by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
A powerful Islamist militia in Tripoli, Libya, reportedly kidnapped a dozen Gay men on November 22, beat them, and only let them go after a week in detention.
The U.S. State Department said it was concerned about the incident, and had raised the issue of militia groups with the Libyan government.
According to a witness interviewed by the Times of London, the kidnapped men were taken away from a party in a private house by the Nawasi Brigade, said to be the largest militia group in Tripoli.
The witness, identified only as 'Ahmad,' said he had been kidnapped and beaten by Nawasi fighters on a previous occasion.
An early report, published by Gay Star News on November 25, said the men might be executed, but subsequent statements by the Nawasi Brigade said they would not kill the men. According to Pink News, the men were released a week after the incident, with their heads shaved and bruises on their backs and legs.
Ahmad told the Times that a Nawasi patrol broke into a birthday party, discovered the partygoers were Gay, and then abducted them.
'We think they were on a routine patrol when they heard the music,' Ahmad told the Times reporter. 'They were sitting outside for nearly half an hour. Then they saw one of the guys wearing a wig and a dress so [they] thought it was girls having a party with boys [which would be a violation of Sharia law].
'When they came inside, everyone panicked and the man pulled off his dress and wig. They wanted to know where the girls were, so they beat them until one of them admitted he was Gay and that's when they were taken away.'
After the men were taken away, photos of them appeared on the Nawasi Brigade's Facebook page, showing them facing a wall with their hands over their heads. Arabic text accompanying the images was translated as 'flog them hard,' 'ride them like camels,' and 'let's see the bullets fly.'
CLAIMS DRUGS FOUND
A Nawasi Brigade spokesman said the men were not captured because of their sexual orientation.
'These guys are not straight, but that's not the main reason we arrested them,' he said. 'The main thing was the big noise they were making to the neighbors, as well as the large amounts of alcohol and hashish we found.'
Ahmad said these types of abductions and beatings were common, and he himself had false teeth because his own were knocked out during an arrest by the Nawasi last August.
Ahmad's companion, Anass, said that two weeks earlier he had been taken away for two days by the Nawasi Brigade. He was released relatively quickly, he said, because the brother of the man he was arrested with was a member of the militia.
The Nawasi group claims to be operating with the approval of Libya's Interior Ministry.
State Department spokesperson Noel Clay told SGN that the U.S. government is 'deeply concerned about reports that LGBT individuals in Libya are being beaten, harassed, and targeted for arrest by local militias.
'These acts of intolerance have no place in democratic societies,' Clay added. 'As a matter of international law, human rights apply to all persons, including Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender individuals.'
WORSE THAN GADDAFI?
Ahmed told the Times that the situation for Gay Libyans is worse now than it was under dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
'Back then, the authorities were afraid that if they took us, we would say which officials were Gay,' he said.
'At the end of this year we are planning to go to Egypt,' Ahmad and his companions said. 'But the place all of us really want to go is Holland. There, we can be finally be who we are.'
Other LGBT Libyans said their situation is better after the fall of Gaddafi, but that militias remain a problem.
'We never had any Gay nightclubs in Libya, so it is not uncommon for Libyans - straight, Bisexual, and Gay men to party in a private space, drink, dance, have fun, and sometimes even have sex,' a man identified as 'Khaleed' told Gay Star News.
'The situation for LGBT people after the revolution generally improved - people can meet each other more easily than under the [Gaddafi] regime, although of course we still have to be very discreet and careful.
'Many of us fear that some of the militias, which are extreme Islamists who are very well armed and financed, will focus on the LGBT community and hunt us down.'
'The police [are] largely absent or powerless so Libyan civil society has a real problem - the militias often take the law onto their own hands,' Khaleed continued.
Clay said the State Department has 'regularly raised the issue of militias with the Libyan government.'
'Libyan leaders have made clear that they understand the need for the government to consolidate control over the militias to ensure a peaceful transition to democracy and the protection of human rights for all citizens,' he continued.
'We urge the [Libyan] government to investigate incidents of abuse, and to hold perpetrators accountable.'
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