Monday, August 06, 2007

Perspective: For gays in Iraq, a life of constant fear

Left: Three young men suspected of being gay lay in the street after being executed in Ramadi in June of last year. In 2005, Grand Ayatollah Sistani issued an anti-gay fatwa which said: "Those who commit sodomy must be killed in the harshest way". The fatwa was later reported to be withdrawn.

BAGHDAD — Samir Shaba sits in a restaurant, nervously describing gay life in Iraq. He speaks in a low voice, occasionally glancing over his shoulder.

The heavyset, clean-shaven Christian says that before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, he frequented the city's gay blogs, online chat rooms and dance clubs, where he wore flashy tight clothes, his hair long and loose to his shoulders.

After the invasion, he and other gays and lesbians were driven underground by sectarian violence and religious extremists. Shaba, 25, packed his flashy clothes away, started wearing baseball caps and baggy T-shirts and stopped visiting clubs and chat rooms. But he couldn't bear to cut his hair.

"I cannot change everything immediately," he said, fingering his black ponytail. "I suffered because I didn't cut it."

Recently, Shaba said, police commandos spotted his hair as he was riding in a taxi through a checkpoint in central Baghdad. Suspecting that he was gay, the four commandos dragged him out of the taxi by his hair, and forced him into an armored car. They demanded his cellphone, cash and sex.

Read the rest at the LA Times