Wednesday, June 23, 2010

No outcry

Last week, 12 Iraqi police officers burst into a house in Karbala, beat up and blindfolded the six occupants and bundled them off in three vans, taking the computers they found with them. The house was then burned down by unknown people.
The six included two gay men, one lesbian and two transgender people, and the house was a new "emergency shelter" run by the Iraqi LGBT organisation.
Two days later, one of the men turned up in hospital with a throat wound saying he'd been tortured. Iraqi LGBT has ordered those in its other two safe houses to move immediately.
The group says the police action is consistent with other state attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Iraq. It has information that the other five have been transported 100 miles north to the interior ministry in Baghdad, where they'll be interrogated (ie tortured) to find out more about the group. Then, going on past experience, they'll probably be handed to militias loyal to Shi'a clerics Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani and Muqtada al-Sadr (both of whom have called for homosexuals to be put to death) and their mutilated bodies will turn up later.
But it is also clear from past experience that there is unlikely to be a sustained international outcry from gay people, governments or others about this latest incident.

The above is from Paul Canning's "US and UK failing to take Iraq's gay pogrom seriously" (Guardian) and it is clear that little will be done to protect Iraq's LGBT community. Despite serious press attention and Congressional attention, the White House feels no pressure on the issue. For now US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill could care less and, when pressed, states it is not his job to tell Iraq what to do. What is Chris Hill's job, by the way?

Everything you'd expect of an ambassador, Chris Hill maintains it is not his job and that includes conveying messages. Is hiding under your desk for three hours a day in the midst of a manic episode really what we expect of US ambassadors?

Iraq's LGBT community -- like the country itself -- is apparently on its own. All the people who once marched and rallied seemingly now have other things to do. The US went with thugs because thugs could intimidate the larger public and allow for the tag sale of Iraq's public goods. The thugs, once in power, have no desire to relinquish it. What has taken place in Iraq was no accident and the victims suffering today are not suffering through happenstance.

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance. Together, the two still lack four seats necessary (or so it is thought) to form the government. Mohamad Bazzi (National Newspaper) weighs in:

Three months after it was elected, Iraq’s new parliament convened on June 14 for a mere 18 minutes. Two men sat smiling in the front row: the prime minister Nouri al Maliki and Ayad Allawi, the former premier whose coalition won a narrow plurality of seats in the legislature. Each insists that he should lead the next government.
But the man who might well be the kingmaker in forming a government and the selection of a new prime minister was not at the Baghdad convention centre for the swearing-in ceremony. Muqtada al Sadr, the anti-American Shiite cleric, was in the Iranian holy city of Qom, where he has lived in self-imposed exile since 2007.

Meanwhile Heath Druzin (Stars & Stripes) reports Iraqiya's Hassan al-Alawi says that Ayad Allawi and Nouri al-Maliki will not come to an understanding or merge: "Not now and not ever, because the Shia and Kurdish parties will not allow it." Day Press reports that the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council leader Ammar al-Hakim was in Syria yesterday meeting with the country's President Bashar al-Assad and that the Syrian president "expressed the hope that the Iraqi political forces reach a unified stance to form a national unity government caring for the interests of the Iraqi people and serving as an introduction to the restoration of security and stability in Iraq and in the region in general." Xinhua notes, "Syria is currently hosting more than one million Iraqi refugees who have fled their home country since 2003." Alsumaria TV adds, "Sayyed Ammar Al Hakim for his part praised Syria’s supportive and helpful stand towards Iraqi people’s concerns and its keenness on preserving Iraq’s unity, security, stability and territorial integrity."

Reuters notes a Mosul grenade attack which injured two people and a Tuz Khurmato roadside bombing which injured two police officers and appeared to target a Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council member (which would be the second time this week SIIC was attacked) and, dropping back to last night, a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured a couple.

The Senate Democratic Policy Committee continues addressing a number of issues, check out the DPC's video page, and we'll note Senator Robert Menendez speaking on the Gulf Disaster.

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