Thursday, September 28, 2006

Evangelical Politician Seeks Private Prosecution of GPA

The Gay & Lesbian Humanist Association has learned that an evangelical Christian politician will be seeking a private prosecution of members of the Gay Police Association following the Crown Prosecution Service's determination last week that the group would not be prosecuted.

Rev George Hargreaves, the leader of Operation Christian Vote, a fundamentalist Christian political party that unsuccessfully contested seats in the 2004 election, informed Ken Macdonald QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, that he was seeking "request for leave to enter into a private prosecution in the matter of the GPA's advertisement".

Hargreaves is known to have links with the religious right in the US. Ahead of his 2004 election bid, he flew to the Unites States to consult with Christian political strategists. He has also worked with Stephen Green of Christian Voice in an effort to censor "blasphemy" in the media [1].

Despite the GPA maintaining in a statement that the advert was never an attack on all faith groups, noting that "The intention of the advertisement was to cause public debate about an issue that has remained taboo for centuries. An issue that is now having a serious and detrimental effect on the lives of hundreds of law-abiding gay men and women each year and which, on the basis of our records, is growing at such an alarming rate that it could soon become a serious social problem," Hargreaves is adamant that he will pursue a private prosecution:

"I was therefore dismayed to learn that the Crown Prosecution Service has concluded that there is insufficient evidence to pursue a prosecution against the officer(s) who facilitated the publication of the advertisement," he wrote to Ken McDonald QC.

"I believe there is a case to answer in this matter, and that there is sufficient evidence to prove the necessary legal test set out in the Public Order Act (not least the evidence of the 40,000 people who lodged official complaints with the police). I also believe that it is not in the public interest for this case to be dropped - to do so would give the impression that Police officers are above the law," he continued.

Hargreaves will be seeking to prosecute several officers in the GPA in their personal capacities.

George Broadhead, secretary of the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association said: "Some evangelical religious groups have realised that there may still be mileage in this issue and are seeking to spin it out further.. It no longer has anything to do with spontaneous outrage or offence, this is now a carefully organised campaign aimed at silencing critics. I hope that it will be recognised as such and that the CPS will not be drawn into the manipulative politics of right-wing religion. This kind of campaign is a danger to free expression and I hope the authorities will not collude in it. The CPS should send Hargreaves away with a flea in his ear, and tell him to stop wasting the valuable time and resources of public officials with his senseless rabble-rousing.”

It is expected that the Christian Lawyers Association – which also condemned the GPA advert – will be supporting Hargreaves in his effort to pursue a private prosecution.

It should be noted that the conviction of Gay News editor Denis Lemon for "blasphemous libel" in 1977 was the result of a private prosecution [2] brought by the secretary of the National Viewers and Listeners Association, Mary Whitehouse.

Kids on Fire: The American Madrassas

"Where should we be putting our efforts? I'll tell you where our enemies are putting theirs. They're putting it on the kids. They're going into the schools. You go to Palestine... they're taking their kids to camps like we take ours to Bible camps and they're putting grenades into their hands, they're teaching them to put on bomb belts, teaching them how to use rifles and machine guns... It is no wonder with that kind of intense training and discipling that those young people are ready to kill themselves for the cause of Islam."

So, given the shocking picture the speaker has presented, where does she think her community should be putting their efforts? Promoting secualar rationalism? Perhaps calling on people of faith to chill out? Not bloody likely. She wants to get in on the act.

"I want to see young people who are committed to the cause of Jesus Christ as the young people are to the cause of Islam. I want to see them as radically laying down their lives for the cause of the Gospel as they are in Pakistan, in Israel and Palestine and all those different places."

That is, as they say, some scary shit!

A new documentary "Jesus Camp" shines a light on the Evangelical Christian version of the Islamic madrassas we keep hearing about. Clearly, fundamentalists of all stripes are preparing for Armageddon.

According to ABC News, the camp teaches children - as young as five - how to be "true Christian soldiers" and to "take back America for Christ". One has to wonder how long the 'take back America' will take to mutate into 'take back the world'! "God's Boot Camp?" asks the LA Times.

Here is the trailer:

There's a lot more shocking coverage made available by the miracle of YouTube. Watch the ABC special report here, and there are more clips from the documentary here, here and here.

See also the film's official website.

[HAT TIP: Brian M.]

Friday, September 15, 2006

One Last Nail To The Coffin Of Independent Media in Iran

The National Secular Society's Newsline has just popped into my inbox and it contains a story that passed me - and I suspect a lot of others - by this week.

