Tag Archives: iglhrc

Iranian president says ‘homosexuality ceases procreation’ in CNN interview

In a CNN interview on Sept. 24, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, “Homosexuality ceases procreation.”

“Do you think faggots can have children?” asked Ahmadinejad, who previously claimed that homosexuality does not exist in Iran and whose government punishes homosexuality with death.

He suggested corrective action for anyone who believes they are gay or lesbian.

When asked how he would react if his own children were gay, the president said, “Proper education must be provided.”

He went on to describe homosexuality as “an ugly behavior or ugly deed” that should not be legitimized.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission monitors Iran for human rights concerns and says LGBT Iranians are subject to violence and discrimination by both the state and society.

The UN Human Rights Committee in 2011 said, “As a state that prides itself in tradition and morality, Iran must now take immediate action to ensure its definitions of tradition and morality are in accordance with the fundamental principles of international human rights law.”

“Despite last night’s glib interview, the fact is that President Ahmadinejad uses LGBT Iranians as scapegoats for his government’s poor human rights record and as a distraction from critical human rights concerns,” said Jessica Stern, newly appointed executive director of IGLHRC. “He should ask LGBT Iranians themselves whether they were born that way or love their children, and he just might get some much-needed re-education himself.”

Thailand urged to investigate killings of lesbians, ‘toms’

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission is calling on the government of Thailand to immediately investigate the killings of lesbians and gender-variant women who identify as “toms.”

IGLHRC has documented a pattern of slayings – at least 15 – since 2006.

In letters to Thailand’s inspector general of women’s affairs and family development, the commissioner general of the Royal Thai Police and the minister of foreign affairs, IGLHRC demanded that Thai police reclassify the killings from “crimes of passion, love gone wrong or the fault of the victims.”

“We strongly urge the Thai government order an immediate investigation of the killings and rapes of lesbians and toms in Thailand and release results of this investigation in a press conference that includes LGBT groups and the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand,” said Cary Alan Johnson of IGLHRC.

The human rights group reported that victims were as young as 17 and that they had been stabbed multiple times, suffocated, strangled, shot and sexually assaulted.

In two cases, lesbian couples were killed by men who objected to same-sex relationships and felt rebuffed when their attempts at coercing one partner into a heterosexual relationship failed.

“The failure of the Thai government to prevent or properly investigate these killings are not only appalling, they are evidence of poor governance and blatant violation of international human rights law,” said Grace Poore, program coordinator for Asia and Pacific Islands at IGLHRC.

In a November 2011 report, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights identified murder, beatings, kidnappings, rape and sexual assault against LGBT people as homophobic and transphobic violence that “constitute a form of gender-based violence, driven by a desire to punish those seen as defying gender norms,” and that violence against LGBT people “tends to be especially vicious compared to other bias-motivated crimes.”

The high commissioner of human rights explicitly instructed, “The state has an obligation to exercise due diligence to prevent, punish and redress deprivation of life” and to “investigate and prosecute all acts of targeted violence.”

Thailand has signed and ratified seven international treaties that guarantee respect for human rights, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

IGLHRC’s specific recommendations to the Thai government are that it:

• Order an immediate investigation of the killings and rapes of lesbians and toms and release the results at a press conference.

• Ensure that the Royal Thai Police and the Office of the Attorney General of Thailand bring to justice the perpetrators.

• Develop and implement a system of monitoring, recording and reporting future incidents of homophobic and transphobic violence.

• Promote an environment where LGBT people enjoy the rights to equal and adequate protection under the law, personal security and safety from violence, non-discrimination and freedom of expression and opinion

• Collaborate with the national human rights commission to conduct a public awareness campaign to end stigmatization, discrimination and violence against LGBT people.

• Provide resources to the LGBT groups to train and personnel in the law enforcement and criminal justice systems.

• Openly support the rights of LGBT people by enacting laws to implement the anti-discrimination clause of the 2007 Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand.

Rights groups demand action against violence against Iraqi gay youth

The government of Iraq must investigate and bring to justice those responsible for a targeted campaign of intimidation and violence against Iraqi LGBT youth, says a coalition of rights groups.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission said the attacks have created an atmosphere of terror.

