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Gay Iraqis Become Targets After U.S. Invasion of Iraq

From Advocate.com:

Religious extremism sparked by the war in Iraq has left once-comfortable gays in the Middle Eastern country feeling demonized and afraid, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Outsiders have always been viewed with suspicion in Iraq, but gays were ignored and accepted before American troops invaded in 2003. After the war began, about 400 people were killed for being gay, according to an Iraqi gay rights group, and gays and lesbians were forced to see lovers at night and in secret, according to The Times.

A United Nations report released in January described the growing persecution, torture, and killing of Iraqi gays and lesbians. In 2005, Iraq’s highest-ranking Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued a decree calling for gays and lesbians to be killed in the “worst, most severe way.”

The decree was lifted a year later, but Mohammed and his friends said they still don’t feel safe.

“We seem suspicious because we look like a cell of terrorists,” Mohammed told The Times. “But we can’t tell people what we really are. A cell, yes, but of gays.”

The growing influence of Iran, where homosexuality is sometimes punishable by death, has also alarmed Iraqi gays and lesbians.

“I want to get out, but not just out of Iraq, out of the Middle East,” Rafi, a 25-year-old law student, told The Times. “To a country that has respect for human rights. And for us. It will never be possible here.”

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