Iran's most prominent reformist newspaper has been closed down for failing to remove an executive accused of publishing "blasphemous" articles and insulting officials. The country's press supervisory board, run by the culture ministry, ordered the closure of the Persian daily paper Sharq on Monday after it failed to replace managing director Muhammad Rahmanian. The board said the paper had been given one month to replace him, but after the deadline ran out on Sunday he remained at the helm. "Because of 70 cases of violations, including insulting officials, religious and national figures, publishing blasphemous articles and also articles creating discord ... the board demanded the replacement," the board said in a statement.

Their competitor (I imagine) The Tehran Times ran the announcement with practically no background or reaction, but the online Iran Press Service (which publishes in English from abroad) gave a lot of background in their article One Last Nail To The Coffin Of Independent Media in Iran.

Describing Sharq as "the country’s most influential and popular newspaper", they noted:

“We are in a vicious circle, for, as a result of these pressures, closures and crackdowns, more Iranian intellectuals, journalists, scholars and others take refuge with outside-based media to express themselves and are immediately accused of collaboration with foreign media and arrested.”

Sharq is just the latest victim of a concerted attack on the media. The Guardian report on the issue notes that "another Iranian newspaper has also been closed down - political monthly Nameh has also been shut for blasphemy and insulting religious figures. The paper's editor, Majid Tavallaei, said it was closed for publishing a poem by dissident female poet Simin Behbahani, according to an Associated Press report."

The Guardian story also noted that "Iranian courts have closed more than 100 publications since 2000, most of which were reformist."

In their report, South African online news portal says that another paper, the State-owned Iran was closed in May for publishing a cartoon that offended the Azeris and led to several days of unrest in northwestern Azerbaijan province. The cartoonist and the editor-in-chief of the daily remain in jail.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Scotish Catholics threaten to 'out' gay priests

A threat to out gay Catholic priests and bishops in Scotland has been condemned as a 21st century witch-hunt by the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA).

The threat comes from a group of Catholics called Catholic Truth, which is based in Edinburgh. Catholic Truth says it will "name and shame" homosexual clergy as part of its "heavenly witness protection programme".

In its widely-read newsletter, the group says it is currently investigating the extent of homosexuality among priests and bishops in the Church north of the Border, claiming that exposing homosexuality within the upper ranks ofthe Church would be a "great work of charity".

Catholic Truth also makes a connection between homosexuality and paedophilia. The newsletter, which is online, calls on its readers to out senior churchmen who they suspect may be gay. It also says:

"We do not want you to contact us merely to give us information ... but then insist that we keep it to ourselves if you give us information that we find iscredible and trustworthy, then we will make it public."

Patricia McKeever, who edits the newsletter told the Glasgow-based paper The Sunday Herald:

"The key objective behind naming homosexual priests andbishops is to raise awareness of the problem within the Scottish Church, ultimately to ensure the safety of others in the Church. Not just the physical safety of children, important though that is, but also the spiritual safety of people and congregations entrusted to the care of a homosexual priest or bishop."

She said she had received information on gay priests in at least two diocese[s] and one other Church institution.

Catholic Truth, based in Edinburgh's Princes Street, seeks to restore"traditional" Catholicism in Scotland. It has previously criticised safe sex messages in schools and condemned liberal Catholics. When Cardinal Keith O'Brien declined to support Bishop Devine's view that homosexuals should not be allowed to teach in Catholic schools, Catholic Truth accused him of being "unfit" for office and demanded his resignation.

George Broadhead, secretary of the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association, said:

"This is a 21st century witch-hunt. People who are innocent of any kind of misdeed could find themselves on the website of this obnoxious organisation being condemned by association as paedophiles. This malevolent woman must be stopped before she causes immense harm to innocent people. We call on the Catholic hierarchy in Scotland to distance itself from this truly revolting campaign. However, given its own rampant homophobia, we don't hold out much hope."

Friday, September 08, 2006

Friday chuckle

Since it’s Friday, here’s something to giggle about at the end of the week. Two jokes from the latest National Secular Society news-line:

“A priest got stopped by the traffic cops after swerving all over the road. After spotting an empty bottle on the passenger seat, the policeman says: “Have you been drinking?”
“Only water,” the priest replies.
“Are you sure?” he says. “I can smell wine off your breath.”
The priest looks down at the bottle and says: “Good Lord! He’s done it again!”

