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Kidnapped in
Iraq: The closet or death

Kidnapped in
Iraq: The closet or death


Peace activist James Loney knew he would be killed if his Iraqi captors found out he is gay. So did his partner, Dan, back in Canada, who had to go back into the closet.

The night before Canadian peace activist James Loney was due to leave Toronto for Baghdad, his longtime partner, Dan Hunt, held him close in the darkness of their bedroom.

"James turned to me and said, 'What would you do if this was going to be our last night together? How would we spend it?' " Hunt remembers.

Earlier that evening they'd played "500 Miles" by the Proclaimers and danced together. They thought of it as their song, and the next day they played it in the car on the way to the airport. "I realized that the present was all we ever have," Hunt says, "and that it was beautiful."

Loney was making his third trip to Iraq as a member of the Christian Peacemaker Teams--an ecumenical Christian organization opposed to violence and dedicated to spreading peace. The couple had talked about the possibility that Loney could die over there. "But, I said, 'My worst nightmare would be if you got kidnapped and I saw videos of you on television,' " Hunt recalls.

On November 26, 2005, Loney was ambushed near the Umm al-Qura mosque in western Baghdad and kidnapped along with three colleagues. Their kidnappers, a previously unknown insurgent group calling themselves the Swords of Righteousness Brigade, demanded the release of all Iraqi prisoners being held by coalition forces. Otherwise, they said, they would kill the hostages.

Back home Hunt was forced into a kind of captivity all his own. Should Loney's sexual orientation become known by his captors, he would almost certainly be killed. It had to be hidden. Officials handling the kidnapping, including Canada's external affairs department, asked Hunt to stay out of the story. A widely reproduced photograph of a handsome, smiling Loney appeared in print with Hunt cropped out. Hunt couldn't talk about the pain he was feeling. Outside a small circle of close friends, he couldn't tap in to the kind of public sympathy and support that the spouses and families of the other captives were getting. "I called Dan right away," says Loney's brother Matt, a meteorologist in Vancouver who was traveling in Ecuador when he first heard the news. "I knew Dan would be affected very deeply by what was going on."

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