Iraq: Violence against LGBT people goes unpunished

(Baghdad) – Armed groups in Iraq are kidnapping, raping, torturing and killing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people with impunity, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today in conjunction with IraQueer. The police also sometimes arrest LGBT people, in some cases subjecting them to violence.

In an 86-page report titled “Everybody Wants Me to Die”: Killings, Abductions, Torture and Sexual Abuse of LGBT People by Armed Groups in Iraq (Sexual Abuse of LGBT People by Armed Groups in Iraq), cases of attempted murder of LGBT people by armed groups, mainly the People’s Mobilization Squads, have been documented (” Hashd al-Shaabi ”), which are theoretically under the jurisdiction of the prime minister. Human Rights Watch also analyzed cases in which LGBT people have been abducted, extrajudicially executed, sexually assaulted, and harassed online by police and armed groups. Human Rights Watch found that while the Iraqi government has a responsibility to protect the lives and security rights of LGBT people, it has failed to hold perpetrators of the violence accountable.

Iraqi LGBT people live in constant fear of being hunted with impunity by armed groups or being arrested and mistreated by Iraqi police, making their existence unbearable. said Rasha Younes, researcher for LGBT rights at Human Rights Watch. ” The Government of Iraq has done nothing to end this violence or bring the aggressors to justice. »

Human Rights Watch and IraQueer, an LGBT rights group, interviewed 54 Iraqi LGBT people who experienced violence from armed groups and the police. Human Rights Watch also interviewed representatives of nine human rights organizations and international organizations, as well as seven representatives of foreign missions in Iraq and LGBT rights activists. Those who testified were subjected to ill-treatment in Baghdad and other cities in Iraq, as well as in Kurdistan. Human Rights Watch also examined online content relating to attacks against LGBT people, including videos, images, and digital threats.

Both organizations found that the ability and willingness of LGBT people to report abuse they have experienced to the police or file complaints against law enforcement officials has been hampered by a combination of vaguely defined “morality” articles in the Iraqi Penal Code, and that there is no reliable complaints or legislation that protects them from discrimination. They found that all of this created an environment in which armed government actors, including the police, could commit abuses against LGBT people with impunity.

A 31-year-old Iraqi transgender woman testified that she was on her way home from work in February 2021 when six men in a Hummer with tinted windows stopped in front of her near a garbage dump in Baghdad. ” They took out a razor blade and a screwdriver and started poking and cutting me all over my body, especially my buttocks, crotch and thighs. she told Human Rights Watch and IraQueer. ” They cut me up, poured petrol all over my body and face, and then set me on fire. »

A 27-year-old gay man from Baghdad described how four members of an armed group tortured his boyfriend in front of him in May 2020: “ Then they shot him five times. »

In eight cases, abuses by armed groups and the police, including arbitrary arrests and sexual harassment, were directed against children between the ages of 15 and 17. Most of those attacked were able to identify the culprit armed group. The groups Asaib Ahl al-Haqq, Atabat, the Badr organization, Kataib Hezbollah, the Raba Allah group and Saraya al-Salam are involved in the most serious violations.

Witnesses spoke of regular arrests and ill-treatment by members of the security forces, who verbally and physically abused them, and arbitrarily arrested and detained them, often without any legal basis.

LGBT people also reported abuses committed during their detention, such as deprivation of food and water and denial of the right to contact a lawyer or their relatives and the right to treatment. Some testified that police officers subjected them to sexual abuse, physical abuse and forced them to sign certificates stating that they had not been abused.

In June 2021, the Kurdistan Police in Iraq issued an arrest warrant based on Article 401 of the Criminal Code, which criminalizes ” public indecency against eleven LGBT rights activists who currently or previously worked for the Rasan Organization, a human rights group based in Sulaymaniyah. In March 2022, the case remained under investigation, even though the authorities did not take the activists into custody.

Most of the testimonies also indicated that these individuals had experienced extreme violence at the hands of male relatives at least once because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. Examples of such abuse include being locked in a room for extended periods, being deprived of food and water, being burned, beaten, raped, electroshocked, assaulted with a firearm, forced conversion and hormonal treatment, being forced into a marriage or being forced to work long hours without pay.

Iraqi authorities should investigate all reports of violence, including by armed groups, against people who are victims because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity and expression; they must hold accountable, fairly try and appropriately punish the perpetrators, and publicly and directly condemn all such acts of violence, Human Rights Watch said. The government must take appropriate measures to stop torture, disappearances, summary executions and other abuses, including those related to sexual orientation, gender expression and identity, and must compensate the survivors of serious violations and the families of all victims of killings by armed groups.

Iraqi security forces must stop harassing and arresting LGBT people because of their sexual orientation or gender expression and instead protect them from violence. Iraq should enact and enforce legislation against discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Countries providing military, security and intelligence assistance to Iraq, including the US, UK, Germany and France, should push the Iraqi authorities to investigate allegations of abuse by armed groups and the role of their own support in these alleged abuses. These countries must suspend military, security and intelligence assistance to units involved in these violations and publicly justify any suspension or cessation of assistance.

LGBT Iraqi lives will continue to be lost unless the Iraqi government immediately puts an end to violence and impunity. “- concluded Rasha Younes. ” Iraqi authorities should start by publicly condemning violence against LGBT people and respecting their right to protection in their country. »

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