On a similar note, what about the wee Irish fella desperately trying to find a parking space just before a meeting? Looking towards Heaven, he says: “Lord, take pity on me. If you find me a parking place, I’ll go to mass every Sunday for the rest of my life and I’ll give up the Guinness, the gambling and chasing loose women.” Miraculously, a space appears.
The wee guy looks up again and says: “Never mind, I found one.”

Of course, there’s lot’s more to read in the latest bulletin, not all of it so light. Why not subscribe by emailing the subject line "subscribe" (in a black email) to: enquiries [AT] secularism [DOT] org [DOT] uk.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

What I shall say to Stephen Green

Copy of my post on Harry's Place earlier today...

I’m looking forward to ‘meeting’ Stephen Green on Saturday. I shall be in Canterbury to attend the AGM of the Gay & Lesbian Humanist Association, whose magazine – GHQ – as you know, I edit.

We have been tipped off by an evangelical Christian in Canterbury - whose loathing of Mr Green marginally outweighs his loathing of gays and “pagans” (as he calls Humanists) - that Green is intending to hijack their ‘peaceful demonstration’ against our AGM.

The group, which calls itself “Christian Family & Youth Concern Fellowship” had been planning to register their protest against our supposed aim of “promoting sexual deviancy and paganism” in a “holy city” and their leader, a Rev Darryl Griffiths, wrote to the hotel hosting the event in an attempt to get them to either cancel the event or allow their mob to wave banners in the car park. Fortunately they were told to get knotted and that no molestation of the hotel’s guests would be tolerated.

So they decided to hold a “pray-in” instead. Enter Stephen Green.

Re G&LHA Conference, Canterbury.
Sorry not to be in touch before. I should be interested in the hymn-singing vigil you mention, and could advertise this and support it with people. I'll be pleased to send you the latest Christian Voice newsletter if you would be kind enough to email me a note of your land address and church attended ...
May God bless you.
Yours sincerely,
Stephen Green, M.A
National Director, Christian Voice

But, says Rev Griffiths in his correspondence with GALHA:

“Unfortunately, I learned yesterday afternoon that one of our members, a bit of a ‘loose cannon’, has taken it upon himself to alert Stephen Green of Christian Voice to the G&LHA conference (sic). This was done without consulting me, or other fellowship members. Stephen Green is well-known within the Christian Community for his outspoken views and for a somewhat strident approach to those with whom he disagrees. Our concern is that he may well organise his own protest, which is certainly against our wishes.”

As an aside, I’d take Stephen Green’s approach any day. It is far less insidious than Rev Griffith’s alternative. Griffith says:

“Our fear, is that Stephen Green may turn up anyway, undoing all the valuable outreach work we have done in helping gays who seek salvation through prayer and Christian fellowship. If he does, we wish to make it clear that he does so without the approval or encouragement of the FYC fellowship. We oppose stridency from any quarter, as it's always counter-productive in bringing the wayward back to the fold.”

What is his vehicle for this? Why, the Alpha Course, of course!

“[W]e will be contacting local newspapers in order to advertise the Alpha Course and encourage homosexuals to turn away from the dark path they have chosen,” says Griffiths.

The Alpha Course targets people who want to “explore the meaning of life” – in other words, people who feel lost, alienated, depressed and directionless. People who are emotionally vulnerable: like many lesbian and gay people whose minds have already been brutalised by The Church. Alpha is to religion what McDonald’s is to cuisine – and they have just as stringent branding rules. So successful is the commodifying of evangelicalism that they now advertise on London busses. (This is no surprise, since half of London’s busses are run by Stagecoach – owned by another homophobic religious nut. But I digress…

Stephen Green is in all sorts of trouble at the moment. He’s facing a prosecution for “using threatening words and behaviour” at a Cardiff gay pride event. From what I can ascertain, this didn’t amount to much more than doling out ‘turn or burn’ type leaflets.

An unrepentant Green claims that his “rights to free speech have been challenged”.

And, he’s absolutely right. I’ll go on record as saying that I support his right to express his views in a peaceful manner. The police and the courts have no moral right to pursue people for simply expressing their thoughts and opinions, as long as they do not incite violence or make violent threats.

But, since Stephen Green only speaks the language of fundamentalists, I would have to refer him to what Jesus says (as reported in Matthew 7:5):

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

Stephen Green is no supporter of freedom of speech. I shan’t rehash the disgraceful tactics he used to try to shut down Jerry Springer: The Opera, since I covered it on the GALHA blog at the time.

