Polis Makes Progress on Iraqi LGBT Rights
BY Kerry Eleveld
April 30 2009 12:00 AM ET
Prior to traveling to
Iraq earlier this month, Polis received a letter forwarded by
an Iraqi human rights group that was written by a jailed man
who said he was beaten into confessing he was a member of the
gay rights group Iraqi LGBT. The group said the man had been
sentenced to death in a court in Karkh, Iraq, and executed.
(The group and the author's names were not made public for
their protection.) Polis also enlisted the help of a
translator to interview by phone a transgender Iraqi man who
said he had been arrested, beaten, and raped by Ministry of
Interior security forces.
representatives Polis, Baldwin, and Frank -- the three openly
gay members of Congress --
sent a letter
on the matter to the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Christopher
"As LGBT Americans
and cochairs of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, we are
disturbed and shocked at allegations that Ministry of the
Interior Security Forces may be involved in the mass
persecution and execution of LGBT Iraqis," read the
letter. "The persecution of Iraqis based on sexual
orientation or gender identity is escalating and is
unacceptable regardless of whether these policies are
extrajudicial or state-sanctioned."
The letter called on
the U.S. embassy in Iraq to "prioritize the
investigation" of the allegations and work with the Iraqi
government to end the executions of LGBT Iraqis. Branton said
they were in the process of drafting another letter
that would be signed by more members of Congress and sent to
Secretary of State Clinton.
Ultimately, Polis would
like to see the Iraqi government state an official policy on
LGBT rights. "The Iraqi civilian government needs to make
it clear that respect for human rights is a basic Iraqi value,
including all groups that are not popular in Iraq --
Christians, gays, and atheists," he said. "There are
moderate Arab countries where homosexuals are not accepted but
at least the gays and lesbians who live there don't live in
constant fear of life and limb and being arrested and executed
by the police."
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