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International News - Rex Wockner
International News

by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Iraqi Gay leader assassinated
The Baghdad head of the international group Iraqi LGBT was assassinated in late September, activists in London reported.

Bashar, 27, was gunned down in a barbershop.

"Militias burst in and sprayed his body with bullets at point-blank range," said leading British Gay activist Peter Tatchell. "The exact identity of the gunmen is unclear, but he was probably murdered by the Islamist death squads who are targeting Lesbian and Gay Iraqis for 'sexual cleansing.'"

Bashar was the local coordinator of foreign-funded "safe houses" for Gays and Lesbians living in Iraq.

"His efforts saved the lives of dozens of people," Tatchell said. "Bashar was a kind, generous and extremely brave young man - a true hero who put his life on the line to save the lives of others."

Sarajevo Queer Festival attacked
At least 10 people were injured - six of whom required hospitalization - when dozens of hooded, bearded men shouting "Kill the Gays" and "Allahu akbar" ("God is great") attacked the opening of the first Sarajevo Queer Festival in Bosnia and Herzegovina on September 24.

Some attendees were dragged from cars while others were chased down the streets near the Academy of Fine Arts, site of the festival's opening events. A police officer and two journalists also were injured.

The five-day, indoor, arts and culture festival offered exhibitions, performances, movies and public discussions.

Some local media had campaigned for violence against the festival, urging that the organizers be lynched, stoned, doused with gasoline or expelled from the country.

Posters advocating "Death to Gays" appeared around Sarajevo in early September, and the festival was denounced by some imams, who objected, among other things, to its coinciding with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

"We do not feel safe for ourselves or for our families," one of the event's organizers told Amnesty International prior to the festival's opening. "Some of us had to find new accommodation because our names and addresses were made publicly known. We are afraid to use public transport or go out alone."

The European Parliament's Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights strongly condemned the attacks.

"It is a cowardly behavior to challenge the views one disagrees with by violence," said Intergroup President Michael Cashman. "Bosnia-Herzegovina wants to become a member of the European Union and the country should clearly show that it is ready for membership. Authorities and society at large must show that they can respect the rights of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexual and Transgender people not just in law, but also in practice. Respect for human rights is at the heart of EU membership."

Intergroup Vice President Sirpa Pietikäinen added, "Religious and political leaders should be aware that the violence ... is a result of their homophobic speeches."

Belgrade Queer Festival attacked
Ten masked protesters attacked 25 people leaving an event of the 5th Queer Belgrade Festival September 19 in Serbia, injuring four people.

One of the injured individuals was American and another Russian. Two of the attackers were arrested.

The Queer Belgrade Collective issued a statement demanding police locate and arrest the remaining perpetrators and punish them in a proper and timely manner.

The group also urged the government to amend the Serbian Criminal Code to recognize hate crimes.

The festival featured movies, performances, bands and panel discussions.

Larry King quizzes Ahmadinejad on Gays in Iran
U.S. TV interviewer Larry King quizzed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his nation's treatment of Gays September 23.

There have been persistent, though unconfirmed, reports for years that Iran hangs men for the crime of engaging in Gay sex.

King said: "People [are] protesting that they don't have the same rights as other people. Homosexuals - you said last year, you denied there were homosexuals [in Iran]. There's homosexuals everywhere."

Ahmadinejad replied: "I said it's not the way it is here [in the U.S.]. In Iran this is considered a very - obviously most people dislike it. And we have actually a law regarding it and the law is enforced. It is a law that was passed. It was legislated. And it is an act that is against human principles. A lot of things can happen. It can cause psychological problems, social problems that affect the whole society. Remember that God's rules are to improve human life. In our religion, this act is forbidden and the Parliament has legislated about it. Not now, 70 years ago. This is something that happened 70 years ago, before the Islamic Republic became -"

King interjected, "So what happens to Gay people?"

Ahmadinejad replied: "Well, of course, nobody has held protests. You are - are you concerned for 70 million Iranian people or a few homosexuals? Let's assume in Iran - let's assume in the United States that 200 million people drive cars and a million violators are rounded up and they just basically violate driving laws. Should we be worried for the 199 million people whose safety we must be concerned about or the one million violators? The law is the law and it's law. And it must be enforced. Of course, we do pay attention that in Iran nobody interferes in the private lives of individuals. We have nothing to do with the private realm of people. This is at the [level of] not-private, public morality. In their own house, nobody ever interferes with people."

Last year, during a speech at Columbia University in New York City, Ahmadinejad also was asked about the nation's treatment of Gay people.

He responded: "We in Iran ... don't have hamjensbaz [a derogatory term for homosexuals] like you have in your country. In our country, there is no such a thing. In Iran, such a thing does not - in Iran, in Iran, absolutely such a thing does not exist as a phenomenon. I don't know who told you otherwise."

Iran is known to have executed several teens and men accused of engaging in sodomy, although in nearly all the cases that have been publicized in recent years the individuals were accused of other crimes as well, such as rape.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission has said it suspects that other charges often are tacked onto sodomy cases to prevent the public outrage that would accompany executions carried out solely for the crime of consensual adult Gay sex. The group also has said it believes executions solely for Gay sex are taking place out of the public eye.

"Our suspicions [are] that their current practice really is to rid society of Lesbians and Gay men," the organization said last year.

Human Rights Watch, on the other hand, has said it cannot fully document any executions in Iran in recent years carried out solely for the crime of consensual adult Gay sex.

Open Gay joins England's second-highest court
Openly Gay lawyer and former Olympic fencer Sir Terence Etherton became a member of England's and Wales' second-highest court in late September.

Etherton, 58, was sworn in as one of 36 judges who serve on the Court of Appeal, said The Independent.

He is the first openly Gay Lord Justice of Appeal.

Etherton was formally recommended by Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

"My appointment ... shows that diversity in sexuality is not a bar to preferment up to the highest levels of the judiciary," Etherton told the newspaper.

Police arrest Ugandan activists
Ugandan police arrested two high-profile "male-to-female Transgender Gay" activists September 10, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission reported September 19.

Georgina Oundo and Brenda Kiiza were taken into custody at Oundo's home in the village of Nabweru near Kampala and held at the Nabweru Police Post for a week.

They were beaten, kicked, denied food and urged to reveal names and addresses of other Gay activists, IGLHRC said. Police also copied the activists' cell-phone address books, according to Human Rights Watch.

Oundo and Kiiza were accused of spreading homosexuality, although no such crime exists, IGLHRC said. Gay sex is illegal under threat of up to life in prison.

Police said their investigation remains open and they will seek additional evidence to bring the activists before a court.

In the past five years, nearly a dozen people have been arrested on charges related to homosexuality in Uganda.

Gays stage marriage protest in Athens
The Athens Pride Committee staged a demonstration in front of the Greek Parliament September 29 in support of the mayor of the Aegean island of Tilos and two same-sex couples he married in June.

In a trial scheduled to begin October 2 in the Court of First Instance on the island of Rhodes, prosecutors will seek to nullify the marriages and convict Mayor Anastasios Aliferis of breach of duty, which carries a prison sentence of up to five years.

Greece's marriage law doesn't specifically prohibit marriage between people of the same sex.

But the nation's top public prosecutor, Giorgos Sanidas, has said a constitutional article on family issues implies that marriage is only between a man and a woman.

With assistance from Bill Kelley

pictures top: AHMADINEJAD on Larry King

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