death.”

  18. An American Mick says:

    Tracy and Jim,
    Don’t worry. You’re not missing much.

  19. An American Mick says:

    As a really amused afterthought, does anyone else find it funny that Moslems lump gays and christians together?

  20. Jim says:


    That sounds kinda sexy. Do they take their clothes off first?

  21. Layla says:

    What?! I thought Christian was Kafir, the same as a bad Moslem. but of course you can kill Kafirs, at least according to some. You’re not saying this fatwa says the same thing about killing Christians and killing gays?

    I tried to find something about sodomites in the Koran, but my index (George Sale translation) doesn’t list anything.

  22. Layla says:

    Thanks for the definative translation, Mick. This Sistani sounds like he just wants to perpetuate another bloodbath. Baghdad and Damascus used to be a safe haven for Jews during the inquisition, but now they have got rid of their Jews and there’s no one left to unite around a common enemy except for gays.

  23. An American Mick says:

    The guy in Afghanistan who faced execution because he turned christian was finally released two days ago because he’s ‘insane’, only because of vigorous international protest. Gotta be insane to go from Islam to Christianity, I suppose… I was thinking more like maybe he was in a 12 Step program.

  24. An American Mick says:

    No, I didn’t say that Sistani fatwa calls for killing Christians. It calls for killing ‘alliwaat’, sodomites/pederasts. But many Moslems truly believe that a Moslem who turns to ‘apostasy’ (kafirs) should be killed. Becoming christian is becoming apostate, for them. Hense, the death penalty issued by American-supported officials in Afghanistan, including Hamid Karzai, who refused to intervene.

    There’s a whole list of ‘bad types’ who should be killed, in both the koran and the old testament.

    Imagine the price of real estate if they all had their way.

  25. An American Mick says:

    #20: LOL. Only if it means that Sistani’s gang, having observed the scene, react in character by praying profusely and putting their own eyes out for having witnessed such…such…uncleanness.

  26. Layla says:

    Someone who changes religion is not just kafir, they are hypocrite, which is treated more harshly. I hear this guy who changed religion in Afghanistan isn’t wrapped too tight.

    No wonder the sectarian violence is increasing. Other types of violence are encouraged. Who can tell the difference between gay blood and other blood. Imagine if all types of killing were unthinkable as they are here, old testament or no. At least we have due process for capital punishment, as do some Arab countries. The kind of mob action where they swarm out and kill someone on the street becasue of a rumor seems to be encouraged by Arab press like al-Jazeera. Arafat got in trouble with the international community for encouraging stuff like that.

    It reminds me again of the observation that Arabs have no internal moral control on their behaviour, it is all external, like whether they will be caught or what the clan leader permits. In the middle east, we tried to puzzle this out. Is it something we get becasue our religion is different? But our atheists have it too. so is it something that came into our culture out of religion? How do you innoculate Arabs with morality?

    Jim, they most emphatically keep their clothes on if they want to avoid trouble, although the moslem gay may slip into a negligee if it makes him more comfortable. And we all eat with the right hand and clean our butts with the left hand.

  27. An American Mick says:

    A broad generalization, I know, but my observation of the Arabs with which I worked was that they tended to be very literal and extreme thinkers. Everything was either exactly right or exactly wrong, with no gray at all. And everything that wasn’t demonstrably ‘exactly right’ was, by definition, ‘exactly wrong’. They seemed to have trouble with abstracts, and would say things like ‘just tell me what happens when I flick the switch; don’t try to explain to me why it happens when I flick the switch’. They didn’t want to know about concepts. Just actions and consequences. I sort of believe that follows through to their world view.

    Problem is, obviously, that since so much in the world is not ‘demonstrably’ very right, that leaves a hell of a lot ‘wrong’ with the world.

  28. Layla says:

    Some of the politically incorrect generalizations are also the most interesting. I’ve seen the ‘action and consequences’ attitude in their worldview, definately. No Arab I talked to believed we would invade Iraq becasue of Mogadishu. A few causualties and the U.S. would leave, they thought, and were eager to see them inflicted without a thought to what would happen next, without thinking that Somalia is a failed state. Sort of a cookie cutter approach to politics; apply the template, whether the situation is the same or not.

    I sort of remember taking a course on development, the one where you have freud, erikson, piaget, and nine others on the same test. There was one about moral development and the reasons you have to use with small children ‘because I say so and I’m bigger’ up to consequesnces for someone older ‘if you run out in the street you will get hit by a car’ finally the ‘what kind of a world would it be if everyone acted that way’ kind of moral reasoning wasn’t possible before the age of 16 or 17. Maybe in a place where there is no press freedom, there are also consequences for critical thinking.

    Did you notice on the sistani site they mention ‘taqiyah’ without an English translation?

    I have only seen this word before on Christian or Jewish websites, and I believe this refers to the practice of lying to protect Islam, sort of the opposite of “thou shalt not bear false witness”

    They seem to find the words to describe it in Arabic:

  29. An American Mick says:

    Lying to protect Islam, yes, but also lying to hide one’s belief in Islam and act like a Christian to deceive, infiltrate, and destroy the enemy. I think alTaqiyah literally means “the pious”, oddly enough.

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