Of course, Green and his ilk don’t balk orchestrating prosecutions of “religious hatred” when some sad facts are pointed out at their expense. The Gay Police Association is facing a possible prosecution after they revealed in an advert that the majority of homophobic incidents reported to them had a religious component.

As Peter Tatchell pointed out yesterday in his Comment Is Free piece:

“The GPA advert has reportedly prompted thousands of complaints to the Metropolitan Police by supporters of religious pressure groups, as well as by die-hard fundamentalists. They have expressed no concern about the death threats, but they want the ad banned and are demanding the prosecution of the GPA. The Met is now investigating whether the GPA advertisement constitutes an anti-religious hate crime. It has referred the complaints to the Crown Prosecution Service.”

Isn’t this all getting a bit too much? I have no illusions that the bulk of homophobia is generated by men in frocks. I want the right to confront them without the fear of prosecution. I do not fear their ludicrous tracts – bring ‘em on I say – because they can be defeated with persistent reason and clear-headed logic. I don’t need the long arm of the law to protect me from Stephen Green. But, if he has the courage of his convictions, he needs to explain why he needs the law to protect his beliefs from me.

So I shall tell Mr Green that, in this instance at least, I’m prepared to act on Jesus’s advice (also in Matthew 7), even as he so flagrantly defies it. I shall do unto others as I would have them do unto me. If he arrives on Saturday with his slogans and leaflets, I shall intercede if the Canterbury police emulate their colleagues in Cardiff. I shall say:

“For f…reedom’s sake, officer, let the man speak his mind!" – and, if necessary, I shall offer to be arrested along side him.

This madness has to be challenged.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Wear a blue hat on September 17

September 17 2006 is the Global Day for Darfur.

Individuals and organisations around the world will join peaceful demonstrations, rallies, marches, and other events to draw attention to the criminally under-reported plight of the people of Darfur. September 17 marks the first anniversary of the signing of the UN World Summit Outcome Document, which enshrined the international doctrine of the "Responsibility To Protect"

Despite the pledge: “to take collective action …if national authorities manifestly fail to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”, the violence in western Sudan has not stopped; in fact, in some parts of Darfur, the violence has grown worse.

"People are still being killed and raped and displaced - every single day," say the Day For Darfur organisers.

On September 17 people around the world will take part in the Global Day for Darfur to show world-wide support for the Darfuri people and to put pressure on our Governments to protect the civilians.

We hope that you will be able to join us on the Global Day for Darfur.

Wear a blue hat on September 17th, and joining in protests and events to help the people of Darfur.

To view with Quicktime click here

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

"Godless" Gay Gathering attacked by Christians

Members of the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA), which has chosen Canterbury for its annual residential gathering to be held from 8 - 11 September 2006, are bracing themselves for a protest from a Christian group calling itself Christian Family & Youth Concern Fellowship.In a letter to the hotel where the event is being held, the Christian group said that they had been tipped of that it was "hosting a rather unsavoury conference" and described GALHA as "promoting sexual deviancy and paganism" They added that the event was "highly inappropriate in a Cathedral City" and that they intended to organise a protest outside the hotel in which they would offer prayers for "those lost souls...with hymn singing and Bible readings". The letter concluded: "May the Lord restore them unto righteousness".Terry Sanderson, a spokesman for GALHA, said: These people have a real bee in their bonnet about gays - especially those who don't believe in God. Far from promoting sexual deviancy our aim is to promote the rational gay-friendly Humanist approach to gay relationships, which is in sharp contrast to the bible-based one which the Christian Churches adopt. We also promote gay rights as human rights and we certainly do not subscribe to the pagan outlook which is totally incompatible with Humanism."Founded in 1979, GALHA is one of the longest-established national membership gay organisations in the country and this will be its 26th residential gathering which is held in a different town each year.The organisation's secretary George Broadhead said: "Our annual weekend gathering is always popular, and we are particularly pleased to be in the fascinating historic city of Canterbury. Among the events planned for the gathering is a guided walking tour of the city, an excursion to Dover Castle and a presentation at the hotel about Marlene Dietrich - the ultimate gay icon who was an atheist and had lesbian affairs. GALHA recently criticised the Archbishop of Canterbury for his "spineless"abandonment of gay people in the Anglican Church after he came under pressure from right-wing evangelicals. Terry Sanderson said: "We likened Rowan Williams to the Vicar of Bray  as he seems to change his opinions to fit the mood of the day. We had hoped that the Archbishop - who we know to be personally friendly towards gays - would have the courage of his convictions and stand in defence of gay people. Instead he has yielded to the homophobes in his church and now says that if gays want to be part of it they must 'change their ways'. We think this is spineless", and because of the Church of England's established status, it has implications for people outside the Church, too."

