US troops kill gays in Iraq?

From the Washington Blade, July 31:

A fundraising event to benefit an LGBT community center in Lebanon last week took a surprise turn when stunned audience members were shown graphic photographs of beheaded corpses and images purportedly depicting U.S. soldiers preparing to execute gay Iraqis.

Two gay Iraqi refugees, who declined to use their real names, delivered a presentation at the Human Rights Campaign headquarters July 24 in which they detailed alleged abuses of fellow gay Iraqis while calling on their audience to donate funds to Helem, a Lebanon-based center that works to address the plight of LGBT people in the Middle East.

One of the Iraqis, who goes by the name “Hussam,” showed the audience of about 80 people gruesome images, including shots allegedly of a beheaded man who was gay and another of the victim’s twin brother grieving over the severed head.

While asserting that anti-gay violence in Iraq is often committed by Iraqis, Hussam also said U.S. service members were involved in anti-gay hostility. For example, he said service members displayed signs in front of their barracks with the words “Fuck Off Fags.”

But the reaction from the audience turned from anger to shock when Hussam said U.S. service members had detained Iraqi civilians perceived to be gay and executed them.

He then showed an image of what appeared to be an American soldier standing in front of a small group of four or five kneeling naked men who were chained together. Hussam claimed the men were gay Iraqis and that he possessed images of their execution, which he did not show the audience.

See our last posts on Iraq, US atrocities and the anti-gay backlash.

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  1. Claim questioned
    From Southern Voice, Atlanta, Aug. 14:

    Gay Iraqi recants tale of U.S. military atrocities
    Refugee changes story after pressed by Army investigators

    Army investigators have found no evidence to support allegations that U.S. service members were involved in committing atrocities against gays in Iraq, according to a military official.

    Chris Grey, a U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command spokesperson, said in an e-mail Tuesday that special agents determined there was no “credible evidence” to support such claims after receiving a sworn statement from the gay Iraqi refugee who made the accusations.

    Grey noted that the refugee, who went by the alias “Hussam” during the public presentation in which he made the allegations, said in the statement that “his words were taken out of context, he was misunderstood due to language barriers and he was misquoted.”

    The Washington Blade, an newspaper [sic] affiliated with Southern Voice, first reported Hussam’s allegations, and in subsequent correspondence with the Blade he failed to identify alleged inaccuracies in previous articles. The Blade stands behind its reporting of the story.

    The charges surfaced July 24 when Hussam spoke during a benefit held at the Human Rights Campaign’s Washington, D.C., headquarters intended to raise money for Helem, a Lebanon-based center that works to address the plight of LGBT people in the Middle East.

    Calling on his audience of about 80 people to donate to the organization, Hussam delivered a presentation that included gruesome photographs of acts allegedly committed by Iraqis against gays in the country, including images purportedly showing a beheaded gay man lying in the street and the victim’s brother mourning over the severed head.

    Hussam also claimed that U.S. service members were involved in other anti-gay attacks. He said U.S. personnel detained Iraqi civilians perceived to be gay and executed them.

    Hussam then showed an image that he claimed depicted an American soldier standing before a group of four or five kneeling, naked men. Hussam said that the men were gay Iraqis and that he possessed an image of U.S. soldiers executing them, but he didn’t show that picture to the audience.

    The event was co-sponsored by HRC, Human Rights Watch, the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission and the National LGBT Bar Association.

    Money raised at the event and other events that weekend featuring Hussam was sent to the Fund for Global Human Rights, which intends to send the money to Helem. David Mattingly, a Fund program officer, said donations from the weekend events totaled about $7,000.

    ‘Never witnessed’ criminal acts by U.S. military
    In the sworn statement provided to Army investigators, Hussam confirmed that he showed disturbing photographs, but noted the photos of sectarian violence weren’t linked to U.S. service members, Grey said.

    “He also said he never witnessed any actions of U.S. soldiers that he would classify as criminal or any evidence of U.S. service members targeting Iraqi men or women because of their sexual orientation,” Grey said.

    Regarding the photo of what appeared to be a U.S. soldier guarding several naked Iraqi men, Grey said it was determined that in 2004, when the picture was allegedly taken, removing detainees’ clothing was a protection measure authorized within the Rules of Engagement because insurgents often wore suicide vests.

    HRC praised Army investigators for quickly addressing the matter. In a response to the Army’s statement, HRC spokesperson Trevor Thomas said, “We applaud the U.S. Army for moving quickly and immediately launching an investigation.”

    D’Arcy Kemnitz, executive director of the National LGBT Bar Association, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Kemnitz last week said she vouched for Hussam and that his credibility was “beyond reproach.”