25 Gays Killed in Iraq; Broad Trends against Human Rights Disturbing

On a wide range of fronts, human and civil rights in Iraq are in trouble.

Amnesty International says that there has been a spate of killings of gay men, with 25 murdered in the past two weeks, apparently in some cases with police condoning the attacks. Three were killed in Sadr City, where the Mahdi Army of Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr has a presence (though no longer a commanding one). The BBC says that there are fears that powerful clerics are instigating the attacks. Some Iraqi clerics consider homosexuality to be a capital crime, and some are in favor of vigilante action to implement Islamic law..

Then on Monday, an Iraqi general filed a lawsuit against al-Hayat [Life], a Saudi-backed pan-Arab daily published in London, as well as against the television network al-Sharqiya for repeating what al-Hayat wrote. The newspaper says that he had reported that the Iraqi military has “distributed names and pictures of released detainees to checkpoints with the aim of arresting them in connection with recent bombings in Baghdad.” In other words, al-Hayat was implying that the general was setting up the returnees to be assassinated. Given the already-existing anxieties in the Sunni Arab community that the Iraqi security forces are targeting the Awakening Councils, the charge was inflammatory. (See Marc Lynch’s fine round-up on Sunni concerns here). But allowing what are essentially libel lawsuits on the part of serving government officials would have a chilling effect on freedom of political speech. Al-Hayat printed a retraction, so the lawsuit should be dropped.

In the Shiite holy city of Karbala, police on Sunday swooped in and arrested a cartoonist who had been critical of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

In Iraqi Kurdistan, Amnesty International accuses the Asayesh or Kurdistan secret police of arresting large numbers of persons for crimes of conscience (i.e. being critical of the government). The report argues that the secret police are an element of instability in Kurdistan. CNN has more.

Hundreds of Iraqi journalists have been murdered for their politics or forced abroad in recent years.

Meanwhile, in political news, Arab-Kurdish tensions are are apparent in the northern province of Ninevah. Kurds are protesting that they have few positions in the new government elected in January. Kurds hold 25 percent of the province’s governing council seats, making their the second-largest party; they argue that it is therefore unfair for them to be so excluded.

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