Iraqi prisoner charges that U.S. soldiers forced him into gay sex acts

BY admin

May 07 2004 11:00 PM ET

In the latest allegations of abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the hands of American soldiers, a victim says he was forced to strip naked and pose in sex acts with other male inmates. The charges, which also include claims that some men were sodomized with various objects, have reignited concerns about rampant homophobia in the U.S. military and angered gay rights groups. Detainee Idhia al-Shweiri said the ordeal was worse than the torture he endured as a prisoner under Saddam Hussein. "They wanted us to feel as though we were women, the way women feel, and this is the worst insult, to feel like a woman," he said.

Allegations of mistreatment at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad exploded across the world this week after CBS's 60 Minutes II broadcast images allegedly showing Iraqis stripped naked, hooded, and being tormented by their U.S. captors. An internal U.S. Army report found that Iraqi detainees were subjected to "sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses," according to The New Yorker magazine.

Al-Shweiri said American soldiers asked him to remove his clothes only once and for about 15 minutes. "I thought they wanted me to change into the red prison uniform, so I took off my clothes, down to my underwear. Then he asked me to take off my underwear. I started arguing with him, but in the end he made me take off my underwear," al-Shweiri said.

He and six other prisoners--all hooded--had to face the wall and bend over a little as they put their hands on the wall. "They made us stand in a way that I am ashamed to describe. They came to look at us as we stood there. They knew this would humiliate us," he said, adding that he was not sodomized. "They were trying to humiliate us, break our pride. We are men. It's OK if they beat me. Beatings don't hurt us, it's just a blow. But no one would want their manhood to be shattered," he said.

Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society, told the Southern Voice newspaper that such acts are "no different than the concept of sex between two people who are not married," recognizing that homosexuality is a sin in Muslim culture. "The viewings of [simulated] homosexual acts, piling people on top of one another would be viewed as tremendously outrageous and shameful to the greater Muslim population."

Aaron Belkin, director of the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told the newspaper that "the events reflect the most base, paranoid, or extreme elements of military homophobia. There are many different layers to homophobia--gays and straights can't trust one another, gays are rapists, homosexuality is a mental illness--but these instances of torture in Iraq represent the most extreme, fringe paranoid elements of homophobia, that to be gay is to be subhuman."

The [London] Daily Mirror has published a front-page picture of a British soldier apparently urinating on a hooded prisoner. The newspaper said it had been given the pictures by serving soldiers from the Queen's Lancashire Regiment. For months, human rights groups and former prisoners had complained of mistreatment at detention centers. But their protests were widely dismissed as politically motivated until the U.S. command started an investigation in January. Six American soldiers are now facing court-martial.

America's top general, Richard Myers, has maintained there was no "systematic abuse" and that the actions of "just a handful" have unfairly tainted all American forces. However, Amnesty International said it has uncovered a "pattern of torture" of Iraqi prisoners by coalition troops and called for an independent investigation into the claims of abuse. Dan Senor, spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority, said the U.S. investigation will be full and aggressive. "Careers will be ended, and criminal charges are going to be leveled," he told CNN.

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