By Steve Inskeep
Possibly having run out of other people to kill for the moment, Iraq's Shiite militias are turning on gay men. That's the conclusion of a Human Rights Watch report out this week.
The report is painful to read. It begins with the words of an Iraqi man describing the abduction, murder, and mutilation of his partner -- and it's not clear from the description if the three events happened in that order. Like many HRW reports it appears to be based on the specific, detailed accounts of survivors and eyewitnesses. Homosexuality in Iraq is so thoroughly submerged that according to the report there is not even a commonly accepted term for it, no Iraqi equivalent of "gay." Nevertheless it has become a major focus for Iraqi militiamen, who have waged a "killing campaign" to eliminate what some consider it a social disease brought by the American army.
For anyone who may be tempted to think that HRW is just superimposing Western values on a Muslim country, the report goes on to allege that murders are disallowed under the tenets of Islam. The authors of the HRW report took the trouble to look up Islamic law on the subject. Muslim jurisprudence, they write, "considers homosexual conduct between men a crime," punishable by anything ranging from a warning to death.
Yet it would appear that even a conservative reading of Islam offers some safeguards for people suspected of violating religious dictates. There must be substantial evidence for their behavior. There are even more requirements before a serious punishment can be imposed. A false allegation can lead to punishment for the accuser.
It is hard to believe that a man whose body was thrown in the garbage received the due process to which he was entitled even under religious law. And it goes without saying that he received no protection at all from the actual civil authorities in Iraq.
(Steve Inskeep co-hosts Morning Edition. This is part a series of "recommended reading" posts that highlight stories NPR hosts have heard, read or seen that they think are worth noting.)
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