2007 April

Queer the Vote, Stop the BNP

Neo-Nazis threaten gay, black, Jewish and Muslim people

Big queer vote urged to block the election of BNP candidates

London – 17 April 2007

“Queer the vote and stop the BNP”. This is the message of gay human rights group OutRage! ahead of the 3 May elections for local councils and for the Scottish and Welsh assemblies.

“Lesbians and gay men can help block the election of candidates from the racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and homophobic British National Party (BNP). Make sure you and your straight friends vote on 3 May,” said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!

“A high turnout will reduce the BNP’s share of the vote and lessen its chances of winning seats,” he said.

“We urge queer voters to quiz their local candidates on gay issues and to vote for those with the most homo-friendly policies.

“With one-in-ten voters being lesbian, gay or bisexual, the pink vote can influence the election result in many marginal constituencies.

“It is important we elect more pro-gay politicians, to help us secure stronger policies to tackle homophobic bullying and hate crimes,” said Mr Tatchell.

The BNP is fielding a record 655 candidates in the local elections next month; claiming it is on target to win up to 100 new seats – double its current total.

As well as the party’s long history of homophobia, BNP activists also stand accused racism, anti-Semitism, holocaust denial and Islamophobia. A disturbing number of past and present BNP members have criminal convictions for violence – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_National_Party

Although the BNP has publicly ditched some of its most extreme and bigoted policies, many critics believe this make-over is just an astute public relations exercise designed to con people were put off by its neo-Nazi image. They say the BNP hasn’t changed at all; it has just got more professional and media savvy.

The BNP fought previous general elections on a pledge to outlaw homosexuality. It has described Aids as “nature taking revenge” on gay men.

The party’s website claims that: “Sexually-transmitted diseases are no joke. Thanks to them, the average life-expectancy of a gay man is now 40, compared to 71 for all men” – http://www.bnp.org.uk/articles/traditional_values.html

Claiming that the “gay rights lobby target school children,” the BNP has opposed gay equality reforms like the repeal of Section 28 and the abolition of the unequal age of consent. It has also condemned and ridiculed LGBT History Month – http://www.bnp.org.uk/articles/lgbt_month.htm

Soon after the neo-Nazi bombing of a gay bar in Soho, London, in 1999, which killed three people and maimed dozens more, BNP leader Nick Griffin seemed to excuse and endorse the homophobic hatred that inspired the terrorist atrocity. He attacked lesbian and gay people for “flaunting their perversion” and said this showed why “so many ordinary people find these creatures so repulsive”.
Source: Stranger things have happened, Nick Griffin, Spearhead (BNP magazine), June 1999.

Griffin has also denounced homosexuality as “form of behavioural deviancy” and “not a valid lifestyle choice”. He claims the BNP speaks for “the majority of the population” who, he says, believe “homosexuality is wrong” and that it “needs to be pushed humanely but firmly back into the closet”. Griffin warns that if gays continue to “press their aims further” there will be an “almighty backlash” which will result in the imprisonment of all homosexuals.
Source: Putting the record straight, Nick Griffin, Identity (BNP Magazine), December 2003.

Griffin is not alone. Mark Collett, former chairman of the Young BNP, described homosexuals as “AIDS Monkeys”, “bum bandits” and “faggots” and said the idea of homosexuality was a “sickening thought” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_National_Party

There are fears the BNP could make gains in Scotland and Wales in the 3 May elections.

“Recent election results indicate the BNP could make an electoral breakthrough,” added Brett Lock of OutRage!

“Under the proportional representation voting system for the Scottish and Welsh elections minor parties like the BNP can win seats.

“There is a possibility that the BNP may, for the first time, secure representation in the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly”.

“The BNP is attempting to copy the success of other European far right and neo-Nazi parties, such as the Front National in France, the Vlaams Blok in Belgium and the National Democratic Party in Germany.

“The BNP is a racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic party. It has previously threatened to jail queers and bring back Section 28,” said Mr Lock.

(more…)

Stop Murder Music campaign wins black community award

Recognition for successful worldwide grassroots activism

The Stop Murder Music campaign won the Advocacy Award at the Black LGBT Community Awards 2007 ceremony in London.

The awards ceremony was held at a gala dinner event on-board on a luxury Thames River boat on Saturday evening, 7 April 2007.

The Advocacy Award was in recognition that the Stop Murder Music campaign had “brought together activists worldwide in challenging homophobic lyrics which incite people to violence against LGBT people.”

Dennis Carney, vice-chair of the Black Gay Men’s Advisory Group (BGMAG) collected the award on behalf of the campaign, which involved a partnership between BGMAG, OutRage! and the Jamaican gay rights group, J-Flag.

Mr Carney paid tribute to the dozens of gay and anti-violence groups around the world that participated in making the campaign so effective and successful:

“I thought the BLGBT Community Awards event was fantastic and I was over the moon that the wider Black LGBT community fully recognises and supports the dedication and commitment of the Stop Murder Music Campaign’s work at making homophobic dancehall lyrics a thing of the past, by voting SMMC the winner of the Advocacy Award 2006″. said Mr Carney.

