Op-ed: The Legacy of the Bush War on Iraqi Gays

By Advocate Contributors

Originally published on Advocate.com December 19 2011 11:13 AM ET

With the
lowering of the American flag, finally off Iraqi soil as it returns home to the
United States, and the ecstatic familial greetings of soldiers returned, the
Bush Iraq War is over. It may always be regretted by LGBT  Iraqis. They have suffered alongside all
Iraqis, not only as a result of the vanquished Saddam Hussein regime, nor only
collaterally from American bombing that comes with the brutal nuances of that
particular war, but also because of adversity imposed by being “outed” by
militias, and because of brutality by religious fanaticism that has taken hold
of post-Saddam Iraq.

While none will debate the imperative demise of Hussein, many Iraqi gays may
well have preferred that brutal reign to what they have since faced.

With the
war, quiet non-disclosure and occasional homophobic targeting gave way to a
voracious endeavor by lawless militias, and they unleashed violence against
gays in unprecedented fashion. Trillions of dollars, blood, limbs and lives are
all part of the mayhem that provides the context for this added persecution.

Gay Iraqis had to run, and they are still running. One estimate cited by Gay
Middle East
says
that more than 700 LGBT people have been killed since the U.S. led invasion,
with thousands more suffering violence, discrimination and abuse on a daily
basis.

Dan
Littauer, executive editor of Gay Middle East, told me, "While under the
dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein’s secular Ba’ath party, LGBTI people lived
under an unwritten rule akin to a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, but in post-Saddam
Iraq, this has become nearly impossible.”

LGBT Iraqis fled in multitudes to Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and other
countries, now only to be caught up in local revolutions that have caused them
further risk and at times violence.

With the Americans gone, nothing has changed for LGBT Iraqis, and peril
persists as it has for the past nine years with no promise of a solution. Just
last week President Obama issued a groundbreaking memo elucidating a progressive
LGBT foreign policy, promising asylum seekers a friend in America. And
Secretary of State Hilary Clinton spoke eloquently before the United Nations
about why LGBT rights are human rights. Yet there was no information on the
specific plans to help gay people who have been so severely impacted by the
U.S. war in Iraq.

It would do little good to leave the solution in the hands of NGOs that are
barely able to function in such dire of conditions. And it’s virtually
impossible for displaced gay people to return home because, once outed, they
face so-called “honor” killings by families who must be seen as “solving” the
problem of a “deviant” family member or risk shame, diminished social standing
and job prospects. The killings could be forced upon even relatively
open-minded families by the watchdog militias, which are apt to take the “law”
into their own hands.

“The United States and its allies surely must take some responsibility for this
situation and ought to help rectify it,” says Littauer. “It is only logical
following the ideas expressed by Secretary Clinton herself in Geneva.”

The  displaced LGBT Iraqis are
ongoing victims of this regrettable war; we must ensure they are not lost and
forgotten.

Below is a moving video that showcases the work of Gay Middle East, under its executive director,
Littauer, who with a team of dedicated grassroots writers from throughout the
Middle East have been documenting the plight of Iraqi LGBT refugees. One gay man
talks of sleeping with a gun under his pillow, and another says his sons were murdered
in retribution.

 


MELANIE NATHAN a Lawyer and human rights
advocate, Publisher of
GAY USA the Movie
and
BLOG and Blogs for O-BLOG-DEE-O-BLOG-DA.
She Tweets @melanienathan1.

Iraq's unwanted people from Gay Middle East on Vimeo.