Stop Neglecting the True State of LGBT Refugees




Crowd gathers to watch as ISIS throws man from roof after accused of being gay.

LGBT people face mortal danger from ISIS and around the world, yet few ever obtain refuge in the U.S.

In December 2011, President Obama published a trailblazing memorandum vowing to apply U.S. power to create safety for LGBT people oppressed and endangered around the world. Among the key means: securing LGBT refugees’ access to the U.S. refugee system. This venerable goal is eluding us.

As the president delivers his final State of the Union address tonight, the perils facing LGBT people in many countries around the world have never been so dire.

Never have so many LGBT people been so viciously targeted by state and nonstate actors in so many countries. Never before have leaders outside the U.S. used LGBT issues for political gain with such ease. And far from gaining access to refugee systems, the few LGBT people who escape carnage in their countries are unable to access the fortress of international refugee protection or the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.

Several months ago, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power shocked the world when she revealed that of the 70,000 refugees the U.S. took in during 2014, fewer than 100 were LGBT. The numbers for 2015 will not be better.

Without a solution, LGBT people will continue to be executed in places like Syria, where the bloodthirsty Islamic State terrorist group and the masses alike execute accused gays in the name of piety.

With so much goodwill and commitment on the president’s part, something is terribly wrong. Without a firm understanding of how and why LGBT refugees access — and are locked out of — refugee systems, the State Department, which runs our country’s refugee program, has been faltering at efforts to improve the dismal picture, using methods that have been tried and have failed.

But there is a way. The U.S. certainly can admit vastly more LGBT refugees.

LGBT refugees face insurmountable barriers accessing protection, as self-disclosure puts them in mortal danger. We’ve all heard the countless horrifying stories of innocent people being thrown from buildings simply because they are accused of being gay. Yet receiving protection requires revealing their identity.

To begin creating access routes, the State Department must work much more closely with LGBT organizations already in the field. To create a sliver of trust and safety in such treacherous territory, refugee professionals must not only have extraordinary expertise and sensitivity, they must also embody the message they utter.

The humanitarian community understands that a female survivor of rape should not be expected to tell her true story to anyone but another woman. Yet LGBT refugees are expected to blithely allow ostensibly heterosexual adjudicators into the most difficult vaults of their personal lives.

A rainbow flag and a concerned look are a good start. But for an LGBT refugee escaping certain death after being hounded by decades of external and internal homophobia, these gestures are not nearly enough. To collect the courage to come out — even in order to save their own lives — most refugees need to derive strength and solace from other LGBT people. Yet in most places, this essential touchstone is nowhere to be seen.

In a recent informal survey of Gaziantep, Turkey, the ground zero refugee city housing 220,000 Syrians, I found not a single “out” LGBT refugee. Not surprisingly, of the thousands of nongovernmental organization workers in that border city, not one refugee worker is “out.” If well-protected refugee agency staff will not dare come out of their comfort zone to colleagues, how can we possibly expect a powerless LGBT refugee to expose this most private and lethal vulnerability to a stranger?

Many refugees have paid with their lives to safeguard their secret sexual orientation or gender identity. We cannot bring them back. But we can spare those now clamoring for dear life in hundreds of places like Gaziantep.

The president’s bold call for increasing the Syrian refugee quota by 10,000 slots is commendable. Employing and protecting openly LGBT staff and partnering closely with openly LGBT groups is the key to creating system access for LGBT refugees. We ask that the Obama administration take these essential steps to fulfill the wise objectives originally set out by the president in 2011.


NEIL GRUNGRAS is the founder and executive director of the Organization for Refuge, Asylum, and Migration, an international nonprofit devoted to advocating on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable refugees and asylum-seekers, including those fleeing persecution based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Evil ISIS executes boy, 15, by throwing him off a roof – because he's gay






By Jeremy Culley /

MURDEROUS ISIS terrorists carried out a horrific public execution by throwing a boy accused of homosexuality off a roof, reports say.


MURDERED: A prisoner being thrown from a roof by ISIS

MURDERED: A prisoner being thrown from a roof by ISIS


The 15-year-old had been arrested for being gay and thrown from the top of a building in Deir ez-Zor, Syria.

An eyewitness told ARA News: “The horrific execution took place in front of a large crowd.”

Sources say that the boy had been in a gay relationship with ISIS officer Abu Zaid al-Jazrawi, who has been sent to Iraq on the battlefront, rather than being executed.


