Addressing the recent spate of "emo killings" in Iraq, in which young gay men and others with similar public presentation have been targets, the spokesman for the American embassy in Iraq told the San Francisco-based group, Gays Without Borders, that the embassy "strongly condemns" the killings and "is fully engaged at the highest levels to end these attacks, bring the perpetrators to justice, and ensure a secure and free future for all Iraqis."
In a response to Gays Without Borders, embassy spokesman Michael McClellan, who confirmed the email to Metro Weekly, wrote, "Along with the Embassy, the U.S. Department of State strongly condemns the recent violence and killings in Iraq by groups who appear to be targeting individuals based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or personal expression. These acts of intolerance should have no place in any society."
The New York Times on Monday morning reported that "young men in tight T-shirts and skinny jeans are being beaten to death with cement blocks and dumped in the streets .... The violence offers a reminder that the government has been unable to stop threats and attacks against small religious sects, ethnic groups and social pariahs like gay men."
The response to Gays Without Borders was first reported by one of its members, Michael Petrelis. In the NYT report, Jack Healy writes, "An Interior Ministry security officer said that in the past two weeks, officials had found the bodies of six young men whose skulls had been crushed. Reuters reported the toll to be 14 or more, citing hospital and security officials, while rights groups say that more than 40 young men have been killed, but have provided no evidence for this figure."
In the response, McClellan writes, "This embassy shares your concern about the recent attacks in Iraq against individuals identified as gay or part of the 'emo' culture. When NGOs here in Iraq first brought this issue to our attention, we immediately expressed our concern to the Government of Iraq, urged immediate measures to combat this violence, and undertook to try to ascertain the details of these attacks."
McClellan went on to note, "We have been encouraged by the degree of prominent public condemnation of these attacks. A representative for Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani condemned the violence and called the killings 'terrorist attacks.' The Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee within Iraq’s Parliament condemned these actions as well. These statements indicate that an increasing number of Iraqi officials are ready to take these crimes seriously. Through our advocacy and diplomatic efforts, we will continue to urge the Iraqi government to condemn attacks on the LGBT community and to devote all possible attention to preventing such crimes. The State Department will continue to advance a comprehensive human rights agenda that includes the elimination of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity."
McClellan told Metro Weekly early this morning Eastern Time that there had been no further developments in the day since he had sent Petrelis the letter.