Sistani Removes 'Death To Gays' Fatwa
Iraqi gay protesters win success.
Sistani urged to condemn homophobic murders and scrap anti-lesbian fatwa.
Plea for fatwa against all vigilante murders.
London - 15 May 2006
Iraqi gays are claiming success following the decision of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to remove from his website a fatwa calling for the killing of homosexuals in the "worst, most severe way possible" (see the fatwa text below).
The removal on 10 May follows protests to Sistani by the London office of the Iraqi gay rights organisation, Iraqi LGBT, which represents a clandestine network of lesbian and gay activists inside Iraq's major cities, including Baghdad, Najaf, Karbala, Hilla, Duhok and Basra.
Following two weeks of negotiations with Iraqi LGBT - UK, Sistani's office agreed to remove the fatwa calling for the murder of gay men, but has curiously refused to remove the fatwa urging punishment for lesbianism.
Initially, Sistani's office had demanded that Iraqi LGBT-UK delete their criticisms of Sistani from their website and apologise to the Grand Ayatollah for questioning his religious authority.
Iraqi LGBT-UK refused. It issued a counter-demand that Sistani remove his 'death to gays' fatwa from his website. After two weeks of sometimes tense negotiations, Sistani's representatives in London and Najaf agreed to drop the homophobic fatwa from his website - except for the section calling for the punishment of lesbianism.
"We welcome the decision to remove the most murderously homophobic part of Sistanti's fatwa from his website," said gay Iraqi refugee, Ali Hili, who heads the organisation Iraqi LGBT - UK (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender). Mr Ali is also Middle East Affairs spokesperson for the British LGBT rights movement, OutRage!, which works closely with Iraqi LGBT - UK.
"This decision does not go far enough. The fatwa has been removed from Sistani's website only. It has not been revoked. We want the entire fatwa withdrawn, including the hateful denunciation calling for the punishment of lesbians.
"Iraqi LGBT-UK urges Sistani to apologise and revoke his fatwa calling for the murder of homosexuals, and to issue a new fatwa condemning all vigilante violence, including vigilante attacks on gay and lesbian people.
"We believe that Sistani's fatwa has encouraged and sanctioned the current wave of execution-style assassinations of lesbians and gay men. He owes gay Iraqis an apology. He owes all Iraqis an apology for setting straight Iraqis against gay Iraqis.
"Endorsing the murder of other human beings is unIslamic. Our Muslim faith is one of love, compassion, tolerance and mercy. Hatred and prejudice have no legitimate place in our religion.
"Sistani's encouragement of homophobic violence provokes negative views towards the Islamic faith and towards Muslim people.
"Iraqi LGBT-UK holds Sistani personally responsible for the murder of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Iraqis. He gives the killers theological sanction and encouragement," said Mr Hili.
"We salute our gay Iraqi friends and allies. They have secured a very significant victory," added Peter Tatchell of OutRage!
"It is thanks to their tenacious efforts that Sistani has removed his murderous fatwa from public display on his website," added Mr Tatchell.
Background information follows below.
Further information: Ali Hili in London
"Evidence we have received from our underground gay contacts inside Iraq shows rising levels of homophobic threats, intimidation and violence by fundamentalist supporters of Sistani. These attacks have intensified since Sistani issued his anti-gay fatwa," continued Ali Hili.
"Grand Ayatollah Sistani is the spiritual leader of all Shia Muslims in Iraq and around the world. He is also the spiritual leader of Iraq's main Islamic fundamentalist movement, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which plays a leading role in the Iraqi government.
"SCIRI's armed wing is the Badr corps, which is responsible for much of the sectarian and fundamentalist violence in Iraq today.
"The Badr Corps is a terrorist organisation and uses terrorist methods against political, religious, sexual and ethnic dissidents. It is behind much of the sectarian violence in Iraq today, including suicide bombings, kidnappings and the assassination of Sunnis, moderate Shia, trade unionists, women's rights activists, gay people and secularists.
"The government in Iraq consults regularly with Sistani on political, social and moral issues. He wields huge influence over Iraqi government policy and the over Iraqi Shia public opinion.
"Sistani is not even Iraqi. He is an Iranian national who has set himself up as a religious leader in Iraq. He wants to impose an Iranian-style theocracy on the Iraqi people.
"The British government paid for Sistani to have medical treatment in the UK in 2004, and fetes him as a revered Muslim leader.
"Despite Badr's murderous record, the UK allows its political arm, SCIRI, to have offices and fundraise in the UK.
"The Badr Corps has instituted a witch-hunt of lesbian and gay Iraqis - including violent beatings, kidnappings and assassinations.
"Badr agents have a network of informers who, among other things, target alleged'immoral behaviour'. They kill gays, unveiled women, prostitutes, people who sell or drink alcohol, and those who listen to western music and wear western fashions.
"Badr militants are entrapping gay men via internet chat rooms. They arrange a date, and then beat and kill the victim.
"Males who are unmarried by the age of 30 or 35 are placed under surveillance on suspicion of being gay, as are effeminate men. They will be investigated and warned to get married. Badr will typically give them a month to change their ways. If they don't change their behaviour, or if they fail to show evidence that they plan to get married, they will be arrested, disappear and eventually be found dead. The bodies are usually discovered with their hands bound behind their back, blindfolds over their eyes, and a bullet wound in the back of the head.
"Our sources inside Iraq report the murders of the following gay and bisexual men. All the killings bear the hallmarks of the execution-style murders for which the Badr organisation is notorious.
"These killings are just a few of the many we have been able to get details about. They are the tip of an iceberg of religious-motivated summary executions. Gay Iraqis are living in fear of discovery and murder," said Mr Hili.
Karim, aged 38, survived a hand grenade attack on his house in the Al-Jameha district of Baghdad in 2004. The attack by members of the Badr Corps, left him with severe facial disfigurement and shrapnel in his body. Simultaneously, the Badr Corps murdered his partner, Ali, at his house, also in the Al-Jameha district. They shot Ali as he tried to escape.
Haydar Faiek, aged 40, a transsexual Iraqi, was beaten and burned to death by Badr militias in the main street in the Al-Karada district of Baghdad in September 2005.
Sarmad and Khalid were partners who lived in the Al-Jameha area of Baghdad. Persons unknown revealed their same-sex relationship. They were abducted by the Badr organisation in April 2005. Their bodies were found two months later, in June, bound, blindfolded and shot in the back of the head.
Naffeh, aged 45, disappeared in August 2005. His family were informed that he was kidnapped by the Badr organisation. His body was found in January 2006. He, too, had been subjected to an execution-style killing.
Ammar, aged 27, was abducted and shot in back of the head in Baghdad by suspected Badr militias in January 2006.
Bashar, an actor aged 34, who resides in Baghdad, has been forced to go into hiding, after receiving death threats against him and his family. Before he went underground, his house was raided several times by the Badr Corps. Fortunately, he was not at home, otherwise he fears he would have been kidnapped and killed.
A copy of Sistani's fatwa (prior to its removal), with translation, follows below.
The text of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's fatwa, calling for the killing of sodomites, as it was shown on his website before it was removed on 10 May 2006.
It was on the Sistani website
It was under the section Istiftaaat. You went to letter L in Arabic, and looked up the word Lewat which means (sodomy). See question 5.
Q5: What is the judgment for sodomy and lesbianism?
A5: Forbidden. Punished, in fact, killed. The people involved should be killed in the worst, most severe way possible.
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