Monday, September 04, 2006

Government ghaners church’s support

The clergy in Ghana are backing their government’s decision to ban a conference for gay men and lesbians. The government has pledged to take “disciplinary action” on anyone “breaking the law”, reports GayWired.

Because homosexuality is illegal in Ghana, this has been widely interpreted as referring to anyone attending the conference.

Information Minister Kwamena Bartels, said in a statement that “Government would like to make it absolutely clear that it shall not permit the proposed conference anywhere in Ghana… Unnatural carnal knowledge is illegal under our criminal code. Homosexuality, lesbianism and bestiality are therefore offences under the laws of Ghana.”

While he has the backing of the clergy (surprise, surprise) apparently some members of the public have used radio phone-in programmes to (anonymously) criticise the government’s lack of respect for freedom of speech. But of course, others support the Church’s stance.

Once again, when draconian measures are taken to deny LGBT people their legal rights, religious leaders can be counted on to cheerlead the persecution.

The South African edition of The Independent, reports that the Ghanaian government claims that allowing the conference will undermine the country’s “culture and morality”.

In a statement that quite clearly contradicts his own stance, Mr Bartels told The Independent: “It's not illegal for them to meet and talk, but we in Ghana don't want to encourage it. They can go and do it elsewhere.”

Another report stated that the conference centre had denied that any such conference was planned. One might speculate that the government and the church made it all up in an effort simply to create a moral panic and stir up homophobia.

Paul Simon's Surprise

Paul Simon’s new album ‘Surprise’ (which can be previewed here) has some interesting observations about the direction religion is going. In one song, ‘Wartime Prayers’, he notes:

Prayers offered in times of peace are silent conversations, Appeals for love or love's release In private invocations But all that is changed now, Gone like a memory from the day before the fires. People hungry for the voice of God Hear lunatics and liars Wartime prayers, wartime prayers In every language spoken, For every family scattered and broken.

In another song ‘I don’t believe’, he sings:

I don't believe we were born to be sheep in a flockTo pantomime prayers with the hands of a clock

The albums title track opens provocatively with the song “How can you live in the Northeast?”

How can you live in the Northeast?How can you live in the South?How can you build on the banks of a riverWhen the flood water pours from the mouth?How can you be a Christian?How can you be a Jew?How can you be a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Hindu?How can you?Weak as the winter sun, we enter life on earth.Names and religion comes just after date of birth.Then everybody gets a tongue to speak,And everyone hears an inner voice,A day at the end of the week to wonder and rejoice.If the answer is infinite lightWhy do we sleep in the dark?

Of course, it being Paul Simon, you’re not going to get any unequivocal statements and his meaning is often obscure.

As a long-time fan, I must say, I don’t rate this album as anything approaching his best work. It’s competent, but, from what I heard on the preview, is rather pedestrian. But “People hungry for the voice of God, Hear lunatics and liars” – what a line!

Homophobic terror: The Talibanisation of Iraq

Peter Tatchell reveals the targeted execution of gay Iraqis by Islamist death squads

(as published in) Tribune - London, UK - 1 September 2006

Parts of Iraq, including some Baghdad neighbourhoods, are now under the de facto control of Taliban-style fundamentalist militias. They enforce a savage interpretation of Sharia law, summarily executing people for ‘crimes’ like listening to western pop music, wearing shorts or jeans, drinking alcohol, selling videos, working in a barber’s shop, homosexuality, dancing, having a Sunni name, adultery and, in the case of women, not being veiled or walking in the street unaccompanied by a male relative.

Iraq is sliding fast towards theocracy and is likely to end up similar to Iran. The power and influence of fundamentalist militias is growing rapidly. Two militias are doing most of the killing. They are the armed wings of major parties in the Blair-backed Iraqi government. Madhi is the militia of Muqtada al-Sadr, and Badr is the militia of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which is the leading political force in Baghdad’s ruling coalition. Both militias want to establish an Iranian-style religious dictatorship.

