By Brian Ochalla, Gaywired.com - copypasted from Edge NY, all rights reserved Gaywired.com
Everyone has had a chuckle over the non-lethal "gay bomb" the U.S. Air Force considered adding to its arsenal in the early ’90s.
Although the weapon never made it out of the planning stages, a gay bomb of another sort has been exploding in Iraq since the U.S. military invaded the country in 2003, according to Ali Hili, a 34-year-old Iraqi exile now living in London.
"The U.S, and other allied forces are doing nothing to stop the massacres of any ordinary Iraqi, not to mention the homosexuals, the most unpopular portion of Iraqi society under the new evil regime," says Hali, who launched Iraqi LGBT in late 2005 "after hearing about the killing of so many of my friends" inside the war-torn country.
Hali describes Iraqi LGBT as a "secretive underground network" for the country’s LGBT community-especially effeminate men and anyone transgender. "We’re a fledgling group but have been paramount in helping Iraqis with safe houses, protection and underground communication," Hali explains.
Two of the group’s safe houses are set to close at the end of the month, however, due to a lack of funds. According to Hali, it costs about $1,800 each month to run just one of his safe houses, which covers gas, electricity, food, water and the salaries of two guards-essential to protecting the 10 to 12 people living within their walls.
Closing the safe houses wasn’t a decision Hali and his partner made lightly-especially considering such an act could well be a death sentence for some of the soon-to-be-homeless.
"Homosexuality was generally tolerated under Saddam," Hali says. "There certainly was no danger of gay people being assassinated in the street by police. Since his overthrow, the violent persecution of gays and lesbians is commonplace. Life in Iraq now is hell for all LGBT people; no one can be openly gay and alive."
Although the plight of Iraq’s LGBT community hasn’t been ignored completely in the U.S. and the rest of the world-in June, for instance, Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Barney Frank (D- MA) called on U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to investigate reports of violent persecution of gay and lesbian Iraqis by Islamic groups and militias-Hali says LGBT Iraqis continue to be "the most unpopular portion of our society."
"Sometimes when I look at the news I feel so sad," he adds. The deaths of his LGBT compatriots "doesn’t matter to world. [It’s] as if we don’t exist."
Hali hopes to change all that with Iraqi LGBT, though he admits he can’t do it alone. "We need donations to help fund the safe houses and to pay for food, clothing, electricity, police protection-even phone cards," he says. "Many people have nothing but the clothes on their backs, and sometimes not even that."