Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Iraq's persecuted LGBT community

Where are the entries?  Don't ask me.  The one I'm reposting  right now was up earlier and has now vanished.  I'm pulling it from the back up site. 

Iraq's persecuted LGBT community

Natalia Antelava, Peter Murtaugh, Bill McKenna and Daniel Nasaw have done an investigative report for the BBC on the continued persecution of LGBTs in Iraq. (link is video -- transcript in yesterday's snapshot).   The BBC continues their coverage with a text report which includes this  background:

The US-led invasion of 2003 brought to power the Islamic Dawa party, which was established in Iran in the 1980s and backed Iran in its war with Iraq.
The fact that Dawa's core beliefs were inspired by Iranian Shia clerics did not stop the US and UK from supporting the party after Saddam Hussein's fall.
In the years after the invasion, the security situation deteriorated for everyone in the country. But for sexual minorities, Iraq became hell on earth.
By 2007, political and religious groups backed by militiamen launched what we believe was an organised, co-ordinated campaign to hunt, arrest, torture and kill everyone they perceived as gay.
These radical groups deny sexual minorities the right to life. They target everyone who does not conform to their religious description of family. 

 As part of the coverage, Natalia Antelava interviews Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh (link is video):

Natalia Antelava:  What's Iraq doing to protect minority groups?

Ali al-Dabbagh:  I think that here in Iraq we do provide all the legal and the constitutional clauses to protect the minorities compared with the region which definitely they insult and they crush all the minorities

Natalia Antelava:  One minority that the UN for example is very worried about are homosexuals.

Ali al-Dabbagh:  We should take also that the culture and the habits and the customs of the country.  You can't impose, you can't copy what you believe in the West on countries that have a different culture.  But there is no right for anyone to insult or to kill or to harm any such groups. But we might find that some individuals in the security forces, as they did -- as they violate the human rights with the others, they do also violate the instruction of the government and the government definitaely wants to keep silent on the people that violate that right. 

Natalia Antelava:  So your position is that there is no additional threat in the Iraqi society today to an Iraqi who happens to be homosexual?

Ali al-Dabbagh:  I -- Again, I could say that we don't have that.  It is not a phenomenon, homosexual is not a phenomenon like what it is in the West or in other countries.  I don't know how many homosexuals in Iraq.  They could declare themselves as a homosexual.  We should change the whole Constitution in order to allow them to practice their homosexuality?  Publicly? You can't make  -- you can't -- You can't think that Iraq can change -- Neither Iraq nor --

Natalia Antelava:  This is not about practicing homosexuality.  This is about living their lives.

Ali al-Dabbagh:  They could live their lives in a normal way as long as they don't perform their homosexuality in public.

Natalia Antelava:  Are you saying that those gays who have run into trouble in the streets of Baghdad --

Ali al-Dabbagh:  Definitely they --

Natalia Antelava:   -- have brought it on themselves?

Ali al-Dabbagh:  Definitately they-they misbehave in a way in which they attract the attention of the others.

Natalia Antelava:  It is a right of Iraqi people not to have gay people walking in the streets?

Ali al-Dabbagh:  I didn't say this.  You are saying it.  I'm saying that the gays should respect the behavior and moral values of others in order to be respected.

Natalia Antelava:  This is a bit like telling a Black person not to be Black.

Ali al-Dabbagh:  Nah, that is nature -- by nature is a Black.

Natalia Antelava:  But you said this is by nature, so what's homosexuality?

Ali al-Dabbagh:  It's not by nature.  It's a behavior.  It's a behavior.  It is not being Black.  You born as a Black.  But this behavior -- Let him be a homosexual in the house, in everywhere, in a protected region but also let him respect the public.

Natalia Antelava:  But if you say that they are protected, why hasn't a single politician stood up and said killing of gays and harassment of gays should not be --

Ali al-Dabbagh:  We could ask the politicians.  Ask the politicians. You need to ask them, you could do that. Values of the society is much more important than the values of a person.  I don't know what we should be concerned about the values of a few people, leaving the other communities and the other minorities rights?

 There is so much to unpack in the above.  But first, I want to repeat what I said in yesterday's snapshot:  "Credit to the BBC which has been the world leader on this issue for broadcast outlets. No other broadcast news outlet has done as much to raise this issue or to report on the violence as the BBC has. In print form, the Denver Post has done more than any other daily newspaper and Boston's The Edge has done more than any other weekly (especially reporter Kilian Melloy).  And I don't want to take anything away from those three news outlets but it is a real shame that their strong work has not been matched by others in what is not a one day or one month or one year story but what is a story that's been going on since the start of the war and a story whose latest wave of persecution has been going on for nearly four years.  A big thank you to those who have done such a great job covering the story (and there are others who have -- especially among the LGBT press) but it is shameful that so many outlets -- so many name news outlets -- have elected to ignore this story -- repeatedly ignore it."

On the interview, Ali al-Dagbah snideness and derision probably doesn't come across as strongly in a transcript as it does in the video.

