NPR logo Report: Gays Being Targeted By Militias In Iraq; Hundreds Murdered

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Report: Gays Being Targeted By Militias In Iraq; Hundreds Murdered

In Iraq, "death squads ... (are) singling out men whom they considered not 'manly' enough, or whom they suspected of homosexual conduct," Human Rights Watch reports today. Hundreds are thought to have been murdered.

The organization's report, called They Want Us Exterminated, says that the killings are being carried out by militias (with the "Mahdi Army" bearing "primary responsibility") and that they:

Are committed with impunity, admonitory in intent, with corpses dumped in garbage or hung as warnings on the street. The killers invade the privacy of homes, abducting sons or brothers, leaving their mutilated bodies in the neighborhood the next day. They interrogate and brutalize men to extract names of other people suspected of homosexual conduct.

They specialize in grotesque and appalling tortures: several doctors told Human Rights Watch about men executed by injecting glue up their anuses. Their bodies have appeared by the dozens in hospitals and morgues.

How many have been killed will likely never be known: the failure of authorities to investigate compounds the fear and shame of families to ensure that reliable figures are unattainable. A well-informed official at the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) told Human Rights Watch in April that the dead probably already numbered "in the hundreds."

The Associated Press writes that "an Iraqi Interior Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the issue with the media, acknowledged there has been a sharp escalation in attacks against gay men this year by suspected Shiite extremists."

Human Rights Watch calls on the militias to cease their attacks and on the Iraqi government to condemn them and "take all appropriate measures to end torture, disappearances, summary killings, and other abuses, including abuses based on sexual orientation and gender expression and identity."

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