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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
May 12, 2006

Death squad kills Iraqi boy for having sex with men

 

Baghdad, Iraq--A 14-year-old boy was murdered by an apparent police death squad in early April because he had sex with men.

Ahmed Khalil was shot repeatedly in front of his home in a poor section of the capital by men wearing police uniforms, leading human rights activists to warn that the country�s security forces are riddled with members of religious militia intent on furthering their own sects� agendas.

While the United States government reports on anti-gay violence in neighboring countries like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, both U.S. allies, there are not yet any State Department data on homophobic attacks in occupied Iraq.

According to Ali Hili, a gay Iraqi expatriate living in the United Kingdom, police questioned Ahmed�s father about his activities before coming for the youth.

Hili is Middle East affairs spokesperson for the British LGBT advocacy group OutRage! and coordinator of the Iraqi LGBT-UK Group, a network of LGBT Iraqi exiles in the United Kingdom.

�Young Ahmed was a victim of poverty,� he explained. �After the U.S.-led invasion, the Iraqi economy collapsed, causing widespread unemployment and the disintegration of social services.�

�Ahmed�s father worked as a night watchman on a building site for the pitiful wage of $10 a month, plus permission for him and his family to live on the site until the construction of the new houses was completed.� Hili said. �They lived in the shell of the unfinished buildings. It was a life of desolation and destitution.�

Hili continued, �It is unclear whether Ahmed was gay or not. He had sex with men, often in exchange for small amounts of money and food. He did this in order to help his family financially. Sometimes they were so desperate, he had sex for a few potatoes or some bread.�

Khalil�s survival strategy, however, earned him unwanted attention in the area.

�Ahmed�s �gay� reputation spread all over his neighborhood, causing great scandal,� Hili noted. �His behavior was reported to the police by informants in the community.�

�According to a neighbor, who saw Ahmed�s execution from his bedroom window, four uniformed police officers arrived at Ahmed�s house in a four-wheel-drive police pick-up truck,� he said. �The neighbor saw the police drag Ahmed out of the house and shoot him at point-blank range� in the head and body.

�Two days before Ahmed�s execution, his father was arrested and interrogated by the police. They demanded to know what he knew about Ahmed�s sexual activities and blamed Ahmed for corrupting the community,� he noted. �Officers eventually released Ahmed�s father. His son was killed soon afterwards.�

The family left the al-Dura district of Baghdad shortly after the murder, fearing police retaliation and community reprisals.

Hili and other LGBT activists note that there are strong indications that Iraqi security forces have been infiltrated by powerful militia under the control of extremist clerics, most notably Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani�s Badr Corps.

Al-Sistani issued a fatwa, an Islamic legal pronouncement, in March calling for the murder of gay men and lesbians. Before the 2003 invasion, the power of al-Sistani and other Shiite and Sunni clerics was held in check under the totalitarian regime of Saddam Hussein, who was a secular Sunni intolerant of any who challenged his authority, including religious leaders.

Since his ouster by U.S.-led forces, however, hard-line Muslim clergy have gained a great deal of power in the country. In addition to the persecution of LGBT people, women are often attacked for going out in public without a male chaperone, and some parents have been pressured to pull their daughters out of school.

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