Iraq's New Surge: Gay Killings

Excellent article on the killings of gays in Iraq written by Rasha Moumneh appeared yesterday on Foreign Policy:

Western attention has always focused primarily on sectarian attacks in Iraq. Yet al-Sadr’s militia and its counterparts in countless neighborhoods and towns have long had other targets in their cross hairs. These men claim to bear the banners of religion and morality, defending against any transgressors. They paint themselves as the caretakers of tradition, culture, and national authenticity — which often means keeping women, as well as men, in their rigidly enforced traditional roles. Ironically, they sell their violence as a means of security: Amid the total upheaval of Iraqi society over the last eight years, many people regard any relaxing of gender roles as a threat to public order, undermining patriarchal power. And since the coalition forces failed to provide security after the invasion, such cultural conservatives have moved in to fill the role. Many aimless, unemployed advocates of rigid traditionalism have taken up the task with their guns.

Indeed, since 2003, the Mahdi Army and other militias have targeted women, murdering hundreds if not thousands for working outside the home, for wearing makeup or pants, or just for walking on the streets unveiled. More recently, as attacks on gay men have grown more pronounced, Iraq’s media and its mosques have taken up the theme that Iraqi masculinity is under threat. Friday prayers warn that the “third sex” is on the loose in Baghdad cafes. News articles bemoan the “feminization” of Iraqi men, apparent not only by homosexuality but in Western dress and habits, scandalously tight T-shirts and expensive jeans. The hatred of “feminized” men betrays a deep-seated fear of women, and anxiety over the loss of fatherly and familial control.

Assaults on marginalized people, however, never stay at the margins. The fate of the most isolated, vulnerable people is a barometer of whether the law can protect, and the state will serve, all citizens.

Read the whole article here.