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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
March 24, 2006

Sistani issues a fatwa
to kill gays and lesbians

Qom, Iran--Lesbians and gay men �should be killed in the worst, most severe way of killing� according to a March 15 fatwa, or legal pronouncement, issued by Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani.

Sistani, who is headquartered in Iran, is the official �supreme religious authority� of the Shi�a sect of Muslims there, and throughout neighboring Iraq.

The U.S.-backed Iraqi government is dominated by Sistani followers, who consult regularly with him on political, moral and social issues.

Sistani issued the fatwa when asked, �What is the judgment for sodomy and lesbianism?� Sistani replied, �Forbidden. Punished, in fact, killed. The people involved should be killed in the worst, most severe way of killing.�

According to the British LGBT group OutRage, Sistani�s pronouncement will worsen conditions for gay, lesbian, and transgender Iraqis, who already face increasing persecution since the U.S. invasion elevated the power of the Shi�a majority.

The Badr Corps militia, which is the armed wing of Sistani�s Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution, has been increasingly �witch hunting� lesbian and gay Iraqis, and using violence, beatings, kidnappings and assassinations to enforce Sistani�s interpretation of Shari�ah, or divine Islamic law.

Similar to what is occurring in Iran, the Badr are using internet chat rooms to entrap gay men.

Men who remain unmarried by age 30 or who are effeminate are put under surveillance by the Badr, on suspicion that they might be gay. The men are told that they have one month to change their ways and provide proof that they plan to marry a woman.

Those who don�t usually disappear and are typically found dead later, blindfolded, hands bound behind their back, and shot execution-style in the back of the head.

The Badr use similar tactics to intimidate and terrorize Sunnis, moderate Shi�a, trade unionists, women�s rights activists and secularists.

The government headed by deposed Saddam Hussein was primarily composed of secular Sunnis.

State Dept. includes gays in report

The U.S. State Department issued its 2005 human rights report earlier this month, which detailed abuses in several countries, including Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Poland and Nigeria.

Iraq, however, is not included.

For this report, the State Department was asked for the U.S. position on Sistani�s pronouncement specifically, and on the anti-gay human rights violations in Iran and Iraq in general.

The U.S. has also been accused of denying asylum to Iranian GLBT refugees.

State Dept. spokesperson Mary Thomas said they have no position on any of those matters, and no official with authority would talk to reporters regarding them.

However, Thomas provided the department�s November, 2005 condemnation of the forced hormone and psychological �treatment� of gay men in the United Arab Emirates.

�We call on the government of the United Arab Emirates to immediately stop any ordered hormone and psychological treatment and to comply with the standards of international law,� it says.

That statement followed the arrests of a dozen male couples resulting from increased persecution of gay men in the Emirates.

House members protest to Emirates

On March 16, six members of the U.S. House of Representatives led by Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank, who is gay, sent a letter to the United Arab Emirates protesting that eleven of the men were convicted and sentenced to six years in prison.

Frank was joined by Florida Republican Ileana Ros- Lehtinen, who chairs the International Relations subcommittee on Middle East and Central Asia, California Democrat Tom Lantos, the ranking member on the Committee on International Relations and a Holocaust survivor, New York Republican James Leach, a senior member of the International Relations Committee, New York Democrat Carolyn Maloney, the ranking member of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy, Trade and Technology, and New York Democrat Gary Ackerman, the ranking member on the International Relations Subcommittee on Middle East and Central Asia.

�We are very disappointed in these verdicts, and we think they contradict the claim in your letter of a respect for diversity in the UAE,� the letter states.

The six noted an earlier letter from UAE Ambassador Al Asri Al Dhahri to Frank in December. �Your letter also cites UAE adherence to �international principles and conventions concerning human rights which prohibit the persecution of anyone.� We must tell you that we are not aware of any international human rights conventions that condone state-sponsored animus against and persecution of adult men who are or who are believed to be gay.�

Thomas also said the State Department has no further statement on its vote in favor of an Iranian resolution denying United Nations non-governmental organization consultative status to the International Lesbian and Gay Association in January.

ILGA monitors and attempts to bring world attention to human rights abuses against GLBT people in countries including Iran, Iraq and the UAE. U.N. status would have given them much greater ability to complete their mission.

The U.S. said at the time, that the vote was due to a relationship that ILGA once had with the North American Man-Boy Love Association, a claim considered spurious and which was widely condemned by human rights organizations.

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