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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 28 - Volume 42 Issue 48
ISIS stones two Gay men, international watchdog group says Iraqi and Syrian LGBT community at risk
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ISIS stones two Gay men, international watchdog group says Iraqi and Syrian LGBT community at risk

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The so-called Islamic State (IS, ISIS, or ISIL) has stoned two men to death because they were Gay, according to the watchdog group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

'The IS today stoned to death a man that it said was gay,' the group said in a November 25 statement, adding that the victim was around 20 years old.

According to AFP news agency, the man was killed in Mayadeen, Syria, in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, near the border with Iraq.

The British-based Observatory said IS claimed it found videos on his mobile phone showing him 'practicing indecent acts with males.'

In a separate incident on November 25, an 18-year-old was stoned to death in Deir Ezzor city also for being Gay, the Observatory said.

Activists on social media said that the dead men were opponents of IS and that the group had used the allegation as a pretext to kill them. The United Nations said this month that IS had stoned to death several women in Syria it accused of adultery.

IGLHRC report on Iraq
These reports follow by less than a week a paper issued by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) on the danger to LGBT individuals in Iraq.

IGLHRC was joined in its report by MADRE, an international women's rights group, and the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI). Their report, When Coming Out is a Death Sentence, documents violence and human rights abuses by family members, tribal groups, vigilantes, and Islamist militias.

While little hard information is available for conditions faced by LGBT Iraqis is areas controlled by the Islamic State, IS believes that sharia law prescribes a death sentence for same-sex relations.

'LGBT Iraqis are in a desperate situation that demands action,' IGLHRC Executive Director Jessica Stern said in a statement.

'Many Iraqis face violence and serious human rights abuses but LGBT Iraqis, reviled across large segments of society, have none of the protection that can come from families, tribes and the community-at-large. Now, many LGBT Iraqis literally must hide to protect themselves. Exposure can mean death in the chaos of present-day Iraq.'

The report concludes that LGBT Iraqis are especially at risk because

o their persecutors range across so many sectors of society;

o they have little to no protection from family, community or government;

o their physical appearance may put them at risk in public;

o they face hostility in refugee circumstances;

o and their movement has been curtailed by the conflict.

MADRE Executive Director Yifat Susskind said the three groups were joining with other human rights advocates to defend the endangered LGBT community.

'Human rights advocates, in Iraq and across the world, are banding together to sound the alarm,' she said.

'Respect for all human rights, indivisible and universal, demands that we stand up for LGBT people who are in grave danger now. This struggle, to defend all who are targeted for their gender and sexuality, is central to securing human rights for all people.'

IGLHRC, MADRE and OWFI have made recommendations for how foreign embassies, relief organizations, donor countries and others can protect lives. Among other measures, they want to push the Iraqi government to permit shelters and resettlement areas for LGBT refugees fleeing violence.

The groups also called for holding militias accountable for harassment and abuse of LGBT individuals. This may prove difficult, because the Shia militias that are supporting the Iraqi government against IS are the same ones that have previously been charged with torturing and killing Gay men in Baghdad.

Human Rights Watch report on Syria
A Human Rights Watch report on Syria, issued in April, made clear that IS is not the only threat to the LGBT community in the region. The group also named the Syrian Army, Lebanese militias, and family members of LGBT individuals as dangers.

In February, Human Rights Watch carried out interviews with 19 Gay Syrian refugees in Lebanon. 'The extent of their suffering was both explicit and harrowing,' the group said.

One man, who wished to remain anonymous, said he was kidnapped by the Syrian Islamic Liberation front, and then detained in an abandoned ice cream factory for 23 days. There he suffered verbal and physical torture, and witnessed two men being executed for their 'blasphemy,' a fate he feared he would suffer.

His father, who was initially unaware his son was Gay, paid a ransom to have him released and sent to Lebanon. However, the Islamist group outed the man, and the father subsequently phoned his son and threatened to have him killed if he is ever found. The man's younger brother later joined the same group who kidnapped him in a bid to find him and kill him.

Among the other men interviewed, it was found that over half had been rejected by their families, in addition to suffering physical violence and verbal abuse from extreme Islamist groups. Five of the 19 were subject to death threats.

A Gay couple, who were kidnapped by the Syrian army, were forced to strip and have sex with each other in front of their interrogators. In another interview, one man said he was abducted by the Syrian Army and raped by the soldiers.

The couple eventually made their way to Lebanon, but found they were not safe even there. Having taken refuge in Beirut's southern suburb of Dahiyeh, they were ambushed by armed men dressed in black.

'Instead of coming to Lebanon to be gay, go fight in your country,' they were told before being beaten and evicted from their temporary lodgings.

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