Despite this goal of clerical fascism, the Socialist Workers Party and the Stop The War Coalition support Muqtada al-Sadr. They invited his representative to speak at the anti-war rally in London on 18 March. Not to be outdone, the July issue of the left-wing monthly Red Pepper gave over a whole page to white-washing al-Sadr’s crimes against humanity.

The terrorisation of gay Iraqis by these Islamist death squads is symptomatic of the fate that will befall all Iraqis if the fundamentalists continue to gain influence.

Under Saddam Hussein discrete homosexuality was usually tolerated. Since his overthrow, the violent persecution of gay people is commonplace. It is actively encouraged by Iraq’s leading cleric, the British and US-backed Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. He issued a fatwa ordering the execution of gay Iraqis. His followers in the Islamist militias are now systematically targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, as indicated by the following reports received from my clandestine gay activist contacts inside Iraq:  

Wissam Auda was a member of Iraq’s Olympic tennis team. His dream was to play at Wimbledon this year. He had been receiving death threats from religious fanatics on account of his homosexuality. On 25 May, his vehicle was ambushed by fundamentalist militias in the al-Saidiya district of Baghdad. Wissam, together with his coach Hussein Ahmed Rashid and team mate Nasser Ali Hatem, were all summarily executed in the street. Their crime? Wearing shorts. An Iraqi National Guard checkpoint was about 100m from the site of the ambush, but the soldiers did nothing, according to eye-witnesses.

The father of 23 year old Baghdad arts student, Karzan, has been told by militias that his son has been sentenced to death for being gay. If his father refuses to hand over Karzan for execution, the militia has threatened to kill the family one by one. This has already happened to Bashar, 34, an actor. Because his parents refuse to reveal his hiding place, the Badr militia murdered two of his family members in retribution.

Nyaz is a 28-year old dentist who lives in Baghdad. She is terrified that her lesbian relationship will be discovered, and that both she and her partner will be killed. They have stopped seeing each other. It is too dangerous. To make matters worse, Nyaz is being forced by the fundamentalist Mahdi militia to marry an older, senior Mullah with close ties the Mahdi leader, Muqtada al-Sadr. If she does not agree to the marriage, or tries to run away, Nyaz and her family will be targeted for ‘honour killing’ by Sadr’s men.

Gay Iraqis cannot seek the protection of the police. Iraq’s security forces have been infiltrated by fundamentalists, especially the Badr militia. They have huge influence in the Interior Ministry and the police, and can kill at will and with impunity.

Fourteen year old Ahmed Khalil was accused of corrupting the community because he had sex with men. According to his Baghdad neighbour, in April four men in police uniforms arrived at Ahmed’s house in a four-wheel-drive police pick-up truck. They wore the distinctive face masks of the Badr militia. The neighbour saw the police drag Ahmed out of the house and shoot him at point-blank range, pumping two bullets into his head and several more bullets into the rest of his body.

In the chaos and lawlessness of post-war Iraq, hundreds of young boys are being blackmailed into the sex industry. The sex ring operators lure the boys into having gay sex, photograph them and then threaten to publish their photos unless they work as male prostitutes. If their gayness was publicly revealed, the boys would be executed by the Islamist militias. They are trapped.

Wathiq, aged 29, a gay architect, was kidnapped in Baghdad in March. Soon afterwards, the Badr militia sent his parents death threats, accusing them of allowing their son to lead a gay life and demanding a £11,000 ransom. The parents paid the money, thinking it would save Wathiq’s life. But he was found dead a few days later, with his body mutilated and his head cut off.

The UK gay rights group OutRage! is working to support our counterpart organisation in Baghdad, Iraqi LGBT. Despite the great danger involved, Iraqi LGBT has established a clandestine network of gay activists inside Iraq’s major cities, including Baghdad, Najaf, Karbala, Hilla and Basra. These courageous activists are helping gay people on the run from fundamentalist death squads; hiding them in safe houses in Baghdad, and helping them escape to Syria and Lebanon. The world ignores the fate of LGBT Iraqis at its peril. Their fate today is the fate of all Iraqis tomorrow.  

* Iraqi LGBT is appealing for funds to help the work of their members in Iraq. They don’t yet have a bank account. The UK gay rights group OutRage! is helping them. Cheques should be made payable to “OutRage!”, with a cover note marked “For Iraqi LGBT”, and sent to OutRage!, PO Box 17816, London SW14 8WT.

More info on Iraqi LGBT: