8 APRIL 18, 2003
www.houston voice.com HOUSTON VOICE
Saddam's fall may mean little for gays in Iraq
Scant lobbying for gay
rights in post-war Iraq
by U.S. activists
By LOU CHIBBARO JR.
As Iraqi community and exile leaders
met this week in Iraq to map plans for a
new government, officials with gay civil
rights groups in the U.S. said they have no
immediate plans to lobby the federal government or Iraqis for gay rights protections in the post-Saddam Iraq.
"In the absence of existing groups contacting us for assistance, we are reluctant
to get involved with our moral guns blazing," said Sara Moore, an official with the
San Francisco-based International Gay &
Lesbian Human Rights Commission.
Moore, like representatives of several
other U.S. gay civil rights groups, said
IGLHRC strongly supports the creation of
a democratic, pluralistic government in
Iraq and believes democratic institutions
are the best means to achieve human
rights protections for gays and other
minorities in Iraq.
But Moore said IGLHRC would not
become involved in Iraq's quest to form a
new government unless gays in that coun-
Faisal Alam, founder of
the gay Islamic group
Al-Fatiha, said his
group favors a democratic Irag as a means
of improving conditions for gay Iragis,
but warned that many
Iragi leaders are suspicious of U.S. intentions
in the country. (File
photo by Clint Steib)
try contact IGLHRC and ask for assistance.
The Human Rights Campaign, the
nation's largest gay civil rights group, limits its work to domestic U.S. policies pertaining to gays and will not take a position
on a post-war government in Iraq, said
HRC spokesperson David Smith.
Sheri Lunn, a spokesperson for the
National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, which
opposed U.S. military action in Iraq, did
not respond by press time.
Faisal Alam, founder of the gay Islamic
group Al-Fatiha, and Ramzi Zakharia, an
official with the Gay & Lesbian Arab
Society, both based in the U.S., said their
groups also favor a democratic Iraqi government as a means of improving the lives
of gay Iraqis. But the two cautioned that
large numbers of Iraqi civic and religious
leaders are suspicious of U.S. motives for
Zakharia said that large anti-American
demonstrations this week in Baghdad and
the city of Nasiriya raise concerns that
U.S.-led efforts to form a new government
in Iraq could backfire by strengthening
the hands of anti-gay Shiite clerics.
"Saddam, however bad he was, had a
secular government," Zakharia said. "Now
we seem to be going from that to a religious
type government. And that is not good for
gays and other minorities in Iraq."
Amnesty to push for reforms
Amnesty International, while steering clear of issues surrounding the U.S.
invasion of Iraq, plans to seize on the collapse of Iraq's government to push hard
for human rights reforms, Amnesty
spokesperson Alistair Hodgett said.
Hodgett said Amnesty, which advocates
for human rights for gays and other-
minorities in countries throughout the
world, is seeking U.S. permission to dispatch members of its staff to Iraq as soon
as possible to begin assessing the status of
human rights in the war torn country.
He said that, among other things,
Amnesty would push for inclusion of
human rights protections in the framework of the interim Iraqi government that
Iraqi leaders are expected to develop over
the next several months.
"We will speak out, as we did in
Afghanistan, to use this window of opportunity to ask a new government to put in
place protections for the rights of women
and minorities," Hodgett said.
Although the U.S. government has no
Please see GAYS IN IRAQ on Page 9
xuou Wmm Wmmmmw
Author of #1 best-sellers "The Front Runner" and "Harlan's Race"
"Being a gay Democrat in a post 911
world: Getting our issues heard."
usfor TME _S_f>a_f»_l
at the River Cafe (Montrose near Alabama)
Friday April 25th • 6:30 - 9:00 p.
For Tickets call 713-854-8773 • $40 each