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Archbishop Desmond Tutu: Put Blair And Bush On Trial


Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the anti-apartheid warrior, Nobel Peace Prize recipient and general mensch, this weekend published an editorial in The Observer explaining his decision to pull out of a scheduled appearance at last week's Discovery Invest Leadership Summit, in Johannesburg. His reason: Tony Blair would be there. Tony Blair, according to Tutu, shouldn't be onstage in Johannesburg. He should be on trial at The Hague. George W. Bush, too. Probably some others.

Archbishop Tutu's editorial begins with a sentence that is neither grammatical nor historical:

The immorality of the United States and Great Britain's decision to invade Iraq in 2003, premised on the lie that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, has destabilised and polarised the world to a greater extent than any other conflict in history.

Surely Archbishop Tutu means to say it was the conflict itself, and not its immorality, that did the "destabilising"? (And didn't the Austro-Hungarian declaration of war against Serbia in July, 1914, cause at least as much trouble?) Archbishop Tutu calms down a few paragraphs later, writing:

On what grounds do we decide that Robert Mugabe should go the International Criminal Court, Tony Blair should join the international speakers' circuit, bin Laden should be assassinated, but Iraq should be invaded, not because it possesses weapons of mass destruction, as Mr Bush's chief supporter, Mr Blair, confessed last week, but in order to get rid of Saddam Hussein?

The cost of the decision to rid Iraq of its by-all-accounts despotic and murderous leader has been staggering, beginning in Iraq itself. Last year, an average of 6.5 people died there each day in suicide attacks and vehicle bombs, according to the Iraqi Body Count project. More than 110,000 Iraqis have died in the conflict since 2003 and millions have been displaced. By the end of last year, nearly 4,500 American soldiers had been killed and more than 32,000 wounded.

There are no satisfactory answers to Archbishop Tutu's questions, as a tired-sounding Tony Blair seems to acknowledge in his rebuttal:

I have a great respect for Archbishop Tutu's fight against apartheid – where we were on the same side of the argument – but to repeat the old canard that we lied about the intelligence is completely wrong as every single independent analysis of the evidence has shown.

And to say that the fact that Saddam massacred hundreds of thousands of his citizens is irrelevant to the morality of removing him is bizarre ... his slaughter of his political opponents, the treatment of the Marsh Arabs and the systematic torture of his people make the case for removing him morally strong. But the basis of action was as stated at the time.

In short, this is the same argument we have had many times with nothing new to say. But surely in a healthy democracy people can agree to disagree.

The Netherlands Halts Deportation Of Illegal LGBT Iraqi Immigrants


It's too bad this is news, and not standard policy everywhere: The Dutch government, recognizing that to be an out gay person in Iraq is to abide in mortal danger, has elected to grant blanket asylum to all illegal LGBT Iraqi immigrants. 

From Radio Netherlands Worldwide:

Koen van Dijk of the Dutch gay rights organisation COC described the announcement as an important victory for Iraqis who had fled the country because of their sexual orientation. According to van Dijk, Iraq is the most dangerous country in the world for gay people: “Research has shown that 750 people have been murdered for this reason since 2003. There are systematic campaigns. Organised militias publicly declare that they’re hunting down people who exhibit ‘deviant’ behaviour and should be killed according to Islamic law.”

LGBT Iraqis will have to somehow "prove" that they're L, G, B, or T to remain in the Netherlands, which van Djik frankly admits will be a tricky business. Other countries have royally screwed up attempts to make similar determinations. The Dutch being the Dutch, it's reasonable to hope they will endeavor to err on the side of mercy and sanity.

More News On The Killing Of Gays & Emos In Iraq

Blogger-image--986310967New developments re: the killings of gays and/or emo kids in Baghdad ...

