Human Rights Watch will today call on the Iraqi government to do more to protect gay men, saying that hundreds of suspected homosexuals may have been killed there in recent months.
Although the scope of the problem remains unclear, hundreds of gay men may have been killed this year in predominantly Shiite Muslim areas, the report’s authors said, basing their conclusion on interviews with gay Iraqi men, hospital officials and an unnamed United Nations official in Baghdad. “The government has done absolutely nothing to respond,” said Scott Long, director of the gay rights program at Human Rights Watch. “So far there has been pretty much a stone wall.” Homosexuality was tacitly accepted during the last years of Saddam Hussein’s rule, but Iraqis have long viewed it as taboo and shameful. Iraq’s human rights minister, Wijdan Salim, has expressed concern about the reported slayings, but few other government officials have addressed the issue publicly or indicated that they are disturbed by the reports. A senior police official in Baghdad said authorities could not effectively protect gay men because they often do not report crimes.
According to Human Rights Watch, the killings have waned recently as gay men have fled their communities or gone into hiding.