SICK: Terror cult ISIS has conquered large swathes of the Middle East

Although the Islamic law bans homosexuality, the brutal punishment by Daesh has never been witnessed throughout history”

Civil rights activist Raed Ahmed

This is reportedly to compensate for heavy losses sustained by ISIS, also known as Daesh, on the frontline from coalition and Russian bombing.

Sarai al-Din told ARA News: “The boy was accused of being engaged in a homosexual relation with the prominent ISIS officer Abu Zaid al-Jazrawi.

“Abu Zaid was forced to leave Syria and join the fighting fronts in northwestern Iraq. The decision has been taken by the ISIS leadership.

'Being Gay Isn't As Sexy As ISIS'


Lucy Sherriff


One Young Man’s Fight For Rights For Iraq’s Queer Community

“Being gay isn’t as sexy as ISIS. So no-one pays us any attention.”

These are the words of Amir Ashour, a 25-year-old Iraqi and the founder of the country’s only organisation for its queer community.

Amir left behind his home and family a year ago and is currently living in Sweden. There, he hopes to register and expand his charity IraQueer, as it is illegal to do so in Iraq.

He has received multiple threats from both officials and his friends because of who he is and the work he does.

“It’s incredibly difficult being away from my family – I’ve been missing birthdays, everything – and the more work I do for IraQueer, and the more people know about it, the harder it’s getting for me to be able to return to Iraq,” Amir says.

amir ashour

Amir Ashour, the 25-year-old founder of IraQueer

Politicians and other influential personalities see us as a threat, and no longer see us just as a young group that is publishing information on a website,” he explains.

“It’s hard to be so far from home and everything I know, but it would’ve been harder to be home and be forced to be away from myself and what I believe in.”

Back in Iraq, Amir was attacked by his own friends, “both because of my work and who I am”.

He was ridiculed for his clothes, his voice, his size, “everything”.

“People would make everything relevant and try to connect it to my sexuality and of course use it as an insult. A lot of people stopped hanging out with me because they were afraid of the stigma that came with hanging out with me.”

Although he says he could ignore most of it because he had a good circle of friends, being gay affected his everyday life.

“It’s just not possible to even talk about the queer community inside Iraq,” Amir explains. And that was the reasoning behind launching IraQueer, which aims to provide support and information for the queer community in Iraq and Kurdistan.

“We’re sharing stories of people who lived their entire life in Iraq and are from Iraqi families. They went through the normal education system and work the normal kind of job, and they are no different from anyone else. The only difference is that their sexual orientation is different.

“So, we bring it closer to home. And we try to publish anything that is related to the queer community, even if it’s just a rumour, because sometimes rumours are the only thing that we have.”

One of the main threats to the queer community in Iraq, Amir explains, is the armed militias in Baghdad and other cities.

“The main one that has been practising all the killing campaigns in Iraq actually announced a partnership with our government a few months ago, under the name of ‘fighting ISIS’.

“The last campaign we documented was in January this year, while in July 2014, [the militia] killed 35 gay people and sex workers in one day. Not even one report was made about that.

“Not one single person has been imprisoned for killing a gay person.”

And, Amir adds, that’s just the numbers they’re aware of. “How many more people have just disappeared? Especially with what’s happening with ISIS and people being displaced.. We can’t keep track. And the government is making it impossible for civil society organisations to run safe houses. If an organisation wants to do that, then they are charged with running brothels and prostitution.”

amir ashour

Amir has been forced to expand IraQueer from outside Iraq

Earlier this year, Iraq submitted a periodic report to the UN, which Amir says glossed over its treatment of the queer community.

“The Iraqi government was presenting so many perfect things about what it is doing, and how it is trying its best,” Amir says. “But this is such a cliché.

“So since then IraQueer has been highlighting all the violations they are doing.”

With the help of OutRightsAction International, IraQueer wrote “a lot” of recommendations for the Iraqi and international communities on how they can force the government to commit to basic human rights standards for LGBT+ people.

“Even if homosexuality is against religion and Islam is the main force of law in Iraq, killing is illegal. That is not something people can debate and argue.”

I ask whether the rest of the world underestimates the battles faced by the LGBT community in Iraq and Kurdistan.

“I love that you asked this question,” Amir enthuses. “It is the first time anyone has asked me this question.”

That’s when he points out “sexier things” are happening in Iraq.

