Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Iraq's LGBT community remains under assault

An organization dedicated to securing asylum for LGBT refugees from Iraq estimates that over 720 LGBT men and women have been murdered by extremist militias in the last six years.
London-based Iraqi LGBT reports the Iraqi government has largely been absent in pursuing the roaming "death squads" in Iraq who seek out LGBT victims, likely due to the influence of extremist Shia religious parties that are calling for a moral cleansing of Iraq.

The above is the opening to Kelvin Lynch's "720 brutally murdered as 'gay cleansing' continues unchecked in Iraq" (Dallas Examiner) on the continued targeting of Iraq's LGBT community. Lynch (rightly) notes Barack Obama's shameful silence on this issue. The State Dept hasn't been demonstrably better. They have ingored the issue. Their original response was to insist it wasn't happening. As press reports and Human Rights Watch's work (for example, click here) demonstrated it was indeed happening and as some members of Congress and state and local governments began applying pressure, they allowed that it was happening and claimed that they and US Ambassador Chris Hill were addressing it privately. Of course, they also claim that they'd been doing that all along and no one thought to ask: "Really? Even when you were stating it wasn't taking place?"

But the press doesn't ask or, in fact, press on this issue. Only once has the issue been raised in the State Dept's daily press briefing -- only once all year. And the reporter who did? Works for the BBC. In the US, there has been a huge effort to avoid this story. (The BBC did a radio documentary on the assault over the summer. The closest American's have had to that is Lila Garrett, KPFK, being surprised when a guest brought up the issue -- after CNN, the Denver Post and the New York Times, among other outlets, had already reported on it. Talk Of The Nation explored the issue on October 5th -- the first NPR show with a national platform to do so -- and local programs, such as New Hampshire Public Radio's Word of Mouth (hosted by Virginia Prescott) have done so as well in the last weeks.

Something that is getting attention is the ongoing inquiry into Baha Mosua's death -- or at least yesterday's testimony by Donald Payne. Press TV notes that Payne "accused his superiors of routinely abusing and threatening civilian detainees in Iraq." As Adrian Shaw (Daily Mirror) reminds, Baha died of 93 injuries -- all while in British custody. Thomas Harding (Telegraph of London) adds:

He also alleged that a platoon commander, Lt Craig Rodgers placed a petrol can in front of a young prisoner’s hooded face then poured water over him and lit a match simulating a threat to his life.
Minutes before he arrived to give evidence before the inquiry in London into the death of Baha Mousa, an Iraqi who died in British custody in Basra in 2003, Payne issued a short statement in which he accepted the disclosures would “harm the reputation of the both my former regiment and the British Army”.
Changing the evidence he had given to previous investigations, Payne said he saw every member of a unit commanded by Lt Rodgers "forcefully kick or punch" the group of Iraqi prisoners that included Mr Mousa.
Payne claims that he previously covered up the extent of the abuse of Iraqis by British soldiers out of "misguided loyalty".

Yes, he did make that claim in his prepared statement as well as in his testimony. He also made another claim. As noted in yesterday's snapshot:

Gerald Elias: Can you help about this, Mr Payne: why were you lying about orders that you had received?

Donald Payne: Self-preservation.

Robert Verkaik (Independent of London) notes:

In a dramatic change to his evidence, Payne, who has already been convicted of the inhumane treatment of Iraqis, told a public inquiry he and other soldiers had routinely kicked and punched nine Iraqi detainees captured in September 2003. One of them, Baha Mousa, died from asphyxiation and 93 separate injuries. The new allegations raise concerns about the widespread abuse of dozens of Iraqi detainees and come days after the Ministry of Defence said it was investigating 33 other separate cases of torture carried out by British soldiers in Iraq and revealed in The Independent on Saturday.

Meanwhile Peter Eyre (Tehran Times) comments on the effects of DU in Iraq (the US was among those using Depleted Uranium in Iraq):

How many more reports do we have to read before governments start responding to this emerging crisis and demand answers. We are now seeing a dramatic rise in cancer, diabetes, mental problems, still births and terrible birth defects in all the past and current areas of conflict. We have seen the use of these evil weapons in the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Gaza, and now they are affecting Pakistan. As I have previously reported this contamination does not identify international borders and is totally indiscriminate.
There has been a serious change in the health of populations down wind of these conflicts areas. In the case of Afghanistan the aerosols from these weapons have now crossed into Pakistan, India and beyond with dramatic increases in all of the above areas especially the Punjab region of North India. This cancerous growth is as a direct result of weapons used by the above forces. Most of these weapons are designed and manufactured by the United States.
I would even be bold enough to say that this could well be a case of mass depopulation of the entire Middle East region. It is obvious that the genetics of Iraq has been grossly affected by uranium contamination. Many weapons used contain both DU/EU isotopes and this directly attacks the DNA of humans.

And following up on the report Dennis Campbell (Guardian) did over the weekend on this topic, Larry Johnson (Seattle PostGlobe) adds:

An Iraqi scientist, Souad N. Al-Azzawi documented the entire history of DU in Iraq and its devastating effects on the people there, in a presentation to the Kuala Lumpur International Conference to Criminalise War in October. Al-Azzawi, who was forced into exile from Iraq, has devoted many years to her work, at considerable personal risk.
So, the problem isn't that the rise in cancer and birth defects in Iraq is "unprecedented" or "unexplainable." The problem is the United States government, and other governments, won’t do anything about it.

Kidnapping of children has been on the rise in Iraq for some time. Today AFP reports that at least one kidnapper has been caught (after he killed his ten-year-old victim) and, guess what, he was a Baghdad police lieutenant. Though the press hasn't commented on this, the police in Baghdad have been suspected of many kidnappings -- including of a woman who disappeared on Black Wednesday, Gory Wednesday, Bloody Wednesday in August. AFP tells readers the kidnapper and killer is Lt Haidar Atlas and that the child's corpse was discovered yesterday. Reuters adds 2 corpses were discovered today in Kirkuk, a Baghdad bombing claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers and left six people injured and a Mosul investigative judge was the target of a botched assassination attempt in which his driver was injured by gunfire.

RTT News reports that the KRG has "decided . . . to boycott the country's January national elections, protesting disparity in allocation fo parliamentary seats for the provinces." Whether such a boycott would even be needed may be determined by whether or not Iraq's Sunni vice president Tariq al-Hashimi either sees his call met or goes through with his stated intent to veto the election law over the issue of Iraqi refugees being given more representation in Parliament.

Finally, Shane Harris (National Journal) reports on the US' 2007 cyber attck on Iraq. You'll notice no questions were asked about the authority or was the attack requested. Consider Harris a gadget queen.

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