Click here for a photo of Dennis Carney with the award:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/outrage/sets/72157600068875737/

“We are honoured to be a part of the campaign and delighted it has won this accolade from the black LGBT community,” said Brett Lock, spokesperson for gay human rights group, OutRage!, which played a coordinating role in the campaign.

“The Stop Murder Music campaign targeted reggae dancehall singers who released CDs advocating the murder of lesbian and gay people. We got scores of concerts cancelled worldwide, causing these murder music artists to suffer huge financial losses. Faced with this pressure, they have cut their output of homophobic songs and now rarely make homophobic statements. It has been a huge success,” said Mr Lock.

Ted Brown, the veteran black gay activist, won the Lifetime Achievement Award.
He was active in the London Gay Liberation Front in the early 1970s, led the campaign against Buju Banton and Shabba Ranks in the early 1990s, and is involved in the Stop Murder Music campaign today.

Man of the Year was awarded to black gay pastor, Rev Jide Macaulay. Previously an activist in BGMAG in London, Rev Macaulay is of Nigerian decent. Last year he returned to Nigeria to set up the country’s first gay church. He has since become a prominent Nigerian campaigner for lesbian and gay human rights.

SMM Award

© OutRage! 1990-2010. You are free to use this photo to illustrate news stories and articles about OutRage!, the lesbian and gay human rights group, with credit to the group and photographer. For all other uses, please inquire. Photos: Chris Houston, OutRage!

Gay Iraqi victims of Islamist death squads

LGBT victims of homophobic assassinations by the Sadr and Badr fundamentalist militias in Iraq.

Baghdad refuses to protect gays and denounces UN report

“Iraqi lesbians and gays continue to be subjected a systematic reign of terror by Shia death squads. The government of Iraq refuses to crack down on the killers or to take any action to protect its gay citizens. It is a regime that is dominated by Shia fanatics and homophobes,” according to Ali Hili, the coordinator of the human rights group Iraqi LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender).

Mr Hili lists below a few examples of the many death squad killings of gay Iraqis.

“Supporters of the fundamentalist Sadr and Badr militias boast that they are cleansing Iraq of what they call ‘sexual perverts’. They are open about terrorising gay Iraqis to make them flee the country and murdering those who fail to leave. Their goal is a queer-free, pro-homophobic Iraq. They are dragging our country back to the dark ages,” said the London-based Mr Hili, who is also Middle East spokesperson for the gay human rights group, OutRage!

“Some members of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government are linked to the anti-gay death squads. They are the political representatives of the Muqtada al-Sadr movement and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Both these parties have militias, respectively the Mahdi army and the Badr brigades, who are responsible for the execution-style killing of lesbian and gay Iraqis – and the murder of many other Iraqis, including Sunni Muslims, trade unionists, unveiled women, journalists and men wearing shorts, jeans or western-style haircuts.

“The murder of gay Iraqis has the support of highly influential religious leaders, such as Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. He issued a fatwa in late 2005, calling for the execution of gay people in the ‘most severe way possible’. After international protests, he removed the fatwa from his website, but the fatwa itself has not been rescinded. It remains in force and is the spiritual sanction for the death squads to murder gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people,” said Mr Hili.

The United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) has corroborated Iraqi LGBT’s claims of “sexual cleansing” by the death squads and Islamist courts:

“Armed Islamic groups and militias have been known to be particularly hostile towards homosexuals, frequently and openly engaging in violent campaigns against them,” January’s UNAMI report said.

“There have been a number of assassinations of homosexuals in Iraq…At least five homosexual males were reported to have been kidnapped from Shaab area in the first week of November (2006) by one of the main militias. The mutilated body of Amjad, one of the kidnapped, appeared in the same area after a few days. [We were] also alerted to the existence of religious courts, supervised by clerics, where homosexuals allegedly
would be ‘tried,’ ’sentenced’ to death and then executed,” UNAMI said.

This UNAMI report provoked a hostile reaction from the government of Iraq, which suggested that gay people are unIraqi and unIslamic:

“There was information in the report that we cannot accept here in Iraq. The report, for example, spoke about the phenomenon of homosexuality and giving them their rights,” said Mr al-Dabbagh, a spokesperson for the Iraqi government. “Such statements are not suitable to the Iraqi society. This is rejected. They (the UN) should respect the values and traditions here in Iraq.”

Iraq’s many LGBT victims of the death squads

Here are details of a few of the LGBTs who have been murdered in Iraq in recent months:

“Anwar, aged 34, a taxi driver, was a member of Iraqi LGBT and helped run one of the group’s safe houses in the city of Najaf. He disappeared in January 2007. He was arrested in his taxi after being stopped at a police and militia checkpoint. His body was found in March 2007. He had been subjected to an execution-style killing.

“Nouri, aged 29, a tailor, was kidnapped in the city of Karbala in February 2007. He had received many death threats by letter and phone in the past, accusing him of leading a gay life. He was found dead a few days later, with his body mutilated and his head severed.

“Hazim, a 21-year-old man, was taken by police officers from his house in Baghdad in February 2007. He was well-known to be gay. After threats because of his homosexuality, his family was forced to leave their home. Hazim’s body was subsequently found with several shots to the head.

“Sayf, a gay 25-year-old, worked for the Iraqi police as a translator. He was kidnapped in the Al-Adhamya suburb by black masked men in Ministry of Interior security force uniforms who drove a marked police car. Almost certainly they were members of the Badr militia which has infiltrated the Interior Ministry and police. Sayf’s body was found several days later, with his head cut off.

“Khaldon, a 45 year old gay man lived in al-Hurriya, a mainly Shia neighborhood of Baghdad. He worked as a chef. The Sadr militia, the Mahdi army, kidnapped him in November 2006. His decaying corpse was found in February 2007.

“Khalid, a 19 year old gay man, a college student who lived in al-Kadomya, was kidnapped in December 2006. Three months later, his family was handed his tortured and burned remains.

“Hasan Sabeh, a 34 year old transvestite – also known as Tamara – worked in the fashion industry designing women’s clothes. He lived in the al-Mansor district of Baghdad. Hasan was seized in the street by an Islamist death squad and hanged in public on the holy Shia religious day, 11 January 2007. His body was mutilated and cut to pieces. When his brother-in-law tried to defend him, he was also murdered.

“Four gay friends had been receiving threatening letters at their Baghdad houses. All four were arrested on 26 December 2006 by militia at a roadside checkpoint. They were interrogated about whether they were Sunnis. Their identity cards showed that three of the men were Shia. These three men were released after several hours of interrogation. The fourth man, Samer, a 26 year old a Sunni who lived in Zayona, was later found with gunshot wounds to his head, his eyes blindfolded and his hands tied behind his back. His body showed marks of torture and many burns. It is not clear whether Samer was executed because he was Sunni or gay or both.

“Alan Thomas, was a 23 year old, Christian gay Iraqi who lived in al-Gadeer, a Shia majority district of Baghdad. He received many threats for being gay and was eventually kidnapped and executed by Shia death squads in late 2006. His older sister spoke to me over the phone from Baghdad; explaining how the murder of her only brother caused the death of their sick elderly mother. She told me: ‘The new Iraqi evil regime does not provide effective protection to the population of Iraq. Shia militias act in collusion with security force gangs to take revenge on the Sunni’s and other minorities.’

“Occasionally, some victims of the fundamentalists have been able to buy their survival. Hamid A, a 44 year old bisexual man, from the Al-Talibya district. He was kidnapped twice by the Sadr militia. The first instance was in April 2006 when he, his nephew and his brother were kidnapped and tortured. He was released in May 2006 after his tribe members paid a huge ransom to save his life and the lives of his relatives. Hamid was kidnapped for a second time in November 2006 by the same Sadr militia, when an informant reported that he was drinking alcohol and that he was suspected of being gay. He was held in a big office in Sadr city, along with other detainees – most of them Sunnis and Christians. Again, he was ransomed and is now in hiding; a rare survivor of the Sadr militia interrogation centres.

“Heterosexual friends of gays are also executed. This happened to Majid Sahi, aged 28, a civil engineer. He had been helping Iraqi LGBT members in Baghdad. Abducted by the Badr militia from his home, they objected to his association with gay Iraqis. His family was advised by the Badr forces that their son’s “immoral behavior” was the reason for his kidnapping. His body was found in Baghdad, with bullet wounds in the back of his head, on 23 February 2007.

“Despite the great danger involved, Iraqi LGBT has established a clandestine network of lesbian and gay activists inside Iraq’s major cities, including Baghdad, Najaf, Karbala, Hilla and Basra,” reports Peter Tatchell of OutRage!, who is working closely with Ali Hili and Iraqi LGBT.

“These heroic activists are helping gay people on the run from fundamentalist death squads; hiding them in safe houses in Baghdad, and helping them escape to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon,” said Mr Tatchell.

Ali Hili is making an appeal for donations to fund the work of Iraqi LGBT:

“Iraqi LGBT needs donations to help gay people in Iraq who are fleeing the death squads. We need money for safe houses, food, electricity, security protection and clothing – and to help pay the phone bills of members of the Iraqi LGBT group. They are sending us information about the homophobic killings, at great risk to their own lives.

“Many of the people we are helping had nothing but the clothes on their backs, when they fled the attacks by fundamentalist militias.

“We are also paying for medication for members who are HIV positive. Otherwise, they will not get treatment. If it is discovered that they have HIV, they will surely be killed,” said Mr Hili.

The UK-based gay rights group OutRage! is working with Iraqi LGBT to support its work. Iraqi LGBT is coordinated by Ali Hili from the safety of London UK. The group does not yet have a bank account. Operating an Iraqi LGBT bank account in Baghdad would be suicide. For this reason, it has to operate its finances from London. All the group’s members in London are Iraqi refugees seeking asylum. Their lack of proper legal status makes it difficult for them to open a bank account in the UK. This is why Iraqi LGBT is asking that cheques be made payable to:

“OutRage!”, with a cover note marked “For Iraqi LGBT”, and sent to OutRage!, PO Box 17816, London SW14 8WT, England, UK. OutRage! then forwards the donations received to Ali Hili and Iraqi LGBT for wire transfer to Baghdad.