“ISIS is sexier,” he states simply. “When it comes to Iraq, people think ISIS is the main problem. It’s the same with Syria, for example. People are not paying attention to what Assad is doing, they’re watching what ISIS is doing.

“Unfortunately we [the queer community] is not as sexy as ISIS, and until that is solved, we cannot compete with that attention.”

Amir cites human rights not being a political interest as the reason “almost no-one” is doing anything about what the queer community is facing.

“Even though it is a human rights violation.”

“Iraq has ratified so many of the international treaties that should make sure there are equal rights for people, regardless of their sexuality and gender identity. So why isn’t the international community holding Iraq accountable for these things?”

In August, Iraq criminalised homosexuality, a huge step back in IraQueer’s fight for LGBT+ rights.

“In its report to the UN, the Iraq government clearly said homosexuality is a sinful act according to Islam and it’s illegal. That it’s something that could disturb the public and create problems.”

And, according to Amir, Iraq is excusing its human rights violation by using the fact it is fighting terrorism and it is “normal” for a country in its situation to have such violations.

Whether or not there is room for homosexuality in Islam is still up for debate. But Amir says the question is not whether Islam should create room for the queer community, as they are simply “two different things”.

“I know a lot of people who are Muslims and queer at the same time.

“Islam does criminalise sexuality – that is clear. But Islam also promotes love and peace and no killing and all these human values, so why not go with these instead of violence?”

Iraq needs to be a secular state, he adds. “Because Islam was sent to people more than 1,500 years ago, and that alone just tells you that it is really outdated when it comes to laws.

“Maybe it had great laws back then and maybe people still want these values in their life, but religion should be a private practice that you choose to follow or not, instead of a law that everyone needs to follow.

“You are born with your sexuality but you are not born with your religious beliefs.”

Although he comes from a family with a “long religious history”, Amir converted “or whatever you want to call it” from Islam seven years ago.

“It’s not that I have anything against Muslims,” he explains. “It’s just that Islam doesn’t work for me.

“Not just because of my sexual preferences, but just the whole thing. I think I have values and principles that work as good as having a religion.

“I have a lot of people who are Muslims in my life, including my family, and I respect them. We both respect that we have different views.”

Unfortunately, not everyone shares Amir’s values of respect.

Working for IraQueer is dangerous job for Amir’s colleagues, all of whom have to work underground for fear of being exposed.

“A lot of our members don’t even know each other,” Amir explains. “The main reason we want to do that is because some of our members agreed to join but didn’t want to know anyone else and we decided we would work this way for a while until everyone is comfortable with being connected to each other.

“We didn’t want to put unnecessary pressure on the others. Everyone connects with each other through me. I’m the only public face associated with the organisation.”

There are few – if any – resources for the queer community in Iraq and Kurdistan. And very little is published on the subject by the outside world.

“Even if journalists are sent to Iraq, they could actually put their lies in danger if they ask about these questions, especially if they don’t know who to ask.

“There were five to 10 pieces on the queer community in Iraq on the internet before we launched. Now, IraQueer has about 3,500 readers visiting the site every month. We have 4,000 followers on social media and our weekly posts on social media reach around 2,000 people. These numbers are of course small compared to other bigger outlets but compare that to almost non-existent.. it’s something that we are really trying to work on.”


Amir’s colleagues have to work in secret for fear of reprisals

The people of Kurdistan, Amir says, have no information on homosexuality, bar what IraQueer provides.

Amir continues: “People are not only exposed to what’s happening but they’re also exposed to our side of the story. We are telling our own story.

“The most important thing that we’re doing is reaching out to the LGBT community. We have a section dedicated to the stories of the community.

“The stories of the people who are telling their own experiences proves that people are wrong. A lot of people say that we did not have homosexuality and that the US brought it with their invasion in 2003.”

Amir pauses, then adds: “Like they dropped a gay bomb or something.”

Despite the severity of the situation, we can’t help but share a giggle at the ridiculousness of the idea.

But it’s no laughing matter for those who lead a double life in order to preserve a single one.

“A lot of people are married and have a secret life on the side,” Amir explains. ” know no-one who is publicly gay in Iraq. It is definitely going to get you killed if you are public. Best case scenario is that you’re going to lose your job, education, whatever you have in your life – even if it is a volunteer project.

“It is impossible to live an openly gay life.”

Even though IraQueer’s staff work in secret, it is still a huge risk. “That’s why a lot of our meetings are very small, four or five people so that it’s not suspicious. And that’s why they don’t happen on a regular basis.”

