Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
Ibaa and Haider are gay Iraqis. They never met before they sought asylum in Britain. But their similar stories are symptomatic of the violent persecution of lesbians and gays in occupied Iraq.
Both men used to lead happy, successful professional lives. Haider was a doctor and Ibaa worked as a translator. Since the US and UK invasion, their lives have been turned upside down.
The chaos and lawlessness of post-war Iraq has allowed Shia fundamentalist militias and death squads to flourish. They enforce a savage interpretation of sharia law, summarily executing people for ‘crimes’ like homosexuality, dancing, adultery, being the wrong kind of Muslim (Sunni, not Shia), listening to western pop music, wearing shorts or jeans, drinking alcohol, selling Hollywood movie videos, having a fashionable haircut and, in the case of women, walking in the street unveiled or unaccompanied by a male relative.
In this witch-hunting, homophobic atmosphere, Ibaa and Haider came to the attention of the death squads. Both men were in their late twenties and unmarried. This circumstantial evidence, plus local gossip, was enough to get them targeted as sodomites. Ibaa received written denunciations and a grenade hurled through his windows. Haider was ordered to leave the country or face execution. Killers came looking for him at his house and hospital. His partner was kidnapped, tortured and murdered.
Both Ibaa and Haider eventually escaped Iraq and claimed asylum in the UK. With the support of the gay human rights group, OutRage!, they recently won asylum. Most Iraqi asylum seekers – gay and straight – are not so lucky. Their claims are rejected. They face deportation back to Iraq.
Moreover, unlike Haider and Ibaa, the vast majority of gay Iraqis have no chance of fleeing their homeland and gaining refugee status abroad. They don’t have the funds and exiting the country via Syria and Jordan is now very difficult. Gay Iraqis are trapped in a society that is sliding fast towards theocracy.
The murder of gays is encouraged by Iraq’s leading Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al- Sistani. In 2005, he issued a fatwa ordering the execution of gay Iraqis. His followers in the Islamist militias are now systematically targeting lesbian and gay people.
Two militias are doing most of the killing. They are the armed wings of major parties in the Bush and Blair-backed Iraqi government. The Madhi Army is the militia of Muqtada al-Sadr, and the Badr Brigade is the militia of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq – the leading political force in Baghdad’s ruling coalition. Despite their differences, both militias want to establish an Iranian-style religious dictatorship.
Nyaz is a 28-year-old lesbian in Baghdad. Her nightmare is mild by comparison to what has happened to many gay Iraqis. Having seen so many gay friends murdered, Nyaz is terrified that she and her partner will also be killed. They have stopped seeing each other. It is too dangerous. To make matters worse, Nyaz is being forced by the Mahdi Army to marry an older, senior mullah with close ties to Muqtada al- Sadr. If she does not agree to the marriage, or tries to run away, both Nyaz and her family will be marked for ‘honour killing’ by Sadr’s men.
Nyaz is lucky. She is still alive. Many other gay Iraqis are not so fortunate. They have been killed by Islamist death squads. The fundamentalists boast that their ‘sexual cleansing’ operations have exterminated or forced into exile most lesbians and gays.
This homophobic terror is symptomatic of the terror experienced by millions of Iraqi citizens, gay and straight. Many left-wing Iraqis warn that the fundamentalists are gaining strength. If they eventually seize power, tens of thousands of people are likely to be slaughtered – similar to the bloodbath in Iran after the Shia Islamist revolution in 1979.
Iraqi LGBT is the clandestine Iraqi gay rights movement, supported by OutRage! More info: http://iraqilgbtuk.blogspot.com/
The Spanish state is seizing ballot papers and raiding meetings, write Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte – but it is being met with united resistance
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
The rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people are not guaranteed – we must continue to fight for them
Kennedy Walker looks at the growth in hate attacks at a time when the Tory government is being propped up by homophobes
Naomi Klein: the Corbyn movement is part of a global phenomenon
What radical writer Naomi Klein said in her guest speech to Labour Party conference
Waiting for the future to begin: refugees’ everyday lives in Greece
Solidarity volunteer Karolina Partyga on what she has learned from refugees in Thessaloniki
Don’t let Uber take you for a ride
Uber is no friend of passengers or workers, writes Lewis Norton – the firm has put riders at risk and exploited its drivers
Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project
Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power
What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world