The Republic of T.

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Beating & Killing for God

I won’t beat around the bush. The images and video after the jump are disturbing. One is from Iran, and the other two from Iraq, but all of them are startling reminders of the what happens when religious fanaticism has the force of government behind it or when it becomes de facto governance in the absence of an effective secular government.

The latter is, or ought to be, particularly disturbing since that’s basically the situation we’ve created in U.S. occupied Iraq, and because at least one prominent conservative pundit is saying outright that Americans ought to find common cause with the perpetrators of the acts described below. We should, the argument goes, be more like them, and it because we’re not that we invited attacks ilke the ones we saw on 9/11.

But first,let’s see what it is that Americans should find common ground with

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When was the last time you had a beer or went out with friends for a beer? Did you end up with anything worse than a hangover as a result? The picture above is what you’ll get for drinking a beer in public in Iran. At least according to one report. [Via Respectful Insolence.]

“We were on an outing with family and friends, six or seven in the evening, and were having a barbecue and enjoying ourselves. Altogether I drank two beers. The police happened to drive by,” Mamandy said.

He said that he was immediately arrested and taken to the police station where he was sentenced to 130 lashes. This sentence, for beer drinking, was carried out publicly according to news agency Iran Focus.

“I received 130 lashes on the back of my body. Police whipped me,” Mamandy said. He came to Norway as an asylum seeker in 1999. He lives in Drammen with his wife and they are awaiting Norwegian citizenship.

Mamandy traveled home to Norway shortly after his punishment and has been since treated by his family doctor here.

It’s easy, as one conservative blog does, to dismiss Iran as a hotbed of “liberal, progressyve values”, but that doesn’t explain why, then, the Bush administration initially stood with Iran and other Muslim fundamentalist countries to deny U.N. access to LGBT human rights activists, lest human rights protections be extended to that group, only to change it’s vote months later. That also doesn’t explain why, in 2003, the Bush administration’s handpicked U.N. delegates initially took the side of Islamic fundamentalist governments against women’s rights.

At the World Summit on Sustainable Development, in Johannesburg last September, it was, as they say, déjà vu all over again. The United States, again in the dugout with the Holy See and a number of Islamic countries, deadlocked negotiations until the eleventh hour, opposing a litany of items, including language that would characterize female genital mutilation, forced child marriage and honor killings as human rights violations. “In the end, at 1 in the morning, they agreed to language that was almost identical to what they’d been fighting the whole time,” says June Zeitlin, executive director of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization. “We got what we wanted. But the United States succeeded in stalling the conference and in alienating a lot of countries.”

Honor killings like the one meted out to Iraqi teenager Dua Khalil, in U.S. occupied Iraq (on the basis of about as much evidence as the invasion of Iraq).

Authorities in northern Iraq have arrested four people in connection with the “honor killing” last month of a Kurdish teen — a startling, morbid pummeling caught on a mobile phone video camera and broadcast around the world.

The case portrays the tragedy and brutality of honor killings in the Muslim world. Honor killings take place when family members kill relatives, almost always female, because they feel the relatives’ actions have shamed the family.

In this case, Dua Khalil, a 17-year-old Kurdish girl whose religion is Yazidi, was dragged into a crowd in a headlock with police looking on and kicked, beaten and stoned to death last month.

Authorities believe she was killed for being seen with a Sunni Muslim man. She had not married him or converted, but her attackers believed she had, a top official in Nineveh province said. The Yazidis, who observe an ancient Middle Eastern religion, look down on mixing with people of another faith.

Each year, dozens of honor killings are reported in Iraq and thousands are reported worldwide, said the United Nations. The practice has been condemned around the world by governments and human rights groups. A yearly vigil protesting honor killings is held in London, England.

The video is particularly disturbing, but should be seen nonetheless.

The case of Dua Khalil is noteworthy at least because arrests have been made. That’s different from a number of other religiously-inspired killings in Iraq. I’ve written before about the killing of gay & lesbian Iraqis by religious fundamentalist death squads. Doug Ireland has done the bulk of reporting on the subject, and just this month shared that another Iraqi gay activist has been arrested and tortured. And not just on our watch, but with Americans possibly just in the next room.