Amir started working in human rights during his second year at Sulaymaniyah University, in Iraq, when he was 19. “In the beginning I was just volunteering for some local and international NGOs and working with kids and women.”

But, he says, he started his “real career” in human rights after graduation – around three years ago – when he landed work with two organisations based in New York.

“I was their representative in Iraq and my main focus was working with sex workers and women who were fleeing from crimes and facing violations.”

However, it wasn’t long before Amir realised he was not fulfilling his calling.

“When I was working with the charities, the project was really important but it was more an emergency response. That was not leading us to start a real change, it was more reacting to events. I had the idea of starting something like IraQueer in the last year of my work with the charities – but of course I had to move out of the country.

“I was already very public about my sexuality and activism – through talks and attending conferences – so I thought why not just take it to the next level?

“I wanted to start something where we don’t only help the LGBTQI+ community but actually turn them into active agents and making a change.”

Amir continues: “When people started realising what I was doing and who I am was not a phase, I started facing a lot of problems with the projects I was leading.

“Funders stopped funding, members stopped working and volunteering with us. It affects every single aspect of your life. People are forced to live double lives.”

But Amir says he never “came out” to his family and friends.

“I don’t believe in that term. Because I was never ‘inside’ anything.

“If people ask, it depends on how relevant it is that I answer. I never said that I wasn’t gay and now if some people are questioning my sexuality, I’ll make a ‘come out’ video that is one second long and it’ll just be ‘I’m gay’, and just be done with it. For me, it’s irrelevant, and no-one says ‘the first straight Prime Minister of this country’. No-one points out the sexuality of straight people.”

And, speaking of Prime Ministers, Amir is admirably positive about the future.

“If I ever go back I want to be able to run for the Prime Minister. I want that opportunity to be available. And, if it’s not available, then we will work until it is.”

First on Amir’s list, however, is stopping the killings.

“We need to make it impossible for people to be killed or attacked based on their sexual orientation. That’s our number one demand.

“But of course, like any other country in the world, we want to be an active agent in rebuilding Iraq. And Iraq is in desperate need of being rebuilt. It is facing problems on so many levels.

“The country needs all the capacities of the citizens that they have, regardless of who they sleep with. That is is irrelevant.

“We want equality in everything.”

Amir is an ambassador for One Young World, a global forum for young leaders aged 18-30 which gathers youths from every nation in the world to develop solutions to some of today’s – and tomorrow’s – most pressing issues.


ISIS Stone Two "Gay" Men To Death On Tarpaulin

the-gay-uk-logoBy The Gay UK, Oct 27 2015 01:59PM



Pictures have emerged of two men, their hands bound behind their backs, rocks surrounding their bloody, lifeless bodies. Their crime? Accused of being gay by the so-called Islamic State.

Warning report contain distressing images.
Pictures of the lifeless, bloodied bodies of two men, accused by ISIS fighters of being gay have emerged on social media. The two men were executed by stoning, with their hands bound behind their backs and blindfolded, on top of a tarpaulin in Aleppo, the largest city in Syria.
Violence against gay men, or those accused of being gay, by the Islamic state has increased in 2015, with well attended public executions usually concluding with the victims being thrown off the tallest buildings in the area. If the victims survive the surrounding crowds often stone them to death.

Last month 10 males included a 15-year-old boy were murdered, in the most violent day against gay men in territories controlled by the so-called Islamic State, which adopts Sharia Law. Homosexuality is illegal in states and countries that adopt Sharia law.


Islam’s legal system, derived from the Koran

Informs every aspect of Muslims’ lives

Islamic jurists issue formal guidance through fatwas, or religious edicts

Sharia law includes provisions for capital and corporal punishment but modern scholars say getting to that stage can be difficult

Marriage is treated as a contract in Islam

From The BBC
It was announced last week that sex between consenting Muslim same-sex adults in the Indonesian province of Aceh, could attract 100 lashes as the province adopted Sharia law.


Gripped by his ankles, a gay man is held above 100ft drop as bloodthirsty crowd wait to watch him dropped to his death by ISIS executioner


The Mail ONline –

  • Depraved ISIS fighters brutally murdered three gay men in the city of Mosul
  • Dangled the men from a 100 foot high building before letting them fall
  • Huge crowds of bloodthirsty onlookers gathered in the closed street below 
  • Audience are given rocks to stone the men to death should they survive

Depraved militants fighting for the Islamic State in Iraq have brutally murdered three gay men by throwing them from the top of a high building in front of a huge crowd of bloodthirsty onlookers.