“The Iraqi Ministry of Interior’s inaction and denial of the ongoing campaign to punish people seen as non-conformists threatens everyone who is different, including those who defy traditional notions of gender and sexuality,” said Jessica Stern, director of programs at IGLHRC. “The government needs to ensure the safety of all Iraqis, not amplify the threats against those already being targeted.”

On March 8, the Iraq Interior Ministry, in an official statement, dismissed reports by local activists and media of a campaign against those seen as “emo.” The ministry said the reports were “fabricated” and “groundless,” and that it would take action against people who were trying “to highlight this issue and build it out of proportion.”

But an official ministry statement, on Feb. 13, that characterized emo culture as “Satanist” cast doubt on the government’s willingness to protect vulnerable youth, the international rights groups said.

“The government has contributed to an atmosphere of fear and panic fostered by acts of violence against emos,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Instead of claiming that the accounts are fabricated, Iraqi authorities need to set up a transparent and independent inquiry to address the crisis.”

The campaign’s victims appear to represent a cross-section of people seen locally as non-conformists. They include people perceived as LGBT, but also people with distinctive hairstyles, clothes, or musical taste.

In English, “emo” is short for “emotional,” referring to self-identified teens and young adults who listen to alternative rock music, often dress in black, close-fitting clothes and cut their hair in unconventional ways. People perceived to be gay, lesbian, transgender or effeminate are particularly vulnerable.

Iraqi human rights activists told the three organizations that in early February, signs and fliers appeared in the Baghdad neighborhoods of Sadr City, al-Hababiya and Hay al-‘Amal that threatened people by name with “the wrath of god” unless they cropped their hair short, gave up wearing so-called “satanic clothing” – styles critics associate with emos, metal music  and rap – hide their tattoos and “maintained complete manhood.” Other names appeared on similar posters in different neighborhoods.

One sign, seen by the international rights groups, was posted on a wall in Sadr City, and read, “In the name of God the compassionate, the merciful, we warn every male and female in the strongest terms to stop their dirty deeds in four days before the wrath of God strikes them through the hands of mujahedin.” This poster listed 33 names and was decorated with images of two handguns.

Since February, the three international rights groups have received information from local human rights groups, community activists and media about numerous deaths of youth. Some local media reports have put the death toll as high as several dozen. The international rights groups have not been able to confirm that people have been killed as part of an organized campaign.

A 26-year old man from Mosul told the rights groups that unknown assailants killed two members of his heavy metal band on March 8 because of their appearance. He said, “We don’t know who is behind this now, but for a long time, people have been accusing us of being Satanists. So this is not new, but now it has become murderous.”

While it is unclear who is behind the attacks and intimidation, Iraqi media reports have fueled the campaign by characterizing what they call the “emerging emo phenomenon.” Some clerics and politicians have also contributed to the demonization of emo youth. On March 10, the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called emos “crazy fools” and a “lesion on the Muslim community” in an online statement, but also maintained that they should be dealt with “within the law.”

Documents received by the international rights groups indicate that the Education Ministry in August 2011 circulated a memo that recommended schools curb the spread of emo culture, which it called “an infiltrated phenomenon in our society.”

The Interior Ministry’s Feb. 13 statement on its website characterized emos as “Satanists” who constitute a danger to Iraqi society. The statement also indicated that the ministry was seeking approval from the Iraqi Education Ministry for “an integrated plan that would let them [police] enter all the schools in the capital.”

On Feb. 29, the Interior Ministry released another statement in which it announced a campaign against emo culture in Baghdad, particularly in the Khadimiya neighborhood, where they identified one shop that sold “emo clothing and accessories.”

After widespread media coverage of the violence and intimidation against emos, the Interior Ministry toned down its language in the March 8 statement, warning “radical and extremist groups attempting to stand as protectors for morals and religious traditions from any conduct against people based on a fashion, dress or haircut.”

The ministry denied that any emos had been killed and threatened “necessary legal actions against those who try to highlight this issue and build it out of proportion.”