Hani, a 34-year-old nurse whose last name cannot be given for security reasons to protect him and his family, was in the Al Mansour neighborhood of Baghdad, where he lives, and searching for a taxi when he was stopped and arrested this past Sunday by five policemen riding in a police pickup truck, Hili told me by telephone from London.

“Hani was in charge of communications for our Baghdad group, and he’s been a very important part of our work in reporting and documenting the campaign of persecution and murder targeting Iraqi LGBT people,” Hili said.

“When Hani — who is obviously gay and a bit effeminate — was stopped by the police,Ali_hili_gq who demanded his identification papers, on seeing his name one of the police said, ’Yes, it’s him, he’s one of them,’ which is yet another piece of evidence that the police have a hit-list of some of our activists,” recounted Hili.

Hani was handcuffed, blindfolded, and taken to a police interrogation center. While he was in custody, Hani was beaten and tortured for several hours. “The police used a screwdriver, which they pounded into Hani’s legs with a hammer — sometimes the police use electric drills for this sort of torture — and they also beat him badly,” Hili said.

“The police tried to get Hani to admit he was a member of our Iraqi LGBT group, but he refused to say so, which is when the torture began,“ according to Hili, adding: “But Hani had his cell phone with him, and on that phone he had my cell phone number –which is listed on our website — and the phone numbers of a number of journalists, including one from the Washington Post. The police demanded to know why Hani had these phone numbers if he was not a member of our organization, and why he was in contact with journalists if he was not a member, and also threatened him with rape if he did not admit it.”

While Hani was in police custody, he heard several different voices speaking English with American accents coming from somewhere outside the room in the detention center where he was being held. “Hani asked if he could speak to one of the American soldiers and explain why he was being detained, in the hope that he might be rescued, but the police refused to allow him access to these Americans,” Hili related.

Hani was reportedly released after his family came up with a ransom of about $2000 in U.S. dollars and is now hiding in the home of a doctor. He is luckier than many other gay Iraqis. That is, if you think of living through an ordeal like his as lucky.

In September 2005, Ireland covered the story of an Iranian gay torture victim similar to Mamandy’s.

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The results are similar the picture above, and are the work of the same “morality” police.

Amir is a 22-year-old gay Iranian who was arrested by Iran’s morality police as part of a massive Internet entrapment campaign targeting gays. He was beaten and tortured while in custody, threatened with death, and lashed 100 times (see photos). He escaped from Iran in August, and is now in Turkey, where he awaits the granting of asylum by a gay-friendly country.

In a two hour telephone interview from Turkey, Amir — through a translator — provided a terrifying, first-hand account of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s intense and extensive anti-gay crackdown, which swept up Amir and made him its victim.

…A year after his first arrest, an unrepentant Amir was in a Yahoo gay chat room on the web. “Someone came into the chat room and started messaging me, but I told him he wasn’t my type and gave him a description of the kind of guy I was looking to meet. A few minutes later, another guy started messaging me. We exchanged pix, and he sent me his web-page right away — and he matched exactly all the descriptions I’d sent to the previous guy. It turned out later both guys were police agents, they had so many they could come up with one who matched the personal preferences of any gay guy in the chat rooms.”

“With this second guy, I was really excited, and we made a date for that Amir_4afternoon at a phone booth near Bagh-e-Safa bridge. When I got there, we started to walk away to talk and get to know each other. But within 30 seconds, I felt a hand laid on my shoulder from behind — it was an undercover agent in regular clothes, whose name turned out to be Ali Panahi. With two other basiji, he handcuffed me, forced me into a car, and took me back to the Intelligence Ministry headquarters, a very scary place. There I denied that I was gay, and denied that this had been a gay rendezvous — but they showed me a printout from the chatroom of my messages and my pix.”

“With this second guy, I was really excited, and we made a date for that Amir_4afternoon at a phone booth near Bagh-e-Safa bridge. When I got there, we started to walk away to talk and get to know each other. But within 30 seconds, I felt a hand laid on my shoulder from behind — it was an undercover agent in regular clothes, whose name turned out to be Ali Panahi. With two other basiji, he handcuffed me, forced me into a car, and took me back to the Intelligence Ministry headquarters, a very scary place. There I denied that I was gay, and denied that this had been a gay rendezvous — but they showed me a printout from the chatroom of my messages and my pix.”

Things haven’t gotten much better in Iran. In April 80 “suspected gay men” were arrested at a party, beaten and detained.

Police raided the birthday party of a man the rights group identified only as Farhad, beating the male guests with batons and arresting the host’s parents as well, the rights group said after talking with witnesses by phone.

The women were released soon after; witnesses said; the men remain in custody without bail or visitors.

“I went to buy a gift for Farhad and so I arrived late for the party,” a man identified as Peyman told the Iranian Queer Organization by phone.

“As soon as I turned in to their street, I saw police cars parked everywhere; all my friends were arrested while seven or eight policeman beat them with batons.

“Two had jumped from the second-floor window and were in a bad condition. Farhad’s family were also arrested. Everyone was transported into a big car and taken into custody. All their cell phones are off and we have no information about the situation inside the jail.”

A caller named Kia told the rights group, “When they were coming out of the house followed by the police, their clothes were ripped; their faces and bodies were covered in blood. They were beaten up badly.”

The men face not only the same treatment depicted above, but death as well, because homosexual activity is punishable by execution in Iran. The Canada-based Iranian Queer Organization broke the story, but has not posted an update yet.

News isn’t much better next door, for Iraq gays “liberated” by the Bush administration’s war. A partial reprieve from an anti-gay fatwa declared by cleric Ali al-Sistani was almost immediately nixed. As a result present reports are that gays and lesbians in Iraq are still hunted and killed by religious anti-gay death squads. [Via Ed.]

The Iraqi lesbian and gay community and NGOs dealing with gay issues have called for urgent action to protect gays and lesbians in the country.

The groups say that the number of victims of “sexual cleansing” is growing on a daily basis.

“In the past three months, more than 30 gays have been executed in Baghdad. The bodies have been found tortured, mutilated – sometimes with signs of rape,” said Mustafa Salim, spokesman for the Rainbow for Life Organisation (RLO), a Baghdad-based gay rights NGO.

“Notes were found near some of the bodies with messages saying that this is going to be the fate for any Muslim who denies the Islamic religion,” Salim added.

…The United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) says that it agrees that gays and lesbians are being targeted by the militias.

“Armed Islamic groups and militias have been known to be particularly hostile towards homosexuals, frequently and openly engaging in violent campaigns against them,” a report released in January by UNAMI said.

“There have been a number of assassinations of homosexuals in Iraq. We were also alerted to the existence of religious courts, supervised by religious scholars, where homosexuals allegedly would be ‘tried’, ‘sentenced’ to death and then executed,” the report added.

Activist Peter Tatchell writes of a transgendered Iraqi who was shot and killed by an religious anti-gay death squad that went on to do far more to her body.

Hasan Sabeh was a happy, talented 34-year-old transgender fashion designer, affectionately known as Tamara. He lived in the al-Mansor district of Baghdad. Two months ago, he was tending his fashion accessories stall in a street market. Out of the blue, an Islamist death squad, wearing Iraqi police uniforms, seized Tamara. They stripped off his clothes in the street and, discovering that he was a man dressed as a woman, shot him dead. Tamara’s brother-in-law was nearby and rushed to cradle his body. He, too, was shot dead at point blank range. The killers then took Tamara’s body, and hanged and mutilated it, as a warning to other gay and transgender Iraqis.

Gay people like Tamara are now being systematically targeted for execution by Shia death squads. The killers are hell-bent on turning the country into a fundamentalist Islamic state, cleansed of all “impure, unIslamic elements.” Some operate within the police and others independently. All owe their allegiance to firebrand, militant clerics.

Large parts of Iraq, including many Baghdad neighbourhoods, are now under the de facto control of fundamentalist militias and their elite death squad units – the Islamist equivalent of the Nazi SS.

Gay people are not the only victims. The militias enforce a savage interpretation of Sharia law, summarily executing people for what they denounce as “crimes against Islam”. These “crimes” include listening to western pop music, having a fashionable haircut, wearing shorts or jeans, drinking alcohol, selling videos, working in a barber’s shop, homosexuality, dancing, having a Sunni name, adultery and, in the case of women, not being veiled or walking in the street unaccompanied by a male relative.