Disturbing photographs of the atrocity – believed to have been taken place in ISIS’ stronghold Mosul – shows one man being dangled over the edge of the building by his ankles before being dropped.

In the event the horrifically injured men are not killed upon impact with the ground, the baying crowd are encouraged to surge forward and stone them to death with a mass of rocks helpfully provided by the ISIS savages who organise the terror group’s sickening public executions.

Sick: This disturbing photographs of the atrocity - believed to have been taken place in ISIS' stronghold Mosul - shows a gay man being dangled over the edge of the high building by his ankles before being dropped

Sick: This disturbing photographs of the atrocity – believed to have been taken place in ISIS’ stronghold Mosul – shows a gay man being dangled over the edge of the high building by his ankles before being dropped

Moments from death: A second shots shows the blindfolded man tumbling through the air in the sitting position with his legs outstretched as he hurtles towards the ground

Moments from death: A second shots shows the blindfolded man tumbling through the air in the sitting position with his legs outstretched as he hurtles towards the ground

In a sequence of images, some of which are far too brutal to publish, the jihadis are seen with the men on the roof of the building before dropping them to their deaths.

In one chilling shot, a man wearing a blue tracksuit is seen being dangled over the edge of the building by his ankles by a leather-jacketed ISIS jihadi just moments away from letting him fall.

A second shots shows the blindfolded man tumbling through the air in the sitting position with his legs outstretched as he hurtles towards the ground.

The building is approximately 100 feet tall, giving the condemned men several seconds of harrowing free-fall before impacting with the ground.

One particularly gruesome image a blindfolded man with a beard is seen tumbling backwards through the air as the bloodied and mangled corpses of his fellow victims lie below.

In a horrific reminder of the local support ISIS has mustered in Mosul, the audience gathered to watch the brutal murders is so large that several militants are deployed as crowd control.

The building at the center of Mosul used for training and…

Gathered to watch: The depraved Islamic State militants brutally murdered three gay men by throwing them from the top of a high building in front of a huge crowd of bloodthirsty onlookers

Gathered to watch: The depraved Islamic State militants brutally murdered three gay men by throwing them from the top of a high building in front of a huge crowd of bloodthirsty onlookers Read more: Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Gathered to watch: The depraved Islamic State militants brutally murdered three gay men by throwing them from the top of a high building in front of a huge crowd of bloodthirsty onlookers

It is far from the first time ISIS savages have murdered men they accused of being gay in this way.

In fact the terror group regularly uses images of men being thrown from buildings in front of baying crowds in its sickening propaganda releases.

One particularity brutal twist is that many of the victims are not immediately killed by the fall. But as one might expect, ISIS has its own particularly barbaric contingency plan for such a circumstance.

The jihadis who organise the public executions always ensure there is a large pile of rocks on hand at the site, which the baying crowd are encouraged to use to stone any survivors to death.

This sickening twist on audience participation is believed to be why attendance at public murders is so high, with men and boys using motorbikes to travel from nearby villages for such events.

The crowds also usually contain groups of niqab-wearing women, who are granted special permission to leave their homes in order to witness the atrocities.

Bloodthirsty: In a horrific reminder of the local support ISIS has mustered in Mosul, the audience gathered to watch the brutal murders is so large that several militants are deployed as crowd control

Bloodthirsty: In a horrific reminder of the local support ISIS has mustered in Mosul, the audience gathered to watch the brutal murders is so large that several militants are deployed as crowd control

The images were released the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS doubled down on its strategy to fight the extremists, insisting on staying the course it set last year despite the radical group’s recent conquests on both sides of the border between Iraq and Syria.

Yesterday Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi pressed his case for more support from the 25 countries in the coalition at a one-day Paris conference on fighting the militant group, organized within weeks of the fall of the Iraqi city of Ramadi and the Syrian city of Palmyra.

The coalition has mustered a mix of airstrikes, intelligence sharing and assistance for Iraqi ground operations against the extremists.

Al-Abadi said more was needed – his country reeling after troops pulled out of Ramadi without a fight and abandoned U.S.-supplied tanks and weapons.

‘We will redouble our efforts,’ said Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken, who was leading the delegation after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry broke his leg in a cycling accident in eastern France over the weekend.

IS, Blinken said, ‘stands for nothing and depends on people who will fall for anything.