UN council hears from gays who fled IS terror
UN Security Council members on Monday heard Syrian and Iraqi gays tell of their terror-filled lives under the Islamic State, in the first-ever council meeting on LGBT rights.
Subhi Nahas told the meeting that gays in his Syrian hometown of Idlib were being hurled from rooftops and stoned by cheering townspeople, including children.
"In the Islamic State, gays are being tracked and killed all the time," said Nahas, who escaped and now works for a refugee organization in the United States.
Gays in Idlib were targeted by the Syrian government, then by Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front after it took over the city in 2012 and finally by IS jihadists who seized control in 2014.
"At the executions, hundreds of townspeople including children cheered jubilantly as (if) at a wedding," Nahas recounted.
Adnan, an Iraqi who spoke by phone from an undisclosed location in the Middle East, said he had suffered brutality at the hands of Iraqi security forces before IS fighters showed up and feared his family could have turned him in to IS jihadists.
IS fighters "are professional when it comes to tracking gay people. They hunt them down one by one. When they capture people, they go through the person`s phone and contacts and Facebook friends," said Adnan, who used a false name out of fear for his safety.
"They are trying to track down every gay man. And it`s like dominoes. If one goes, the others will be taken down too."
IS jihadists have claimed responsibility for at least 30 executions for "sodomy", Jessica Stern, director of the International Gay and Lesbian Rights Commission, told the closed-door meeting.
The IS group has put at least seven videos or photos online as a form of advertisement of the killings, she said, in remarks released after the meeting.
The meeting was organized by the United States and Chile in what US Ambassador Samantha Power said was a sign that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights are "being injected into the mainstream at the United Nations."
Power called the meeting "historic" and "long overdue" at the United Nations, which turns 70 this year.
The event was open to all United Nations member states, but Security Council members Angola and Chad stayed away. China, Malaysia, Nigeria and Russia sent representatives, but made no statement.
More than 75 of the United Nations` 193 member-states have laws on their books criminalizing homosexuality.
Adnan told the council that Islamic State taps into widespread homophobia in the Middle East.
"In my society, being gay means death and when ISIS kills gays, most people are happy because they think we are evil, and ISIS gets a good credit for that," said Adnan.
Addressing the council, Nahas appealed to governments to grant safe haven to sexual minorities so that "they can again know security" and called for action to end the war in Syria, now in its fifth year.
Nahas told reporters after the meeting that LGBT was not "just a terminology invented by the West" and that sexual minorities in the Middle East "want their rights too."
The United States is leading an international coalition that has vowed to defeat the Islamic State group, which declared a caliphate in June 2014 after seizing the Iraqi city of Mosul.
The jihadist group now controls large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, and has gained a foothold in Libya, Yemen, Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East.