Saturday, March 27, 2010

The targeting continues (as does the silence)

San Diego Gay and Lesbian News reposts Paul Canning's "Iraq is the most dangerous place on Earth for gays:"

It often shocks people to hear this but talk to Iraqi gays who've made it out and they'll tell you – Life was better under Saddam. Baghdad played the role that Beirut does now as a sanctuary for Middle Eastern gay life with clubs which men from the Gulf and Saudi Arabia flocked to. In sharp contrast, for the past six years Iraq has been the worst place in the entire world to be gay. Far, far worse than Uganda or even Iran. Hundreds of gays, lesbians and transgender people have been hunted down and killed in the most vile ways imaginable – and imagination is the right word. Doctors have confirmed reports of men have had their anuses glued shut by militia forces and others have accused the government of being involved. No one has been prosecuted and the Iraqi government has failed to do anything to stop it. So Iraqi gays have helped themselves. They have created safe houses, although many have been discovered and become a new killing field. Many have fled but they have faced a cold wall of indifference and they have needed friends and luck to actually make it to sanctuary. Our government, the British government, has turned its back on those who have arrived here. All have initially been refused asylum. The system instead has told them that Iraq is safe and they should go home. We'll again note a petition and contact information where you can make your concern for Iraq's LGBT community known:

The UK government through its Border Agency has decided not to give priority to the asylum application of Iraqi LGBT leader Ali Hili, in exile in London. The application has been outstanding for nearly three years and while it is outstanding, Ali cannot travel.

This decision directly impacts not just on Ali but on harshly persecuted Iraqi lesbians and gays through the reduced ability of their sole visible leader to raise their profile internationally.

Can you help?

As you may be aware, numerous human rights organisations and journalists have documented the pogrom against lesbians and gays in Iraq. Iraqi LGBT estimates that over 700 LGBT have been assassinated over the past few years. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has advised 'favourable consideration' for asylum claims because of the situation.

As the public leader of the only group representing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people both inside Iraq and in the diaspora, Hili has received a fatwa from inside Iraq as well as numerous threats in London which have forced him to move. He is under the protection of the Metropolitan Police.

US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin spoke last month of their concerns for LGBT both in Iraq and as refugees, in a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton co-signed by 64 other Congresspeople.

Hili has received many requests to speak about the situation in Iraq internationally, including from US-based groups such as the Gay Liberation Network and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Campaign, which he has been unable to pursue.

His solicitor, Barry O'Leary, wrote to the UK Border Agency (UKBA) in August 2009 that: "he desperately wishes to do this [travel] in order to further the aims of his organisation, that is, supporting lesbians and gay men in Iraq and bringing the world's attention to their plight."

Six months later, the UKBA told O'Leary that:
  • the assistance given by Hilli to the Foreign Office "does not count"
  • the fatwa does not mean that Hilli "falls within the classification of clear and immediate vulnerability"
  • that the delay in deciding Hilli's asylum case (since July 2007) "is not in itself an exceptional circumstance"
  • his case is not "compelling"
Peter Tatchell says of Ali:
"It was Ali Hili of Iraqi LGBT who first alerted the world to the organised killing of LGBT people in Iraq - way back in 2005. For a long time, he was a lone voice."

"Mr Hili was also the person who set up the 'underground railroad' and safe houses inside Iraq, to give refuge to LGBT people on the run from Islamist death squads and to provide escape routes to neighbouring countries - which saved the lives of many Iraqi LGBTs.

Ali must travel!

The UK Foreign Office Human Rights Report for 2009 specifically names Iraqi LGBT over other NGOs as a key source of information. Hili has met with them numerous times. The report quotes Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell condemning persecution of LGBT in Iraq.

Foreign Office Minister Chris Bryant wrote in his blog on Feb. 24: "I know some people dismiss LGBT rights as something of a sideshow in international relations, but I am proud to say that the FCO has argued for a decade that human rights are a seamless garment."

Yet the same government through the Home Office is effectively aiding that persecution through the failure of government recognition to Iraqi LGBT's leader.
We want the UK government to expedite Ali Hili's asylum claim so he is properly able to tell the world about what is happening to LGBT in Iraq.

How you can help

Write to the UK Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, to ask that he intervene in Ali's case that his asylum application be prioritised. Please mention Ali's Home Office reference which is S1180507/7. (Get a standard letter - please personalise and remember to sign it)
Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP, Home Secretary, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF
Telephone: 020 7035 4848
Write to UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, to ask that they ask Johnson to intervene in Ali's case. Please mention Ali's Home Office reference which is S1180507/7. (Get a standard letter - please personalise and remember to sign it)
The Prime Minister, 10 Downing Street, London, SW1A 2AA
Email the Prime Minister's Office
Write to your MP to ask that they ask Johnson to intervene in Ali's case.

If you are outside the UK, ask politicians, prominent persons and organisations to invite Ali to your country and make Brown and Johnson aware of this request.

Ask those politicians, prominent persons and organisations to issue their own public statement in support of Hili's asylum prioritisation from the UK government.

Write to newspapers, write blog posts in support of Ali, tell people about Ali.

Please copy any letters to the campaign in support of Ali Hili to

Join the Facebook page

Visit our website, LGBT asylum news (formally Save Medhi Kazemi)

Just an observation here, in the US during the eighties we saw a disappointing and shameful silence on the issue of AIDS (billed in the early 80s as "the gay cancer") and we like to pretend that we've come so far since then but the reality is the left publications and broadcast outlets have refused to cover the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community. Repeatedly refused. We haven't come so very far at all. Not at all.

In other news out of Iraq, the US Defense Dept issued the following:

The Department of Defense announced today an Army civilian employee, supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, was Returned to Military Control (RMC) on March 25.
Issa T. Salomi, 60, of El Cajon, Calif., became unaccounted for on Jan. 23, 2010, and subsequently declared Excused Absence Whereabouts Unknown (EAWUN). He was believed to have been kidnapped in Baghdad, where he was assigned to U.S. Forces-Iraq. Salomi’s permanent duty station is Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
The circumstances remain under investigation.
For more information on his assignment and duties in Iraq, media my contact U.S. Forces-Iraq at 240-553-0581 ext. 3598 or 3559. For information on his reintegration, media may contact U.S. Army South at 210-295-6693 (office) or 210-392-6586 (cell).

San Diego 6 reminds:
But the circumstances of his disappearance remained under investigation, and the Times of London reported that Salomi, an Iraqi-American, left the military base in Baghdad without permission to visit relatives in the Karrada district of central Baghdad. The AP reported from Iraq that terrorists had lured Salomi into central Baghdad by promising to assist him track down his family. An Iranian-backed terrorist group, the League of the Righteous, announced that it was holding Salomi and released a video of him on the Internet. In it, Salomi was dressed in a U.S. military uniform, read a text calling for the release of Iraqi prisoners and denounced America.

The News Tribune highlights Scott Fontaine's previous report
on the kidnapping.

The following community sites have updated since yesterday evening:

The e-mail address for this site is

thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends