September 24, 2016 at 2:38 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Militants use social media to lure, kill gay Iraqi men

Baghdad, Iraq, gay news, Washington Blade

An Iraqi LGBT activist says a Shiite militant group has killed 11 gay men in Baghdad since Sept. 1. (Photo public domain)

Members of a Shiite militant group in Iraq have reportedly killed 11 gay men in Baghdad since Sept. 1.

Ayaz Hassan, a human rights activist from the city of Sulaymaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan, told the Washington Blade this week during a telephone interview that members of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq are using Grindr and Facebook to “talk to gays in Baghdad.”

Hassan said the militants send messages to people they suspect are gay. He told the Blade that the militants “convince them to go out” on dates after sending them pictures of themselves.

“They take them away and they kill them,” said Hassan.

Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, which is also known as the Khazali Network, is a branch of Al-Hashd al-Shabi, a group that is affiliated with former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The organization split from the Madhi Army, another Shiite militia run by prominent cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, in 2004.

Al-Sadr in July issued a decree that bans his followers from committing violence against LGBT people. A gay Iraqi man who lives in D.C. told the Blade this week the Baghdad killings are a reaction to the order.

“Muqtada’s opinion totally worked against the LGBTQ community in Iraq,” he said. “He has many haters in Iraq.”

Activist: ‘It’s so dangerous’

Anti-LGBT violence is commonplace throughout Iraq.

The so-called Islamic State has publicly executed dozens of men accused of committing sodomy in portions of the country under its control. The gay Iraqi man in D.C. with whom the Blade spoke said militants kidnapped his friend in 2011 after they set up a “fake date” with him.

“They have been doing this for a long time in Baghdad,” he said.

Hassan told the Blade the killings have sparked fear among gay Iraqis in Baghdad and around the country.

“It’s terrifying,” he said from Sulaymaniyah. “Every gay man I know is terrified, even here.”

“I am so scared here,” added Hassan, telling the Blade gay Iraqis are too afraid to use Grindr. “It’s so dangerous.”

Shawn Gaylord of Human Rights First said in a statement the reported killings are “consistent with the horrendous patterns of violence in the region” that include “the targeting of men and boys who are gay or perceived to be gay.” He told the Blade that social media is used “as a tool to entrap them.”

“Protecting the lives of the most marginalized, including the LGBT population, needs to remain a top priority for the United States in this region, even as it juggles many other human rights concerns,” said Gaylord. “We also think it’s essential for social media companies to be part of developing solutions to prevent these tragic cases from occurring.”

Neither Grindr nor the Iraqi Embassy in D.C. have returned the Blade’s requests for comment. The Blade has also reached out to the State Department.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

  • What can the US do specifically that will save lives? As long as these murderers are in Iraq they are out of reach and likely immune to justice. The real lesson here is that internet hookup are dangerous anywhere. You don’t really know who you are dealing with.

    The old fashion way of meeting in a gay friendly space allows you to assess a person in public at least.Although that is never completely safe either as Jeffrey Dahmer taught us.

  • But doesn’t that mean dummy accounts of gay people could be created to simply reverse engineer the situation to locate the attackers and deal with them accordingly?

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