On March 14, security forces in Baghdad detained for three hours the film crew of Russia Today’s Arabic TV channel, Rusiya al-Yaum, as they tried to film a segment related to the attacks on emos. Security forces confiscated their footage even though the channel had a permit to film in downtown Baghdad.

A report by Al-Sharqiya TV on March 7 said that men in civilian clothes brutally beat two young women in public in al-Mansour district because of their “fashionable clothing.”

People perceived to be LGBT told the rights groups that they feel particularly vulnerable.

In 2009, Human Rights Watch, IGLHRC and Amnesty International documented a pattern of torture and murder by Iraqi militias against men suspected of same-sex conduct or of not being “manly” enough.

A 22-year-old gay man in Baghdad told the international rights groups that anonymous callers made death threats on his phone on March 11. The callers described a friend of his whom they had kidnapped and brutally beaten days earlier, saying that was how they got his number. They told him that he would be next. He has since cut his hair and does not leave his house for fear of being targeted.

“When the news started spreading about emos, the threats and violence against gays increased,” he said. “They are grouping us all together, anyone who is different in any way, and we are very easy targets.”

Unlike the 2009 killings, the recent campaign has generated strong condemnation within Iraq. A statement by Ayatollah Ali Sistani, a leading Shia spiritual leader, who referred to the targeted killings of emo youth in Iraq as a threat to the nation’s peace and order, was a positive development, the groups said. According to Ayatollah Sistani’s representative in Baghdad, Shaikh Abd al-Rahim al-Rikabi, “those targeted killings are terrorist acts.”

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Malaysian court upholds gay festival ban

Judge Rohana Yusuf in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, has upheld the police ban on Seksualiti Merdeka, an annual gay rights festival.

The March ruling upheld the November 2011 decision issued by Khalid Abu Bakar, deputy inspector general of the Royal Malaysia Police.

The reason for the ban, according to authorities, is the festival would cause public disorder.

The judge wrote, “The police are empowered under Section 27 of the Police Act to stop an event for investigation purposes.… The country will come to a standstill if everyone wants to call for a review of actions taken by the police.”

Last year, on behalf of festival organizers, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission wrote to Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak and the Royal Malaysia Police Chief Ismail Omar.

Organizers had stated that the annual festival had been held peacefully since 2008 and to achieve three goals: empower Malaysians marginalized as LGBT, champion self-determination, expression and love and provide platforms for advocacy of human rights.

IGLHRC program coordinator Grace Poore said, “The judge’s decision sends a message that this ban on human rights education and artistic expression is acceptable. Although she says the ban may not be imposed again in 2012, by upholding the ban she is endorsing the police action, which clearly violates Malaysian’s rights to non-discrimination, freedom of speech and expression, and freedom of peaceful assembly.”

Festival organizer Pang Khee Teik said, “In my view, Malaysia has always been on a standstill in terms of human rights. When the police’s arbitrary powers cannot be reviewed in court, we are allowing the police to get away with abuse of power.”

Another festival organizer, S Thilaga, added that the decision was “was nothing short of discrimination where the voice of the extremists had drowned the voice of reason.”

Khalid told the press that Malaysia’s laws do not recognize any “deviationist activity that could destroy the practice of religious freedom, among others.”

Seksualiti Merdeka organizers said they plan to appeal the decision.

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Rights group reports anti-gay torture, killings in Iraq

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission received reports on March 5 from Iraq of a wave of targeted killings of individuals who are perceived to be gay or lesbian.

According to Iraqi human rights activists, in early February, an unidentified group posted death threats against “the adulterous individuals” in the predominantly Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad and Basra.

The threats gave the individuals, whose names and ages were listed, four days to stop their behavior or else face the wrath of God, and were to be carried out by the Mujahedin.

According to sources inside Iraq, as the result of this new surge of anti-gay violence, close to 40 people have been kidnapped, tortured and murdered.

The Iraqi authorities have neither responded to this targeted violence nor have they publicly denounced it. It is widely believed that these atrocities are being committed by a group of the Shiite militia.