…Saddam Hussein was a bloody tyrant. I know. For nearly 30 years, I campaigned in support of democratic and leftwing Iraqis who were struggling to overthrow his regime. Where were Bush and Blair in the 1980s? Not protesting against Saddam.

While Saddam was in power, discreet homosexuality was usually tolerated. There was certainly no danger of gay people being assassinated in the street by religious fanatics. Since his overthrow, the violent persecution of lesbians and gays is commonplace. It is actively encouraged by Iraq’s leading Muslim cleric, the British and US-backed Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. In late 2005, he issued a fatwa ordering the execution of gay Iraqis. His followers in the Islamist militias are now systematically assassinating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Lesbian and gay Iraqis cannot seek the protection of the police. Iraq’s security forces have been infiltrated by fundamentalists, especially the Badr militia. They have huge influence in the interior ministry and the police, and can kill with impunity. Pro-fundamentalist government ministers are turning a blind eye to the killings, and helping to protect the killers.

There is an irony here, that a war supposedly intended to establish democracy in Iraq — one intensely and belligerently supported by American fundamentalists (at least some of whom have openly proclaimed a holy war and declared that only “spreading the message of Jesus Christ” will stabilize Iraq — has instead created a chaotic vacuum in which a kind of guerilla theocracy thrives. Unsurprisingly, it’s a reality that spells trouble for gay, lesbian and transgendered Iraqis in the same way it would for LGBT Americans if the same happened here. And in Iraq, there’s a warning worth heeding: nonconforming heterosexuals are in as much danger as queers.

Most conservatives would, I assume, be as appalled by the above as the rest of us, even the most vehemently anti-gay among them. And even the most radical would stop short of suggesting that the perpetrators of these acts are people our country should emulate. At least not publicly. Right?

Except for Dinesh D’Souza, that is. D’Souza thinks we should find common cause with them. Plenty of conservatives publicly disagreed with him. But there are some who don’t.

That said, some American social conservatives have long expressed guarded sympathy with the radical Muslim critique of Western “decadence.” Shortly after 9/11, marriage booster Maggie Gallagher wrote a column arguing that the honest answer to “Why do they hate us?” is “our sexual culture, which even to many Americans looks not only deeply destructive, but ugly.” (She went on to add that while both women and children in traditional Islamic culture suffer severe oppression, “the family system itself works.”)

In Christianity Today, managing editor Mark Galli urged a strong stand against terrorism but also sounded a startlingly sympathetic note toward the Islamic militants’ anger at the “hedonism,” “materialism,” and “secularism” the West was exporting into their cultures. In October 2004, in the same magazine, Watergate felon turned evangelical minister Chuck Colson warned that the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States would help radical Islamic terrorists by making “our kind of freedom abhorrent” to Muslims.

Meanwhile, in May of that year, former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan asserted in his syndicated column that on such issues as homosexuality, “conservative Americans have more in common with devout Muslims than with liberal Democrats.”

…In effect, D’Souza, Colson, Buchanan and company agree with the familiar sentiment that the terrorists “hate us for our freedoms.” Their conclusion, however, is that those freedoms should be curbed—though they would say that they are talking not about freedom itself but its excesses. According to D’Souza, those excesses include the notion that “men and women should have the same roles in society” or that “freedom of expression includes the right to publish material that is sexually explicit or blasphemous.”

Yet there is no reason to believe that Islamic radicals or even most Muslim traditionalists oppose merely the “excesses” of, say, women’s liberation rather than the basic notion of female equality. The Enemy at Home includes a sympathetic discussion of Islamist ideologue Sayyid Qutb’s critique of America’s moral decadence, but D’Souza neglects to mention that this critique was based on Qutb’s stay in the United States in the notoriously licentious period of 1948 to 1950.

So, would many American conservatives who decry the”excesses” of the west, in sympathy with Muslim extremists, suggest that the incidents above are “excesses” as well? That is,that the people who carried them out had the right idea but just carried them too far?

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