The terrorist organization known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has gained a reputation for acts of barbarism, but a video the group released as its reach began to expand reveals that its animosity extends to LGBT people in the Western world.
Brandishing an AK-47 rifle, an apparent ISIS fighter in an Internet propaganda video advises Muslims living in non-Muslim countries to move to areas controlled by ISIS.
At the end of the eight-minute video, he says Muslims must seek refuge in ISIS-controlled areas to protect their children from the possibility of being educated by gay people, whom he compares to drug dealers and pedophiles. The fighter says Muslims must protect their children “from these animals, from these dirty people” and God has deemed them “the worst of creatures.”
“If you have family in these kafir [infidel] countries [i.e., countries ruled by non-Muslims], what is gonna happen most probably?” the fighter says. “You don’t have control of your children. Maybe in some of the countries it is a must for you to put your children in the kafir schools, and who’s gonna teach your children? It’s gonna be maybe a gay, maybe a drug dealer, maybe a pedophile, you know? So it’s very important for you to protect your children from these animals, from these dirty people, Allah says that they are the worst of creatures.”
The video is directed toward Muslims living in Ukraine and Crimea, a peninsula along the Black Sea that Russia annexed from Kiev earlier this year. A sprawl at the bottom of the video delivers a message in Cyrillic; the alphabet used by Russian speakers.
According to the British newspaper The Daily Mirror, the video was initially posted to the website FiSyria.com on March 31 and was presumably created around that time.
The video has since been posted to YouTube by the Middle East Media Research Institute, which has identified the speaker as an ISIS fighter. European media outlets reported on the video at the time, but the Washington Blade has found no reporting in LGBT media.
The Mirror reports that a posting accompanying the video identified the fighter as Abu Issa al-Andalusi. It reportedly said he grew up in Portugal and played soccer with Cristiano Ronaldo and the British soccer team Arsenal, but became disaffected with life in the West and joined jihadists in Syria.
According to the Portugese newspaper Correio da Manhã, British intelligence has since identified the fighter as 29-year-old Celso Rodrigues da Costa, a Portuguese citizen and the son of immigrants from the West African country of Guinea-Bissau. Born in Lisbon, Costa at age 20 moved to England to study, joining the jihadist cause in that country.
Mark Bromley, chair of the pro-LGBT Council for Global Equality, said the animosity toward gay people shown in the video underscores the threat of ISIS.
“The most brutal rights abusers always seek to deny the humanity of their victims,” Bromley said. “It’s a cowardly attempt to make themselves feel better when they know at some basic level that they are perpetrating great evil. I think this betrays how desperate and truly dangerous they are.”
Of course, the name calling in the video falls far short of the brutality demonstrated by ISIS in other messages.
ISIS has been shown apparently beheading two American journalists — Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff — and most recently British humanitarian worker David Hines. ISIS has threatened to follow up with the execution of another British humanitarian worker, Alan Henning, whom the group claims to have apprehended.
The group has also ruthlessly subjugated people in regions it has occupied; particularly women, Shiite Muslims and Christians, as it has expanded from war-torn Syria to the Western region of Iraq. The group has been accused of war crimes and threatening genocide of religious minorities.
ISIS has reportedly kidnapped women, subjecting them to rape and selling them into slavery. Christians in areas controlled by ISIS, such as Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul, must convert to Islam, pay a tax or face death, and Christian women must be completely covered in Muslim garb or be killed.
In a speech last week, President Obama said the U.S. and its allies would “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS and terrorists affiliated with the group are “unique in their brutality.”
“It is recognized by no government, nor the people it subjugates,” said Obama. “ISIL [the acronym for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant that is synonymous with ISIS] is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.”
Obama unveiled a strategy to combat ISIS that consists of air strikes and supporting Iraqi security forces with help from U.S. service members. Although Obama said the U.S. has “not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland,” he added that could change “if left unchecked.”
Even without the video of the ISIS fighter, the animosity of ISIS toward gay people goes without saying. The group seeks to impose Islamic Shariah law, which calls for the death of gay people by stoning.
Meanwhile, there are persistent fears that ISIS will extend its occupation and threaten LGBT people living in the region. According to a report in the British-based Gay Star News, LGBT people in Beirut think they could be targeted if ISIS breaks through the Lebanese border to claim the Christian-dominated Bekaa Valley.
Bertho Makso, who has supported Syrian and Iraqi LGBT refugees fleeing ISIS to Beirut through his organization Proud Lebanon, reportedly said he’s seen wounds — both physical and psychological — that ISIS has left on its gay victims.
‘As gay people it is a terrifying situation,” Masko is quoted as saying. “And it’s not just me, my friends I talk to are all afraid of this. Personally I am closing everything and running away once they reach the Christian villages in the valley – it is one hour from there to Beirut.”
Groups in the Middle East that have worked to protect LGBT refugees from persecution by Islamic extremists include the Organization of Women’s Freedom, which the Daily Beast reports has received death threats for its work, and the Iranian Queer Railroad.
Jimmy LaSalvia, a gay conservative who formerly served as executive director of the now-defunct group known as GOProud, said the video of the ISIS fighter exemplifies that radicalized Islam “is the greatest threat to LGBT people in the world.”
“The treatment of LGBT people by Islamic extremists is one of the most overlooked human rights issues there is,” LaSalvia said. “Many world leaders routinely site radical Islam’s treatment of woman and religious minorities, we have certainly heard a lot about how ISIS treats Christians, but rarely do political leaders or the media draw attention to the plight of LGBT people in that part of the world.”
LaSalvia added he hopes LGBT people “in the civilized world” back the efforts of organizations helping to rescue LGBT refugees from the threat of ISIS and other Islamic extremists.