Responding, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission executive director Cary Alan Johnson said, “Today the Government of Iraq represents a fully sovereign and democratic country. As such, it must protect all of its citizens including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from hate-filled violence and death at the hands of armed militias.

“Vigilantes who perpetuate the targeted killing of those perceived to be gay or lesbian must not be tolerated in a new Iraq. We have seen these atrocities before. In 2009 vigilantes murdered hundreds of Iraqi individuals for their perceived sexual orientation. There are no excuses for such heinous human rights violations. We demand that the Iraqi Government put a stop to the wanton persecution and killing of gay people, and that the perpetrators punished.”

Hossein Alizadeh, the Middle East and North Africa Program coordinator for IGLHRC, said, “The Iraqi government is responsible for the protection of all Iraqi citizens, including the members of the gay and lesbian community. We call on the Iraqi authorities to immediately intervene to protect the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and to bring to justice those who are responsible for these atrocities. We particularly demand the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights denounce the anti-gay violence in Iraq and launch an official investigation into these heinous crimes.”

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Indonesia bans gay rights website

The website for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission was banned this week in Indonesia.

“This is not the first time that attempts to organize and educate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies have been met with state censorship,” said IGLHRC executive director Cary Alan Johnson. All too often, governments use the charge of pornography as a smokescreen to attack freedom of expression.

But, Johnson said, “oppressive governments can’t stop the tide of LGBT voices – whether they are on the Internet, in the media or on the streets. IGLHRC stands with human rights defenders in Indonesia in their struggle to keep the web free for dialog on basic human rights issues.”

IGLHRC received notice from an LGBT civil rights advocate in Indonesia on Feb. 1 that the website was banned by two mobile phone services in Indonesia.

The advocate reported to IGLHRC that an order to block the website was issued by the Minister of Communication and Information.

Indonesian LGBT activists who then tried to access the website reported that they had received the following message: “Site inaccessible. The site you wish to open cannot be accessed. (Situs tidak bisa diakses. Situs yang hendak Anda buka tidak dapat diakses.)”

IGLHRC reported that Web censorship in Indonesia is frequent but is neither well organized nor uniform and depends on the operator and their respective location.

The organization was able to confirm that http://www.IGLHRC.org was censored in Jakarta, Bandung, Palembang, South Sumatra, Surabaya, Salatiga, Central Java and other areas.

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Don’t forget world youth

In 2010 we saw long-overdue attention to the challenges facing young LGBT people. Tragically, this attention was prompted by the alarming number of youth suicides and well-publicized cases of anti-gay violence that captured media attention. These cases unfortunately represent the tip of the iceberg, particularly for youth of color and those mired in poverty.

The rights to housing, education, security, bodily integrity and to share in and create culture are all guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet LGBT youth everywhere face violations of these rights.

While so many U.S. politicians and celebrities are communicating to LGBT youth that it gets better, we must not forget the plight of LGBT young people outside of the United Sttes, who face challenges that are simultaneously all too familiar and vastly different.  

While organizations that serve LGBT youth in the United States are often underfunded and under attack by the religious right, at least they exist. In the global south, dedicated youth programs are rare. In fact, LGBT centers are often hesitant to serve the needs of young people for fear of being accused of pedophilia and recruiting youth into homosexuality.

Facing this discrimination, which is compounded by sodomy laws in 76 countries around the world and the failure of most countries to provide protections for transgenders, young LGBT people are among the world’s most marginalized groups.

Over the past few years IGLHRC has documented human rights violations against young people in Cameroon, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, South Africa, Nigeria and beyond.

Just last month, United Nation Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “Stigma and discrimination will end only when we agree to speak out. That requires all of us to do our part. To speak out – at home, at work, in our schools and communities. To stand in solidarity.”

To stand in solidarity with LGBT youth, we must address the ways they are affected by homophobia and transphobia; we must acknowledge that they face discrimination and abuse; and more than anything, we must listen to them. Some young people can’t afford to wait until it gets better. They need help now.

Cary Alan Johnson, executive director,
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission