In 2006, men suspected of being gay were gunned down in the Iraqi town of Ramadi. The anti-gay killings by religious militias have continued, including the assassination of a gay leader in Baghdad. Photo Credit: Iraqi LGBT

Gay Iraqi leader gunned down
BAGHDAD, Iraq — The coordinator for LGBT safe houses in Iraq was assassinated as he sat in a barber shop on Sept. 25. The coordinator, Bashar, 27, was a university student and a leader in the group Iraqi LGBT.

“Militias burst in and sprayed his body with bullets at point blank range,” British gay activist Peter Tatchell said in a statement to “[Bashar] was the organizer of the safe houses for gays and lesbians in Baghdad. His efforts saved the lives of dozens of people.”

The exact identities of the militiamen remain unclear, although news reports have suspected Bashar’s death came at the hands of Islamist death squads who have been targeting LGBT Iraqis since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime by American forces. These death squads have called their mission “sexual cleansing.”

An Iraqi cleric, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued a fatwa, or religious opinion, stating that LGBT people should be killed in the “most severe way possible.”

British actor to give school talks
LONDON, United Kingdom — Noted gay actor Sir Ian McKellen, recently starring in such hit films as the “Lord of the Ring” trilogy, the “X-Men” series and “The Da Vinci Code,” has announced he will participate in several speaking engagements addressing homophobia and gay tolerance in schools.

He told gay magazine Attitude, “I’ve been to talk at quite a few schools recently. I went to a wonderful co-ed faith school in Harpenden.

“They were Christians and absolutely determined that their pupils did not discriminate.

“They invited me to come and give prizes to 13-year-olds in front of the parents and to talk, partly, about being gay.

“I said that we are all part of a minority group — be it for being short, or tall or fat or thin, or having red hair or whatever. I said hands up who thinks they are part of a minority group and all the hands went up.

“I had Gandalf’s sword with me and I knighted a pair of children Sir Minority and Dame Minority and it went down very well.

“It is essential to talk to 12 and 13-year-olds because they absorb what’s thrown at them, whether it be homophobia or tolerance — and we have to make sure it’s the positive stuff.”

McKellen told the magazine he hopes his speaking engagements will encourage others to go back to their schools to speak to youth.

Group speaks out against attacks
SARAJEVO, Bosnia — Amnesty International is speaking out against the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina after security concerns for LGBT Pride participants was ignored.

The group said the government should have provided attendees of the Sarajevo Queer Festival adequate security. The statement came a day after several festival-goers were attacked on the first day of the event.

Amnesty said the government should begin a prompt and thorough investigation into the events that led up to the attack. A total of eight people, including policemen and a journalist, were reported to have been injured.

“The call of gay rights activists for equality before the law and an end to discrimination was met with intolerance and violence,” said Amnesty Europe and Central Asia Director Nicola Duckworth. “Gay and lesbian people have the same rights as everybody else in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the authorities are obliged to guarantee their right to freedom of assembly and to freedom of expression.”

U.S. gay acceptance slammed
NEW YORK, N.Y. — During his trip to the United Nations, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad blasted U.S. acceptance of LGBT people in an interview with TV program Democracy Now.

“It should be of no pride to American society to say they defend something like this,” Ahmadinejad said. “Just because some people want to get votes, they are willing to overlook every morality.”

In his last visit to the U.S. last year, Ahmadinejad told an audience at Columbia University, “In Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country… In Iran we do not have this phenomenon, I don’t know who has told you that we have it.”

In 2005, Iran came under fire for executing two minor boys who were accused of violating Sharia laws on homosexuality. It is alleged the boys were 15 or 16 at the time of the offenses and 17 at the time of their deaths. Iranian officials originally claimed the boys were 18 and 19 at the time of their executions.

Gay union opposition reiterated
LISBON, Portugal — The prime minister of this Atlantic European nation has reiterated his opposition to the extension of civil relationship recognition for same-sex couples.

During a debate in Parliament, Prime Minister José Sócrates turned down a proposed law change that would provide legal recognition to gay couples. It isn’t clear if the changes would provide for full marriage equality or adopt recognition more similar to civil unions.

“Homosexual unions are not on the political agenda,” Sócrates said.

Heloísa Apolónia, a member of Parliament, said the Socialist Party always puts matters of equality “on hold.”

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.