Yesterday, the United States officially condemned the increasing violence towards the gay community in Iraq, which has spiked since the beginning of the Iraq War. The US Embassy in Baghdad has also raised the issue with Iraqi government officials.
The State Department spokesman Ian Kelly had this to say when questioned on the issue by reporters:
In general, we absolutely condemn acts of violence and human rights violations committed against individuals in Iraq because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
This is an issue that we've been following very closely since we have been made aware of these allegations, and we are aware of the allegations. Our training for Iraqi security forces includes instruction on the proper observance of human rights.
Human rights training is also a very important part of our and other international donors' civilian capacity-building efforts in Iraq. And the US embassy in Baghdad has raised, and will continue to raise, the issue with senior officials from the government of Iraq, and has urged them to respond appropriately to all credible reports of violence against gay and lesbian Iraqis.
This comes after the growing chorus of international human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have begun speaking out about the atrocities in Iraq towards LGBT people.
While statistics have been hard to gather on the number of LGBT Iraqis killed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, it has recently been reported that at least 25 boys and men have been killed in Baghdad alone because they were either gay or believed to be. Horrific pictures of people killed by roving death squads have begun to leak out of the country at an alarming rate.
Many, including Amnesty International, have sent letters Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki urging government protection for the LGBT Community and expressing their concern that religious leaders may be inciting extreme violence towards LGBT Iraqis, as was the case in the the 2005 fatwa from one of Iraq's leading Shiite Muslim clerics, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, which declared that gays and lesbians should be "killed in the worst, most severe way" and more recently when Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr who ordered the "depravity of homosexuality be eradicated."
While the U.S. is coming to the table way too late on this issue, it is good to finally see some movement on this. The fully inclusive language and putting it in the terms of human rights is a heartening move by the State Department.
It is already too late for countless LGBT Iraqis, but perhaps some change can come with continued international pressure, led by the United States.