Nouri's Iraq wants to be part of the world, it wants to sell oil, it wants to be a travel destination so we really don't need a lecture from an ignorant and uninformed government official about the roots of same-sex attraction.  Being gay is as natural as being straight, both occur naturally in the animal kingdom which should have made the realities clear to all long ago.  (But didn't, not even in the US.)

If Iraq wants to be part of the world, it needs to be part of the world.  If it wants to be isolated, it can't be that as well.  But whether the government's willing to learn that gay is normal or not, they do not have any right to attack or harm an Iraqi citizen.  They have signed various treaties and agreements.  The government's behavior is outrageous and unacceptable.  Not only is it refusing to protect the LGBT community but it is openly calling for it to be persecuted and targeted -- that was part of the report we noted yesterday and it is part of the record from earlier this year.  We'll go into that in the snapshot.

But it is unacceptable.  Right now we'll note that what Ali al-Dabagh is 'advocating' in words is that you can be gay in Iraq if you don't act gay.

Acting gay?

There is a stereotype and there is reality.  Focusing on the US, Ava and I have long noted in our media coverage at Third that the motion picture industry actively promoted the stereotype.  If gay people are all 'queeny' (for lack of a better word), then we can easily spot what is gay and what is not and certainly William Haines or Ramon Novarro isn't gay, right?  That's what was behind promoting the stereotype.  Haines and Novarro were huge stars of the silent era and they were both gay.  They weren't the only ones who were.  But if there was a stereotype and you could promote it and advance it, then you could protect your investment.  Late in the silent era, there would be efforts to marry off gay men and women who were under contract to the studios.  William Haines, of course, refused and would become a decorator (and a close friend of Nancy and Ronald Reagan's).   Silent film star Alla Nazimova would enter a lavendar marriage but she'd also be among those, in the pre-code era, offering portrayals of gays and lesbians that weren't stereotypical.  (Alla Nazimova was an actress, a screenwriter, a producer and even did some directing -- she was also Nancy Reagan's godmother.)

In the sound era, the stereotype was extremely popular and fit into the strict notions of masculinity and feminity promoted by the US government following the end of WWII (especially as they urged women to stop working -- and 'urged' is too mild of a term).

Some gay men and women fit the stereotype, some do not.  The stereotype was important to moguls who invested great sums in William Haines, Rock Hudson and assorted others.  It helped protect the 'investment' and 'asset.'

Ali al-Dabagh believes in the stereotype (or gives lip service to it) and that's rather strange because he doesn't really think, does he, that he comes off as all that 'straight'?

He doesn't strike me as straight at all.  And if I were someone who attacked gays and lesbians, I would be a threat to Ali al-Dabagh.  Is he gay?  He would say he's not and he may be telling the truth but this illustrates the problem in Iraq -- you're attacking people based on the way their behaviors appear to you.  They may or may not be gay.

Ali thinks if someone 'acts' gay in public that they deserve to be attacked.  Again, Ali doesn't come off all that straight to me so maybe people like Ali who have a position of power should realize that they may be judging today but could be the judged tomorrow and instead of judging work to protect all Iraqis?

It's really sad that our supposed gay-friendly US president has never condemned the violence against gays and lesbians in Iraq.  I can remember, when Reagan (funny how that family weaves through this entry) was in the White House, being appalled that Reagan wouldn't address the AIDS crisis.  It's very strange how Barack gets a pass on so much.  History's not going to allow him that pass so he better enjoy it now.

More BBC coverage of Iraq's LGBT community:

The following community sites -- plus Black Agenda Report, Watching America, and Iraq Veterans Against the War, -- updated last night and this morning:

Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, her office notes:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Matt McAlvanah (Murray) - 202- 224-2834
Wednesday, September 12, 2012 Dan McLaughlin (Nelson) – 202-224-1679
Michelle McCarthy (IAVA) - 212-982-9699
VETERANS: Senators Murray, Nelson, Iraq Veteran to Discuss Veterans Jobs Corps on Press Conference Call
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Bill Nelson, along with Iraq veteran Tom Tarantino, will do a press conference call with reporters to discuss the Veterans Jobs Corps legislation currently being considered by the Senate. The Veterans Jobs Corps bill will increase training and hiring opportunities for all veterans including helping to hire police officers, firefighters and other first responders. It will also help train and hire veterans to help restore and protect our national, state, and tribal forests, our parks, our coastal areas, wildlife refuges, and VA cemeteries.
The Veterans Jobs Corps contains ideas from both sides of the aisle and is fully paid for with bipartisan spending offsets.
WHO: U.S. Senator Patty Murray
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson
Tom Tarantino, Chief Policy Officer, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)
WHAT: Press Conference Call on Veterans Jobs Corps
WHEN: TODAY: Wednesday, September 12th
12:00 NOON PM EST/9:00 AM PST
CALL-IN INFORMATION: 1(800) 230-1059
Spoken Passcode: Veterans Jobs Bill
Matt McAlvanah
Communications Director
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
202-224-2834 - press office
202--224-0228 - direct


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