Metro Weekly

United Nations holds first historic meeting on LGBT rights

Meeting will discuss anti-LGBT persecution and violence under ISIS

United Nations headquarters (Photo credit: Fernanda LeMarie, Cancilleria de Ecuador, via Wikimedia Commons).
United Nations headquarters (Photo credit: Fernanda LeMarie, Cancilleria de Ecuador, via Wikimedia Commons).

The United Nations Security Council is meeting today, Monday, Aug. 24, to discuss anti-LGBT persecution and violence for the first time in the organization’s history.

Specifically, the meeting will focus on the treatment of sexual minorities in areas under the control of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The meeting, which is an informal session known as an “Arria,” will brief Security Council member states on instances of anti-LGBT violence and murders committed by the Islamic State. The Arria came to fruition because of efforts by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and Chilean Ambassador to the United Nations Cristian Barros Melet, who also make their own remarks.

However, due to the meeting’s informal nature, it is unclear how many nations — particularly those with laws punishing homosexuality — will send representatives. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 75 countries criminalize same-sex relationships, and, in 10 others, same-sex activity is punishable by death. A number of countries, most notably Russia, have adopted “anti-propaganda” laws to prevent people from speaking about or sharing information related to homosexuality or LGBT rights. 

According to the International Gay and Lesbian Rights Commission (IGLHRC), since June 2014, ISIS has published at least seven online photo reports purporting to show the execution of people accused of sodomy. The commission cites 12 other instances in which the Islamic State claims to have killed men for engaging in sodomy or adultery, as well as additional reports of stonings of women accused and convicted of adultery, and numerous accounts of people killed because of their religious affiliation. The killings and stonings of people thought to be gay at the hands of ISIS fighters has garnered much international attention, due in part to the graphic nature of the killings.

Jessica Stern, the executive director of the IGLHRC, will provide testimony at the briefing, along with two men, one from Syria and another from Iraq, who were targeted by the Islamic State.

“We commend the Security Council for its willingness to confront the horrific acts of violence we have seen perpetrated against Iraqis and Syrians accused of engaging in homosexual acts,” Stern said in a statement prior to giving her testimony. “These atrocities add to the official record of well-publicized murders and forms of degradation by ISIS of individuals because of their faith, their gender, their ethnicity, or because they were perceived to be, in one way or another, impure.”

“The gruesome images and videos documenting ISIS’s horrific violence are a haunting reminder of humankind’s capacity for evil,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “By convening this meeting, Ambassadors Power and Melet have made clear that these human rights abuses against LGBT people are not only deeply heinous and inhumane, but also a matter of utmost importance to global security.”

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