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Stop the antigay
Iraqi killings now!

Stop the antigay
Iraqi killings now!


LGBT Iraqis are being slaughtered with the blessing of Islamic religious leaders. How can you help? Start by speaking up--in particular, by demanding that U.S. politicians do their duty to protect the people of Iraq

An antigay pogrom is taking place in Iraq. Gratuitous killings of gays are permitted under Iraqi law, and it is a fact that George W. Bush approved the wording of the Iraqi constitution that makes it so. Mainstream U.S. media are not reporting on the plight of Iraqi gays, nor are they discussing how to rescue them. This points out the urgent need for LGBT Americans to participate more in our democracy.

For those who have not yet learned of these circumstances, here is some background.

In August 2005, the United States was party to negotiations regarding the wording of the Iraqi constitution. The United States sanctioned the results, which included a change making Islam "the" rather than "a" main source of Iraqi law. Sharia Islamic law calls for homosexual people to be killed.

Some time around October 2005, the Ayatollah Sistani, writing in a question-and-answer section of the Arab-language version of his official Web site, issued an antigay fatwa. He was asked, "What is the judgment for sodomy and lesbianism?" He replied, "Forbidden. Punished, in fact, killed. The people involved should be killed in the worst, most severe way of killing."

Reports from gay Iraqi refugees in London who maintain contact with people in their homeland say that Sistani's fatwa is being carried out. The Badr Brigade is said to be particularly active in antigay persecution. According to the refugees and the Iraqis with whom they are in communication, identifiably gay people are attacked in the streets and beaten to death as surrounding crowds cheer on the killers. The same sources report that unmarried men approaching the age of 30 are given one month to marry a woman and then, if they fail to do so, they are murdered.

It is also reported that identifiably gay people, afraid for their lives, are hiding in the homes of sympathetic friends and relatives, much as Ann Frank sought refuge from the Nazis. They claim that even when Iraqi gays seek safe haven in the Green Zone in Baghdad, they are mocked and turned away by American soldiers. While tangential to the antigay pogrom, further reports say that Badr Brigade members also are killing people perceived to have violated Islamic law--for example, unveiled women and people who don Western dress or listen to Western music.

Why is the Bush administration, which rushed to the defense of a single Christian convert threatened with death in Afghanistan, not saying anything about the antigay pogrom in Iraq? We know that Bush himself is hostile to LGBT equality. We can also presume, with reasonable assurance of accuracy, that Bush's true salient preoccupation is protecting the production-sharing agreements he procured for U.S. oil companies operating in Iraq, despite all his fine talk about democracy and freedom.

Yet one very major reason the U.S. media and the Bush administration are silent on the subject of the antigay pogrom in Iraq is that LGBT Americans are not bothering to speak out on this issue. I know it can be hard to believe, given the realities of the Bush administration, that the United States is a democracy. But it is. And one of the curious aspects of any democracy is that the most important people in it, the people, have a responsibility but not an obligation to influence the course of their nation.

Presidents, cabinet members, and members of Congress have no choice; they are elected to do a job, and they must fulfill the responsibilities of their posts or suffer the consequences. The people, by contrast, are at liberty not to put one iota of their energy into giving direction to the government. There is no penalty of any sort for not writing to one's elected representatives, apart from that of waking up one day to find that one's country has been transformed into a hellish monster.

In the past six years, evangelical Christians have influenced the United States out of all proportion to their numbers, in ways that are even in conflict with our country's constitution. That has not happened merely because the Republican Party meticulously cultivated evangelical leaders; it has happened because grassroots evangelicals do not hesitate to communicate their views to their elected officials.

More people than I care to think about justify their criminal laziness when it comes to communicating their views to elected officials with preposterous defeatism. The recurring theme of that preposterous defeatism is, "They aren't going to listen to me."

Well, guess what? A single message from one constituent will not likely produce results, but the same message received from 500,000 constituents certainly will. Every senator and member of the House has an office e-mail address. The messages sent to it are reviewed by office staff, and what they learn from the messages is regularly discussed in strategy meetings. If senator Clinton's office receives 30 messages about the antigay pogrom in Iraq, the matter will be considered too unimportant among the people to count for anything.

Like many career politicians, senator Clinton stands for nothing except her own drive to remain in power. If 500,000 constituents sent to her office an e-mail saying that the pogo stick had to be declared the official means of transportation in New York State, we would be that much closer to such a ridiculous declaration. If 500,000 constituents sent her a message saying that the antigay pogrom in Iraq must be addressed with red hot urgency, it would be.

Traditional paper mail is a distinct tool for communication with elected officials. Unlike e-mail, a letter generally receives an acknowledgement, often a form letter but sometimes an explanation of the official's position and record on the relevant matter of concern. Like e-mail traffic, paper mail registers on the recipient's agenda. Can you imagine if, on top of 500,000 e-mails protesting the anti-gay pogrom in Iraq, senator Clinton received 500,000 paper letters on the subject?

The antigay pogrom in Iraq is profoundly disturbing. That Bush-approved language for the Iraqi constitution making the indiscriminate killing of gays a legal activity is galling beyond all measure and beneath contempt. But it also is a call to Americans to fulfill their duties within our democracy. Beyond the tragedy befalling Iraqi gays lies the one befalling American LGBT people. If you don't speak up to let them know you are there, they will act as though you are not.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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