The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and MADRE, the global women’s rights group, have issued a joint statement about recent reports that ISIS has executed men on charges of homosexuality.
IGLHRC and MADRE caution concerned members of the media, representatives of foreign governments and people of conscience generally in the strongest possible terms against assuming that the men identified as ‘gay’ and against assuming the men engaged in homosexual acts. Other than the photos themselves, very little is known about these executions. IGLHRC has tried to independently verify the events that occurred with little success to date. Without credible evidence, it is crucial to exercise extreme caution in how the event is reported and how the men are described.
At this time, to publicly call Iraqi men “gay” can only do harm. If the men did not identify as gay, the allegation is inaccurate and obscures the Islamic State’s motivation for publicly labeling them as such. If the men indeed identified as gay, extreme caution should be exercised and consultation held with those they loved. If the men identified as gay, widespread publicity potentially exposes their families, loved ones and intimate partners to harm. Honor killings are pervasive in Iraq, so the safety of those most affected must be a paramount concern.
Furthermore, to assume that the executions were for sodomy solely on the basis of information from the Islamic State is dangerous. Without evidentiary basis or independent confirmation, this sweeping allegation could be applied to anyone the Islamic State seeks to discredit—including human rights activists and anyone opposed to the Islamic State. Accusing opponents of homosexuality is a tried and true tool used to discredit political adversaries throughout the world.
Accuracy is absolutely needed to moderate the level of fear of LGBTI Iraqis living in areas controlled by the Islamic State. During the anti-emo killings in 2012, rumors circulated alleging that upwards of a thousand people had been killed for perceived gender and sexual non-conformity, while the documented number was nearer ten. In response, IGLHRC interviewed LGBTI Iraqis and found that some fled the country, were shunned, isolated themselves at home too afraid to venture into the streets, and experienced high levels of suicidal ideation. The stakes today are high enough; allies in the media, foreign governments, and among concerned friends globally must understand accurately what occurred and avoid risky inflations of the threat level.
In recent posts about these reports I have described the victims as “allegedly gay” and of having been “accused of being gay.” I’ve also excerpted press accounts which note that Islamists sometimes accuse their political enemies of being homosexuals in order to “justify” their executions. Hit the top link for more about this issue.