According to a new report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) gay men in Iraq run a high risk of being tortured or murdered by Iraqi militias.
The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) has now called on the Swedish government to halt all deportations to Iraq of people who have sought asylum on the basis of sexual orientation or gender.
“We urge Sweden to investigate the possibility of evacuating homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people who are at risk of being subjected to ‘sexual cleansing’,” RFSL’s chairperson Sören Juvas writes in a press release on Monday.
The HRW report, entitled “‘They Want Us Exterminated’: Murder, Torture, Sexual Orientation and Gender in Iraq,”, details that Mahdi army militias are behind a campaign that began in the western Baghdad suburb of Sadr City and has now spread to cities across the country.
“A wide-reaching campaign of extrajudicial executions, kidnappings, and torture of gay men…began in early 2009,” the human rights group writes in a 67-page report published on Monday.
According to Amnesty International, cited by the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper, 25 gay men have been murdered in Iraq so far this year.
According to Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) figures around 300 people apply for asylum in Sweden each year on the grounds of their homosexuality.
There are no official figures for how many are approved or denied but according to cases witnessed by RFSL’s refugee administrator in Stockholm as many as a third may be refused, DN writes.
According to the 2005 Swedish Aliens Act a refugee is classified as an “alien” who “feels a well-founded fear of persecution on grounds of race, nationality, religious or political belief, or on grounds of gender, sexual orientation…or because of his or her fear is unwilling, to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country.”
“It is unreasonable to blow your own trumpet with a law that should give protection but in practice is not used. Then it would be better if the government were honest and says that it does not consider it an important issue,” Sören Juvas at RFSL says.