Monday, April 5, 2021. Iraq's LGBTQ community remains under attack, the country's prime minister goes begging, the US might have been targeted with a Sunday attack -- all that, Eric London and much more.
It's being called "an attack on human rights," the latest targeting of LGBTQs -- and those assumed to be -- in Iraq. The surprise may be that the attack is taking place in the Kurdistan region and not Baghdad. Specifically, it's taking place in the city of Sulaimai. The American University of Iraq is located in Sulaimai and they describe the city as follows:
The welcoming city of Sulaimani is known as the cultural center of the picturesque Kurdish region of Northern Iraq, offering a variety of historical sites, literary and outdoor activities, cafes, restaurants and recreational parks.
Located in the mountains, Sulaimani offers beautiful, mild weather and many opportunities to hike and picnic with friends and family.
Expats and students living in Sulaimani can find an active social life at the city’s modern cafes, restaurants, amusement parks, new shopping malls and cinemas.The central bazaar, local art galleries and museums offer a glimpse into the history of Sulaimani. A few hours’ drive from Sulaimani, the capital city Erbil offers five-star hotels, cinemas, and shopping malls. Erbil is home to the one of the world’s oldest citadels.
Homophobia does not respect geography or geographical borders. It can -- and, sadly, does -- exist anywhere. Iraq's LGBTQ community is again under attack -- specifically in Sulaimani. The current attacks are rooted in homophobia that's been expressed for over three months on social media with various homophobes insisting that the American University of Iraq- Sulaimani has been promoting gay rights -- specifically that the gender studies department there has been. In late February, Dilan Sirwan (RUDAW) reported:
Now the region has gone beyond slamming the American University and filing lawsuits, LGBTQs -- and those assumed to be -- are being arrested in Sulaimani.
When the arrests began on Friday, Dilan Sirwan (RUDAW) spoke with members of the city's LGBT community:
The recent arrest of "suspected" LGBTQ+ activists in the Iraqi city of Sulaimani is "a crime on human rights", an Iraqi-Kurdish MP said on Sunday.
The arrest of members of the "rainbow community", MP Shadi Nawzad warned, is a violation of "human rights".
"We need to know those arrested were arrested on what basis," Nawzad said, who is also a member of Iraqi-Kurdish parliament's Social Affairs and Protection of Human Rights Committee.
"The arrest of people on charges that they are from the rainbow community is in itself a violation of human rights."
Last week, the US State Dept issued its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and this is from the one on Iraq:
Significant human rights issues included: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings; forced disappearances; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment; harsh and life-threatening prison and detention center conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression, the press, and the internet, including violence against journalists, threats of violence, unjustified arrests and prosecutions against journalists, censorship, site blocking, and existence of criminal libel; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly; legal restrictions on freedom of movement of women; forced returns of internally displaced persons to locations where they faced threats to their lives and freedom; threats of violence against internally displaced persons and returnee populations perceived to have been affiliated with ISIS; widespread official corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for violence against women; crimes involving violence targeting members of ethnic minority groups; violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex persons; criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults; and restrictions on worker rights, including restrictions on formation of independent unions; discrimination in employment of migrants, women, and those with disabilities; and the worst forms of child labor.
On LGBTQs, the report notes:
The penal code criminalizes consensual same-sex conduct if those engaging in the conduct are younger than age 18, while it does not criminalize any same-sex activities among adults. Despite repeated threats and violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals, specifically gay men, the government failed to identify, arrest, or prosecute attackers or to protect targeted individuals.
In May the Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned foreign embassies for offending what it called the country’s “norms and values” when the EU mission hoisted the rainbow flag, commonly associated with LGBTI persons, on the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. Several Iraqi leaders from across the political spectrum also condemned the incident, with some calling for the EU mission to be closed. A few days later, media outlets reported that a young gay man was killed in Baghdad’s Sadr City neighborhood, and another in Babil Province, in an apparent backlash against the flag raising.
LGBTI individuals also faced intimidation, threats, violence, and discrimination in the IKR. LGBTI individuals reported they could not live openly in the IKR without fear of violence at the hands of family members, acquaintances, or strangers. Rasan Organization for gender-based violence and LGBT awareness posted a video documentary in September 2019 about the impact of COVID-19 on LGBT individuals in the IKR. LGBTI individuals struggled to be accepted by their family members and the IKR community and disguised their identity from their families due to fear of violence, verbal abuse, and killing.
According to NGOs, Iraqis who experienced severe discrimination, torture, physical injury, and the threat of death on the basis of real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics had no recourse to challenge those actions via courts or government institutions.
Journalist Robert Cole (BBC, REUTERS, etc) Tweets:
Human Rights Watch's Belkis Wille Tweeted:
You have journalists, professors, human rights watch activists and -- and! -- a US Consulate drawing attention to the targeting but not one word in the US press. Who's been caught not doing their job yet again?
The official account of Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed, ruler of the UAE, Tweeted:
MENA reports that Iraq's prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi departed the UAE on Sunday and "Seeing the State's guest and his accompanying delegation off at the Presidential Terminal of Abu Dhabi International Airport, were H.H. Lt. General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, and a number of officials." Mustafa has been on his begging tour of Arab countries. ARAB NEWS notes, "Al-Kadhimi’s visit to the UAE comes after his trip to Saudi Arabia last week, during which Riyadh said it would increase investments in Iraq by five-fold to $2.67 billion." Vivian Nereim (BLOOMBERG NEWS) also notes the $2.67 billion and adds, "Iraq maintains ties with both Saudi Arabia and Iran, regional rivals who back opposing sides in Middle East conflicts including Yemen. Al-Kadhimi’s first trip abroad as leader last year was to Iran, and U.S. troops are stationed in Iraq to fight Islamic State militants, alongside Iranian-backed Shiite militias." So that's $2.67 billion from Saudi Arabi and, EMIRATES NEWS AGENCY notes, $3 billion from the UAE. A total of $5.67 billion from just two countries. (Later this spring, Mustafa's scheduled to meet with leaders in Jordan and Egypt.)