The New York Times has settled the question raised in my last post on the subject: Why were the reports of "emo" killings in Reuters so similar to the report of gay killings from the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission? It seemed initially as though the killings of one group might have been mistaken for the other. But that's not the case. Shiite death squads are killing both gays and emos, and they're doing it in exactly the same way: Posting warning fliers (pictured at right) in Shiite neighborhoods, warning the offending gays/emos that they have four days to repent, ship out, or otherwise remove themselves from harm's way; and then beating them to death and dumping their bodies in the streets.

From the Times:

... in the past two weeks, officials had found the bodies of six young men whose skulls had been crushed. Reuters reported the toll to be 14 or more, citing hospital and security officials, while rights groups say that more than 40 young men have been killed, but have provided no evidence for this figure.

Human rights advocates say the threats and violence are aimed at gay men and at teenagers who style themselves in a uniquely Iraqi collage of hipster, punk, emo and Goth fashions. The look, shorthanded here as “emo,” has flourished on Baghdad’s streets as an emblem of greater social freedom as society has begun to bloom after years of warfare. But it has drawn scorn and outrage from some religious conservatives, and is often conflated with being gay.

... over the past month, threatening letters began appearing in Shiite neighborhoods across Baghdad, residents said.

One of the fliers, scanned and posted online, addresses dozens of gay men by name and nickname. It warns people identified as Japanese Haider, Allawi the Bra, Mohammed the Flower and others: Reform your behavior, stop being gay, or face deadly consequences.

“Your fate will be death if you don’t quit doing this,” one leaflet warns. “Punishment will be tougher and tougher, you gays. Don’t be like the people of Lot.”

Another flier circulating around the Zayouna neighborhood appears addressed to emo youths. It tells them to cut their hair, not to wear the clothing of devil worshipers, and not to listen to metal, emo or rap music. And if they refuse, “God’s punishment will be come down upon you and to be carried out by the mujahedeen,” the letter says. “Forewarned is forearmed.”

The Times describes "fear rippling" through the underground clothing stores where hip kids congregate to buy their outfits; terrified young people who've cut their hair and changed their wardrobes. The Times reporter, Jack Healy, sat with four gay friends who spoke of being heckled by passersby who screamed "Block! Block! Block!" -- the word referring to the death squads' weapons of choice: Blocks, rocks, and bricks. 

It is still unclear if the murdered young person pictured in my last post was gay, emo, neither, or both, but Healy has identified him: Saif Raad Asmar Abboudi, of Sadr City. He was 20. 

Meanwhile, GayMiddleEast reports possessing evidence that the Iraq government has possession of a list of at least some of the young people being targeted by death squads. Nevertheless, the youths have not been provided police protection. 

Any action taken in the face of this horribleness will necessarily feel like weak medicine, but one can at least hit up the website of the LGBT rights organization All Out and sign this letter to world leaders, asking them to pressure the government in Baghdad to do something. 

Iraqi Death Squads: Targeting Emos, Gays, Or Both?

EmoLast night I recapped a Reuters story about the murder of "emo" teens by fundamentalists in Shi'ite neighborhoods around Baghdad. Human rights activist and literary scholar Scott Long has more: At his blog, he reports that two of his Iraqi friends have sent him pictures of an alleged victim of the emo purge, pre- and post-mortem, along with descriptions of the situation on the ground:

The correspondent who sent the following pictures says, “as you can see from the way they are dressed in their pictures, they are not Emo per se. I have been reading reports which indicate anyone who wears a stylish jeans with gel in their hair that represents the west has been identified as an Emo.” (Militias and the Iraqi media used similar markers to identify men who had sex with men back in 2009.) But he adds,  ”I have also seen many pictures of young men who have shaved their head and grew their beards just that so they would not be targeted.”

I'm not going to reproduce the more gruesome images from Long's website, but they do seem to depict the body of the boy pictured at right. (Another of Long's friends sent along pictures of the same corpse, but paired with images of what might be a different living boy. All images, it seems, come from Iraqi media.)

