Human Rights Watch is trying to help Iraqi homosexuals flee the country:
Long and Moumneh formulated a plan. They would build an underground railroad of sorts, reaching out to gay men in Iraq through the Internet and their existing contacts in Iraq, then advising and supporting gay Iraqis until they could ferry them to a safe city somewhere in Iraq, then to a haven elsewhere in the region, and eventually perhaps to the West.
It has never been easy being gay in Iraq. During the Saddam Hussein era, open homosexuality wasn’t technically outlawed, but it was effectively forbidden, and harassment and torture of gay people, if sporadic, were not unknown. After the American-led invasion of the country in 2003, a similar atmosphere persisted. Fadi was 12 years old during the American invasion, so he had little knowledge of what it was like to be gay under Saddam, but as far back as a year and a half ago, he was walking past his local hussainiyah (a Shia gathering place similar to a mosque) when a man at the entrance of the building called out to him. “Come in for a minute,” the man said. Fadi knew there was no point in running because they knew where he lived. He assumed the man calling him over was from the Mahdi Army. He walked to the door of the hussainiyah thinking, This is the end for me. After some ten hours of being whipped, kicked, and spit on, Fadi was told to pick himself up off the floor and get dressed. “This is a warning for you,” one of his tormentors told him. “Tell people like you what happened to you.”
As virulent as the violence against gay people (men mostly) was, it operated at a kind of low hum for many years, overshadowed by the country’s myriad other problems. But in February of this year, something changed. There was no announcement, no fatwa, no openly declared policy by a cleric or militia leader or politician, but a wave of anti-gay hysteria hit the country. An Iraqi TV station, with disapproving commentary, showed a video of a group of perhaps two dozen young men at a private dance party, wiggling their hips like female belly dancers. Terms like the third sex and puppies, a newly coined slur, began to appear in hostile news reports. Shia and Sunni clerics started to preach in their Friday sermons about the evils of homosexuality and “the people of Lot.” Police officers stepped up their harassment of openly gay men. Families and tribes cast out their gay relatives. The bodies of gay men like Mazen and Namir, often mutilated, began turning up on the street. There is no way to verify the number of tortured or harassed, but the best available estimates place that figure in the thousands. Hundreds of men are believed to have been killed.