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Thursday, April 9

Milliband's FCO joins Smith's Home Office in denial over pogram of Iraqi LGBT

Pink Paper reports that the Foreign Office says it is looking into the reports which emerged last week of gays in Iraq on deathrow for being gay.

The Iraqi LGBT group has since stated that five of their members in Iraq are on deathrow for being members of their organisation.

In responding to these reports, Bill Rammell, minister of state, said:

“The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has received some reports of violence committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation. But these allegations have so far been uncorroborated and we have consequently been unable to raise them with the government of Iraq.

There does not however appear to be any systemic or institutionalised abuse of the homosexual community in Iraq. FCO officials remain in contact with vulnerable groups and organisations such as the UK-based Iraqi Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans-Gender Group, and are looking into their most recent reports. The UK condemns the persecution of any individual because of their sexual orientation.”
This is absolutely outrageous. There is a thick file of media reports, including one of deaths in Baghdad this week, carried out by death squads, as well as UN, Human Rights Watch and IGLHRC reports of "systemic or institutionalised abuse".

Rammell should be ashamed of himself. Following the State Department denials it looks like the invading alliance is engaged in nothing but "systemic or institutionalised abuse" of Iraqi LGBT.

Bill Rammell MP
Minister of State
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street

Tel: 020 7008 2090


Tuesday, April 7

G20 death: witness statements

An innocent bystander, Ian Tomlinson, died at the G20 protests and today's release of damming video in The Guardian has the police banged to rights.

Another angle from Channel Four:

These eyewitness statements make the point that the protester who provided the medical aid to Tomlinson which was lacking from his 'protectors' was "very brave" in the face of police charges.


Lots more stinks about what happened which deserves a bigger inquiry. The beat-up in the media about 'expected violence' in the period before by police PR, the presence of hundreds of media cameras at the exact spot where a window was broken, why one branch of RBS went without being boarded up despite being in a spot protesters were known to be converging on, how the totally peaceful climate camp was violently broken up after media withdrew. The latter has several videos which show peaceful protesters being battoned and beaten.

We know from the policing of the Kent climate camp that police lie. Ordinary Brits need to know that it's not a fringe group which is being assaulted here but their own freedom to speak out against 'the powers that be'. It is quite powerful to see that in the initial reaction to the release of the Tomkinson video in The Guardian that 'middle England', as represented by Daily Mail readers, seems to be quite aware of just whose side the cops are on: not theirs.

Monday, April 6

Forget Twitter, try nanoblogging

Does Hillary know this man?

Last week the Iraqi LGBT group reported that some of an upcoming batch of executions in Iraq, which had been reported by Amnesty International, were of gay men being executed for homosexuality.

The group has suffered severe persecution in Iraq. It runs safe houses for LGBT fleeing death threats and says that many of its members have been murdered by both death squads and police forces.

Iraqi police have been reported as being infiltrated by both insurgents and religious groups.

Iraqi LGBT claims that the government since mid December 2008 has "a mass campaign to [eliminate] homosexuality". They say they have "many eyewitnesses" and that "members of the police and ministry of interior forces is actually involved on the mass arrest and taking suspects of homosexuality off the streets to unknown destination".

Homosexuality was made a crime by Saddam Hussein in 2001 following pressure by clerics. Repeated convictions carries the death penalty.

In response to the report by Iraqi LGBT the Boston gay newspaper EDGE spoke to the US State Department and in an astonishing rebuttal a spokesperson, John Fleming, who has worked at their Iraqi Desk through the Bush presidency, denied that Iraq's government executed any people since 2007 and that homosexuality is a crime.

He told the EDGE that any criminals now awaiting possible execution are there for crimes such as "terrorism, insurgency and kidnapping." Their sexual identity is irrelevant to the charges, he said.

"None were convicted of the ’crime’ of being homosexual," Fleming said. "In fact, it’s immaterial to Iraqis."

This is the same State Department which in 2006, following horrific reports in US media, the issuing of a fatwa calling for the killing of gays by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, United Nations reports and pressure from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), declared itself ‘troubled’ over anti-gay violence in Iraq.

Fleming asserted that "the average Iraqi" had other issues to concern themselves with and that this issue was "a luxury."

This appears to contradict Hillary Clinton, who told European Parliament last month that the persecution of gays and lesbians is "something that we take very seriously".

She added condemnation of where persecution was "condoned and protected."

Fleming disputes the reports by organisations like the UN and IGLHRC of a 'deathzone' for Iraqi LGBT. In fact he denied that homosexuality was a crime punishable by death.

Despite this, the issue of 'individual rights' was something US forces "frequently raise with Iraqi leaders and officials," he said.

It is unfortunate that due to language issues and bad reporting (such as of all those on death row being gay) that the urgent calls from Iraqi gays for help have been lost in translation. It's essential that other groups like the UN and IGLRC urgently investigate and substantiate Iraqi LGBT's reports.

What is clear is that Iraq's government has form. Plus that homosexuality is not just a cultural but a legal and political issue there. There are grounds to believe Iraqi LGBT reports that there would be a government organised pogram of LGBT.

What Iraqi LGBT are saying is that in Iraq we currently have the world's worst 'deathzone' for LGBT, far worse than Iran.

It may not suit the interests of western governments who support the Iraqi government to say this so it is up to others to hold Hillary Clinton to her words in Brussels as well as the fine words of David Milliband on LGBT rights.

And when she returns to Washington Hillary might want to look at what her spokespeople are saying in her name.

Postscript: Human Rights Watch (HRW) are reportedly trying to obtain corroboration of gay men on death row for homosexuality. HRW's Scott Long in an email circulated to the gayswithoutborders listserv said "we are trying urgently to determine who they are and what has happened."

Sunday, April 5

Music: Jill Scott - Golden

Loving Jill Scott in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. Loving this track the most amongst many of hers.