Amir Ashour is not someone who’s happy to hide in the shadows. As Iraq’s only openly LGBT activist, he was always going to court attention. Since embarking on his mission to visibly champion LGBT rights, he’s been arrested and detained twice, lost friends and extended family, can no longer return to Iraq, and been forced to relocate permanently to Sweden.
But in the face of such resistance, and at great risk to his personal safety, he’s managed to set up the country’s first LGBT rights organisation, IraQueer, which is forced to operate underground. One year on, its 40 members have never met face-to-face, instead communicating exclusively through social media and apps such as Grindr.
Considering the severe human rights violations LGBT people in Iraq face, as well as the country’s absolute lack of legislative protection, their anonymity is their only protection. From the killing campaigns that are practised by armed militias in Baghdad, to the rise of Islamic State and its brutal executions of gay men, anonymity is literally a matter of life and death.
“We will be meeting in person soon, somewhere outside Iraq,” says Ashour. “We use safe ways to communicate with each other to exchange information. I make sure that all the publications that we post on the website or social media are being done from Sweden, so if someone does track it, they are led only to Sweden.”
“The security concerns are our biggest,” he continues. “The people who look more as if they might be LGBT+ people face a lot of difficulty in the streets: they could be attacked by people, by religious militias, or they could be violated by police forces.”
From the start of the wave of persecution that began under then-prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, the UK press has been better than any western country in reporting on the attacks on the LGBT community in Iraq.
In other news, BBC's Ahmed Maher reports that Islamic State members remain in Falluja. DEUTSCHE WELLE reports that the 'liberation' of Falluja has created 84,000 refugees according to UNHCR and:
An Iraqi aid worker employed at a nearby refugee camp said their resources were woefully inadequate.
"We secured tents for some of them, but the rest, including women and children, are sleeping on the ground under the sun," he said. "Their situation is a tragedy."
The 'liberation' didn't end the War Crimes, obviously:
And the 'liberation' didn't end the ongoing US bombings of Iraq. Today, the US Defense Dept announced:
Strikes in Iraq
Rocket artillery and bomber, ground-attack, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 18 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of the Iraqi government:
-- Near Baghdadi, two strikes struck an ISIL beddown facility and an ISIL staging area and destroyed an ISIL bunker.
-- Near Beiji, two strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL fighting position, three ISIL vehicles, an ISIL heavy machine gun, an ISIL recoilless rifle and an ISIL mortar system.
-- Near Fallujah, four strikes struck three separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed 22 ISIL fighting positions, two ISIL vehicles, 10 ISIL heavy machine guns, seven ISIL light machine guns, an ISIL recoilless rifle, three ISIL rocket-propelled-grenade systems and an ISIL vehicle-borne bomb and denied ISIL access to terrain.
-- Near Kisik, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and an ISIL assembly area.
-- Near Mosul, a strike struck an ISIL oil headquarters.
-- Near Qayyarah, five strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed three ISIL mortar systems, an ISIL assembly area, an ISIL weapons cache and an ISIL command-and-control node and denied ISIL access to terrain.
-- Near Ramadi, two strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL fighting position, an ISIL vehicle, an ISIL vehicle-borne bomb, an ISIL boat and an ISIL light machine gun and damaged a separate ISIL boat.-- Near Tal Afar, a strike struck two separate ISIL foreign fighter command posts.
Task force officials define a strike as one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative, effect. Therefore, officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIL vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against buildings, vehicles and weapon systems in a compound, for example, having the cumulative effect of making those targets harder or impossible for ISIL to use. Accordingly, officials said, they do not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target. Ground-based artillery fired in counterfire or in fire support to maneuver roles is not classified as a strike.
June 19, 2014, US President Barack Obama stated the only answer to Iraq's crises was a political solution. At what point does he plan to put US resources into pursuing that?
I'm traveling in some vehicle
I'm sitting in some cafe
A defector from the petty wars
That shell shock love away
-- "Hejira," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her album of the same name
The number of US service members the Dept of Defense states died in the Iraq War is [PDF format warning] 4517 (including 20 in Operation Inherent Resolve which includes at least 3 Iraq War fatalities).
Isaiah's "It's The Great Bumpkin, Barry O" and the following community sites -- plus Jody Watley -- updated:
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