Meanwhile a Sunday attack in Iraq is being seen as an attack on US interests in Iraq and, as WION points out, this attack comes "just three days ahead of a strategic dialogue with" the US government. AP reports, "Two rockets landed Sunday near an Iraqi air base just north of Baghdad where American trainers are present, causing no casualties or damage, an Iraqi official said." RUDAW notes, "The Katyusha rockets landed outside of the airbase at around 12:15 pm, and did not cause any human or material losses, according the statement released on Telegram. They were reportedly launched from Diyala province's Dojama area." Mychael Schnell (THE HILL) observes, "The last attack on Balad air base, according to Reuters, was on March 15, when at least five rockets landed on the base." Riya Baibhawi (REPUBLIC WORLD) explains, "Amidst rising friction between Baghdad and Washington, assaults have seen a spike. Last month, a similar attack, which involved 10 rockets hitting a base in western Iraq led to the killing of at least one American contractor. In late February, Washington ordered strikes against Iran-aligned militia targets along the Iraq-Syria border." AFP offers, "Sunday’s was the 14th attack against American interests — including troops, the Baghdad embassy or Iraqi supply convoys to foreign forces — since US President Joe Biden took office in January. Two Americans and an Iraqi civilian have been killed in the attacks."
On Friday, Politico reported that New York Democratic Congresswoman and Democratic Socialists of America member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez transferred $160,000 in campaign funds to a slate that includes “CIA Democrats”—right-wing congressional Democrats with intelligence and military backgrounds. Politico reported that the contributions were unsolicited and were aimed “to help keep the House majority ahead of a tough cycle.” While Politico only lists Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania, Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and Carolyn Bourdeaux of Georgia by name, it appears based on the report that Ocasio-Cortez donated $5,000 to each of 32 “frontline” candidates selected by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in high-profile midterm races.
This list of “frontline” candidates includes many prominent CIA Democrats whom the World Socialist Web Site has identified as having been former representatives of the Pentagon and intelligence agencies. In 2018, the WSWS published a three-part series by Patrick Martin detailing efforts by the military-intelligence agencies to flood the Democratic Party with loyal operatives.
Beneficiaries of Ocasio-Cortez’s financial support include Elissa Slotkin (a former CIA agent), Conor Lamb (Marine captain and military prosecutor), Tom Malinowski of New Jersey (an assistant secretary of state under Barack Obama), Abigail Spanberger (CIA operations officer) and Elaine Luria (Navy commander), both of Virginia, Mikie Sherrill (Navy pilot in the Middle East) and Andy Kim (adviser to the US military command, Afghanistan and Iraq director for the National Security Council), both of New Jersey and Jared Golden of Maine (Marine infantryman).
Slotkin and Lamb have indicated they will return the donations for fear their Republican opponents will associate them with Ocasio-Cortez.
Ocasio-Cortez’s financial support for the CIA Democrats is another lesson in the futility of all efforts to transform the capitalist Democratic Party into a vehicle for progressive social reform.
By transferring funds given to her by left-wing supporters into the war chests of the CIA Democrats, Ocasio-Cortez provides an example in financial terms of the fundamental political dynamic of right-wing Democratic Party politics. Far from moving the Democratic Party to the left, figures like Ocasio-Cortez merely trap left-wing social opposition, disarm it, and transform it into political capital for the very establishment they claim to oppose.
Her support for the CIA Democrats undermines her claim to represent opposition to war. She is providing direct political support to individuals responsible for the US-led wars that have devastated broad swaths of the Middle East and killed over one million people in the last two decades alone.
We're going to note Eric London's appearance last week on THE CONVO COUCH.
Fiorella and Craig were smart to have him on and Eric was smart not to pull a Jerry White -- or rather a full Jerry White. Jerry made an ass out of himself -- a point Ann made at WSWS before WSWS pulled her comment -- on THE JIMMY DORE SHOW -- by having a fit over a previous guest. See "The WSWS embraces censorship and derangement (Ava and C.I.)" for the'outrageous' comment that WSWS pulled. Eric didn't have a fit but he wasted everyone's time.
Unlike Eric, I've been on talk shows -- nationally broadcast ones -- and I've never felt the need to say, "Dave, before we get into the new project, let's just have Paull and the band take it down a notch because r just need to go back a moment because the guest in the segment before me said . . ." No one cares. It's rude. it's outrageous. If you're on a talk show to promote something -- film, music, ideology, whatever -- use your time wisely.
I get it, Eric, I do. You and WSWS painted yourself into a corner and don't know how to get out of it. You launched crazy conspiracy nonsense in the fall of 2020 and never let up. You used it -- let's be honest -- to try to steep people into voting for Joe Biden. That's what it was about and that's why your magazine's lousy candidate Joseph Kishore all but closed his presidential campaign over a month before the election.
You need to let it go. It's done too much harm to WSWS. People walked away and some are not going back. "I was wrong" or "What was I thinking" -- two easy phrases to get out of the mess you are currently in.