Thursday, June 04, 2009

Iraq's LGBT Community, Oil Minister in the spotlight, Cindy Sheehan heads to Dallas

We're about 99.99999999877 percent certain life is pretty miserable for many of Iraq's openly gay and transgender folks. If actually being murdered and tortured weren't bad enough, living in fear that you'll be among those rounded up (sometimes by state police), slayed, and left "wearing diapers and women's lingerie" must be pretty aunting to just getting through the day. But wait, what's this? News that being gay in Iraq is FANTASTIC?
Despite laughable assurances from U.S. State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs John Fleming that all is okay with gays in Iraq -- you know, because homosexuality isn't illegal, so what's there to worry about? -- reports from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and British-based Iraqi LGBT tell a very different story. Like how international advocates, so worried about the fate of queers there, are simply working to evacuate them after attempting the more insurmountable task of just keeping them safe.

The above is from Queerty's "WAIT: Gay Life In Iraq Is … 'Thriving'" which then notes the article Marica also noted yesterday, Seth Michael Donsky's "Life Only Gets Worse for LGBT Iraqis" (The Edge):

[Scott] Long states that the Sadrists primarily went underground when the U.S. surge began but that they are now trying to regroup and recoup their political influence. There is speculation that attacking gays is a way of their recasting themselves as moral crusaders. Some observers have compared it to what the Republican party did here in the early ’90’s with their defense of marriage legislation.
"However, the Sadrists, like most militias, are loosely defined groups and definite accountability for the killings is difficult to trace.
"What is clear," says Long, "is that this is an organized and extensive murder campaign and must involve some degree of high-level direction."Long reports that people from the Sunni areas of Baghdad, or Sunni cities such as Samarra or Diyala, also spoke of the involvement of groups such as Al-Qaeda militias to see who can kill the most homosexuals, to see who can be the "most righteous," the most bathed in blood.Long does not believe that the killings are part of a religious fatwa, as many have claimed or speculated. "Nobody in Iraq needs a fatwa to kill people they don’t like," says Long. "Although there are substantiated reports that Shi’ite mosques started preaching about the dangers of homosexuality earlier this years in neighborhoods such as Medinat Sadr and Karrada," strong Sadrist centers, "they do not appear to have directly called for killing. The orders to exterminate, if there were orders, came from high in the militia leadership and were political orders, not fatwas, per se."

In other news, last week Iraq's Trade Minister resigned. Abed Falah al-Sudani was arrested over the weekend after attempting to fly out of Iraq only to have the plane he was traveling on forced to return. The Oil Minister is now in the spotlight, as expected. Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) reports:

Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani said Wednesday he is ready to face questioning by critical lawmakers as he fights to keep his job.
Mr. Shahristani has come under fire for failing to boost oil production during his three years in charge, and the critics have gained volume recently because of Iraq's budget crisis. The country depends on oil sales for 90% of government revenue, and the drop in oil prices has forced Iraq to cut its budget and implement a hiring freeze.
[. . .]
But he said he thinks members of parliament have ulterior motives. He said some lawmakers want only to advance their public image before national elections in January, while others are involved in oil-related corruption. Mr. Shahristani has prided himself in cleaning up corruption at the Ministry of Oil.

Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) notes 117 MPs are calling for Shahristani to face their questions. Ibrahim reminds:

The Iraqi parliament has become far more assertive since Samarai, a Sunni politician viewed as a foe of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, was picked as speaker in April.
Last month it summoned the trade minister, an ally of Maliki's, for questioning over nepotism and corruption. The minister, Abdul Falah al-Sudany, resigned soon afterwards and was arrested last Saturday as he tried to fly to Dubai.

Turning to the US where Cindy Sheehan's currently on a speaking tour and these are some of the upcoming dates:

Phoenix: June 5th
Dallas: June 7th and 8th
Waco: June 9th
Austin: June 10th and 11th
Nashville: June 14-16
St. Petersburg, FL: June 17-18
Philadelphia: June 20-23
NYC: June 24-26
Cape Cod: June 27-29
New Hampshire: June 30 - July 1
San Francisco: July 3 - 5 (Socialist Conference)
Cleveland: July 8-9 (National Assembly to end the Iraq War)
Pittsburgh: July 11-12
Norfolk, VA: July 15-18
Vashon Island, Washington: July 25-26

The Dallas Peace Center notes an action Cindy will lead while in Dallas:

Jun 8 2009 - 4:30pm

Cindy Sheehan will come to Dallas to protest crimes against humanity that occured during the Bush administration. According to Sheehan, “The actions of his administration are criminal and we need to keep up the pressure for accountability.” To support Sheehan’s effort, meet on the SW corner of Preston & Royal to join a march on the sidewalk west on Royal, south on Netherland, east on Meaders to the front of John J. Pershing Elementary School, across from Daria Dr. which leads to Bush’s gated compound. No major streets will be crossed. Participants are asked to stay on message – the American people will not tolerate torture in our name, and those who have betrayed our trust must be held legally accountable.

SW corner of Preston & Royal
Dallas, TX
United States
See map: Yahoo! Maps

Cindy Sheehan hosts the radio program Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox which airs each Sunday (and archives at link).