But -- a wrinkle. This week, the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission released a report on a "wave of targeted killings" of LGBTs around Baghdad:

... in early February 2012, an unidentified group posted death threats against "the adulterous individuals" in the predominantly Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad and Basra. The threats gave the individuals, whose names and ages were listed, four days to stop their behavior or else face the wrath of God, and were to be carried out by the Mujahedin. According to sources inside Iraq, as the result of this new surge of anti-gay violence close to 40 people have been kidnapped, brutally tortured and murdered. The Iraqi authorities have neither responded to this targeted violence nor have they publicly denounced it. It is widely believed that these atrocities are being committed by a group of the Shiite militia.

This sounds very much like the notices posted in Sadr City and Baya, which listed the names of local "emo" kids and gave them four days to adopt hairstyles less offensive to God

Vice Magazine has reported on the anti-LGBT crackdown in Iraq, and posted a picture of an alleged victim of the gay purge. It depicts the same dead "emo" boy pictured above.

So -- which is it? Are Shi'ia thugs killing emos, gays, or both? Do they know the difference?

'Emo' Kids Stoned To Death In Iraq

Emo-boys-2In February, Iraq's Interior Ministry denounced the music and fashions known collectively as "emo" as Satanic. Shortly thereafter, leaflets began appearing in Shi'ite neighborhoods around Baghdad -- Sadr City, Baya -- bearing the names of local "emo" kids, urging them to give up their depravity and get right with God. A sample text:

We strongly warn you, to all the obscene males and females, if you will not leave this filthy work within four days the punishment of God will descend upon you at the hand of the Mujahideen.

The Mujahideen weren't joking. Those four allotted days expired at the end of the month. Since then, according to the AP:

At least 14 bodies of youths have been brought to three hospitals in eastern Baghdad bearing signs of having been beaten to death with rocks or bricks, security and hospital sources told Reuters under condition they not be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Nine bodies were brought to hospitals in Sadr City, a vast, poor Shi'ite neighborhood, three were brought to East Baghdad's main al-Kindi hospital and two were brought to the central morgue, medical sources said.

Six other young people, including two girls, were wounded in beatings intended as warnings, the security sources said.

Leading Shi'ia clerics, even very crazy ones, have spoken out against the stonings, as has the Interior Ministry. From the AP:

... on his website on Saturday, Moqtada al-Sadr, a Shi'ite cleric whose followers dominate Sadr City, described "emo" youths as "crazy and fools", but said they should be dealt with only through the law.

"They are a plague on Muslim society, and those responsible should eliminate them through legal means," he said.

More on the Reported Surge in Anti-Gay Violence in Iraq

A few days ago there was a report from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission "of a wave of targeted killings of individuals who are perceived to be gay or lesbian." According to the group more than 40 individuals have been kidnapped, tortured, and murdered in a new surge of violence.

IraqVICE magazine spoke to Ali Hili, a gay Iraqi living in London who started the group Iraqi LGBT about the reports. They were provided with an unauthenticated document Hili says shows that the Iraqi Ministry of Interior is authorizing such killings:

Though I have no way of verifying the document's authenticity, a translator tells me that it reads:

"It has been decided to form a yellow cell to ensure the elimination of the so-called homosexuals and will start its tasks in our known areas to stir chaos starting from Al-Karrada district. To accomplish the missions with absolute secrecy please use the transmission code 115/1/4"

The Badr Organisation – whose name is at the top of the cheery memo – used to function as a militia supporting a Shi'a political group called the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. Since the 2003 Allied invasion of the country, the official line is that its members have gone legit, and now only pick up guns on behalf of government security forces.

VICE has an interview with Hili about the situation there.

Meanwhile, activist Scott Long has been digging into the story as well, and reports that the government is also targeting "Emo" kids: "They’re kids addicted to weird music; they’re girls with earrings in strange places, or guys with their hair too long. In the midst of a moral panic galvanizing a demoralized and degraded country, these adolescents become the emblems of evil and the aliens to be extirpated."


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