- The Washington Times - Friday, September 16, 2005

The decision to adopt Islamic Shariah law in the draft Iraqi constitution has left the so-called “Baghdad Blogger” — a homosexual Web logger in Iraq — worried about his rights.

The blogger, who uses “Salam Pax” as his Internet name, says the position of homosexuals in Iraq has deteriorated since the establishment of the new government.

Salam Pax earned widespread online readership with his acerbic and blunt commentary about life in Iraq during the war. The 32-year-old architect has worked as an interpreter for an American journalist and lives in Baghdad and continues to write his blog, or Internet commentary.

Homosexuality is a taboo subject in Iraq. A group of American homosexuals came to Baghdad last year to register a nongovernmental organization, only to be warned that they would probably be killed by irate Iraqis if they attempted to do so.

The fear of Western culture among religious Muslims stems partly from Western sexual mores, including public acceptance of homosexuality.

Salam Pax said in an e-mail message to The Washington Times:

“During Saddam Hussein’s reign, gays were basically ignored unless it became too flagrant, then the law kicks in, you get a jail sentence — how long depends on the circumstances.”

Today, he said, homosexuals worry about being “stoned to death.”

Laith Kubba, spokesman for Iraq’s Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafaari, said homosexual rights are not even part of the national debate over Iraq’s constitution.

“A majority of the Iraqis respect religion and this is against the religion and so it is not on the Iraqi agenda currently,” he said.

As the draft of the Iraqi constitution awaits a referendum on Oct. 15, the charter has ignored any discussion about homosexual rights, said Karol Soltan, an adviser to the Kurds in the drafting of the constitution.

“Talk about homosexual rights is something that is just not politically feasible as of now,” Mr. Soltan said.

Mr. Soltan said the proposed Iraqi constitution has a fairly good bill of rights compared to other countries in the region, with an emphasis on women’s rights.

He, however, noted contradictions in the constitution that pledges to abide by international human rights agreements in one place, but also states that Islam is the religion of the state, making room for potential conflicts in matters such as women’s rights.

In response to American objections, the committee drawing up the constitution deleted Article 44, the Associated Press reported.

The removed text read: “All individuals have the right to enjoy the rights stated in international human rights agreements and treaties endorsed by Iraq that don’t run contrary to the principles and rules of this constitution.”

The United States reportedly was concerned that it allowed the constitution — especially Article 1 on Islam being the state religion — to supersede international treaties.

“In Iraq, the majority of religious scholars are of the Ja’fari School, and in their interpretation of the Shariah law, anyone married or unmarried found to have same-sex intercourse should be punished as an adulterer — that’s stoned to death,” Salman Pax said.

“I would say that is quite a setback from just being sent to prison.”

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