That's June 8th in Dallas, Texas. The Path to Peace Foundation announces a June 9th event in New York City:

On 9 June 2009 the Path to Peace Foundation will bestow posthumously the 2009 Path to Peace Award to Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, of Mosul, Iraq.
Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, and President of the Path to Peace Foundation, announced that decision was made by the Board of the Path to Peace Foundation, an agency established to carry out projects to support the work of the Holy See Mission to the United Nations.
Paulos Faraj Rahho was born in Mosul, Iraq, in 1942. He spent nearly all his life in Mosul, a city with one of the oldest Christian populations. Following his ordination to the priesthood on June 10, 1965, he was appointed to St. Isaiah’s Church in Mosul. He later founded the Church of the Sacred Heart on Tel Keppe, a new district of Mosul. He also opened an orphanage for disabled children.
On February 16, 2001, he was ordained Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul, giving him responsibility for about 20,000 Catholics in ten parishes. Chaldean Catholics comprise a tiny minority of the Iraqi population, but are the largest group among the less than 1 million Christians in the country.
Archbishop Rahho expressed disquiet at the moves to incorporate Sharia law more fundamentally into the Iraqi constitution, and continued throughout his life to lead worship in difficult situations. Following the start of the Iraq war, persecution of Christians increased dramatically. Despite the adversities facing Christians, Archbishop Rahho encouraged Christians to stay in Mosul, and he pushed for tolerance among all factions.
On February 29, 2008, gunmen kidnapped Rahho outside his church in Mosul as he drove home after he had finished celebrating a prayer service. After two weeks of searching, officials at the Archeparchy were informed that the Archbishop had died and where to find his body. Also murdered were his bodyguards and driver.
In addition to the Path to Path Award, four individuals will receive the Servitor Pacis Award for their contribution to the common good. These honorees are: Judge Andrew Napolitano, Bob & Suzanne Wright (Co-Founders of Autism Speaks), and Father John P. Foley, S.J. (Co-Founder of Cristo Rey Network). The event will be held at a Gala Dinner sponsored by the Foundation at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

Mike noted the above event yesterday. Meanwhile Nebraska's North Platte Bulletin reports that the US Army Reserve's 1013th is composed of 98 soldiers and that fifty-seven of those "head to Iraq later this year to support military operations there." Finally Mavis Baah (Scripps Howard Foundation Wire) reports on the changing face of war:

Lt. Col. Marvin Jones wants nothing more than to sail away on a vacation cruise with his wife, Maj. Gloria Jones. Right now, Gloria is out of the country, but she's not on vacation.
Marvin is a member of the D.C. National Guard. Gloria, 37, is an Air Force nurse who's been stationed in Balad, Iraq, since February. Marvin, 44, has been tending to their home in Fort Washington, Md., and 19-month-old daughter, MaKayla, while she's been away.
Currently, women are deployed overseas more than ever before. They make up 16 percent of the 3.5 million members of the U.S. armed forces overall and 10 percent of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a Pentagon spokesman. When these women leave, their husbands are left to take care of things at home.

For any wondering, Iraq is reduced to a single paragraph, credited to Alissa J. Rubin, in "World Briefs" which runs on A8 of the national edition of the New York Times:

A bomb left in a plastic bag in a popular outdoor cafe in Baghdad exploded Wednesday evening, killing nine people, according to the Ministry of Interior. Thirty-one people were injured in the blast. The neighborhood where the attack occurred is largely Shiite but surrounded by predominantly Sunni areas. On Tuesday, an American soldier was killed after an improvised explosive device went off while he was on patrol in eastern Baghdad, the military announced.

Oops, I only thought we were to "finally." If you've e-mailed the public account to highlight something and it fits or can be forced to fit, I will get to it but there's too much in there this morning to note everything. However, this is Iraq related. The ACLU has "Blog of Rights" (I will try to add that to the permalinks tonight) and there are multiple postings each day. This is "Abusive Recruitment Practices? Not Now, Not Ever" which went up June 2nd:

Last night, I participated at a press conference to unveil a human rights resolution opposing the proposed DeKalb County Marine Corp. Institute (DCMI). DCMI would expose students as young as 14 to military discipline, military culture, and military training. It will be funded in part by the Marine Corps out of its recruitment budget and could become a pipeline for targeted minority recruitment into the military.

The school was originally slated to open in August. Due to the strong community mobilization against this proposal, the DeKalb County Board of Education announced on Friday that it has postponed the opening date. While celebrating this victory yesterday evening, we called on the Board of Education not to revive this or similar proposals meant to militarize public school education.

We based this demand on the U.S. international human rights obligations. The United States has ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. Because the United States ratified the Optional Protocol in 2002, the Protocol is binding on the U.S. government and local government entities and agents, including DeKalb County.

Under a binding declaration entered by the U.S., 17 is the absolute minimum age for military recruitment (even though the prevailing international standard is to prohibit the voluntary recruitment of children under the age of 18 into the military—in fact, 89 of 128 countries that are parties to the Optional Protocol have a “straight-18” standard that sets 18 as the minimum age for recruitment).

In May 2008, the ACLU submitted a report to the Committee on Rights of the Child (CRC), the United Nations body that monitors compliance with the Optional Protocol, detailing the government’s failure to comply with its obligations under the Optional Protocol. The ACLU found that the U.S. military continues to engage in tactics designed to recruit students under the age of 17. The ACLU also found that U.S. military recruitment tactics disproportionately target low-income youth and students of color. After examining U.S. recruitment practices last year, the CRC called on the U.S. to end military training in public schools and stop targeting racial minorities or low-income children for recruitment.

Establishment of DMCI or any similar institution in DeKalb County would clearly run counter to the United States’ international human rights obligations.

After the press conference, more than 30 community members, including several DeKalb County parents, attended the DeKalb Board of Education meeting to speak against any future prospect for DMCI. One speaker also read out the human rights resolution.

Through their speaking out and reading of the human rights resolution last night, community members conveyed this message to the DeKalb County Board of Education: military training and abusive recruitment practices have no place in DeKalb County public schools; not now, not ever.

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the new york times
alissa j. rubin