Gay Iraqis are facing death and murder on unprecendented scale in some parts of Iraq as the government turns a blind eye

The US-led invasion of Iraq has given Iraq much, a new government, some security and a new beginning for Iraqis, but for Iraq's gays it has become one of the most dangerous places to be living and being gay. Islam and homesexuality have always been a controversial issue, and its common in the majority of Muslim states for obvious reasons whether cultural or relgious gays find it a mamoth task to adopt well into the community and at the same time be gay. Putting aside religious and cultural issues surrounding homosexuality, a recent video taken from a mobile phone shows a boy about 13 sobbing, he is told to strip and is asked why he is wearing womans underwear and he replies his family made him do it to earn a income as they have no other means.

A kind of campaign againts gays in Iraq in recent weeks has claimed up to 60 lives since Decemeber, and posters in the shia district of Sadr City have sprung up with a list of names of those who are apparently gay and threatens to kill them. Those named have probably gone into hiding or fled for their own safety.

The problem is mainly affecting Shia neighbourhoods where a number of Shia Clerics have given sermons against homesexuality. Police have also stated they have found a number of bodies in Sadr city, with placards labelling them Shaaz or perverts.

One Iraqi gay who spoke to the BBC anonymously said: ""They kill the gays, they beat them up… I have a lot of friends that have been killed - 15 or 16, something like that, too much."

"Life has become like hell, believe me, like hell. Whenever I go anywhere, there are checkpoints, and when they see us, they know about us, they detain us and question us, and they want to touch me, yes, to molest me."

On the other hand officials have denied they support persecution of gays, Brigadier Diah Sahi said: ""The Interior Ministry has no policy of arresting gays just for being gay," said Brigadier Diah Sahi, head of the Iraqi police's Criminal Investigation Department.

"There's no law to justify it, unless they commit indecent acts in public."

In some cases it is the families of the victims that have carried out killing in order to preserve family honour. Amnesty International as written to the Iraqi government to take action and bring the killers to justice whether any response or action will be taken is yet to been seen.


Gay Iraqis fear for their lives

The Iraqi government must do more to protect homosexuals in the wake of a reported spate of killings of gay young men, Amnesty International has urged.

In the last few weeks, 25 boys and men are reported to have been killed in Baghdad because they were, or were perceived to be, gay, Amnesty said.

In a letter to Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, the rights organisation called for "urgent and concerted action".

It also criticised the government's failure to condemn the killings.

'Corpses found'

The recent killings are said to have been carried out by armed Shia militiamen as well as by members of the tribes and families of the victims, Amnesty said.

It cited reports that three corpses of gay men were found in the Shia area of Sadr City last week - two of which were reported to have had pieces of paper bearing the word "pervert" attached to them.

The letter also raised concerns that religious leaders may be inciting violence against members of Iraq's gay community, and over reported statements by one senior police officer that appear to condone or even encourage the targeting of gay Iraqis.

Amnesty called on the government to bring those responsible for the killings to justice and to afford effective protection to the gay community in Iraq.