Islamic leaders are outraged at the “cultural terrorism” they say the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan has promoted with a gay pride celebration.
Religious groups including Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), the largest religiously based political party in Pakistan, denounced the embassy in protests Monday in Karachi, Lahore and the capital, Islamabad.
“They have destroyed us physically, imposed the so-called war on terrorism on us and now they have unleashed cultural terrorism on us,” said JI representative Mohammad Hussain Mehnati at the rally in Karachi.
Munawar Hassan, another JI leader, told the Nation newspaper that the embassy reception violated Pakistani law against homosexuality, which can be punished by a maximum sentence of life in prison.
“Being a Muslim state, Pakistan follows Islamic rules and regulation, which strictly forbids gay, lesbian marriages and celebrations,” he said.
About 75 guests who included U.S. Embassy civilian and military staff, foreign diplomats and leaders of Pakistani homosexual groups attended what the embassy promoted as the “first-ever gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Pride Celebration” on June 26. President Obama declared June to be “Gay Pride Month.”
Deputy Chief of Mission Richard Hoagland hosted the reception to honor the group Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies.
“I want to be clear,” he said. “The U.S. Embassy is here to support you and stand by your side every step of the way.”
‘DEATH CAMP’ FOR DISSIDENTS
The U.S. ambassador in Baghdad endorsed a virtual death sentence for Iranian dissidents in Iraq by urging them to leave their refuge in a former rebel camp and relocate within Iraq, where they could face hostile officials, relatives of the former rebels warned Tuesday.
The U.S. Committee for Camp Ashraf Residents said Ambassador James Jeffrey is “fully aware” of the dangers their relatives would face living outside the compound in northern Iraq.
“His reprehensible push for such relocation is nothing short of dispatching the defenseless residents of Ashraf to a death camp,” the Washington-based committee said in a statement.
Mr. Jeffrey on Saturday said the United States and the United Nations are working to move about 3,400 residents of Camp Ashraf “to a place that is a bit safer.” He added that they must first disband and then register as refugees with the United Nations.
He called the resistance a “paramilitary organization,” even though the rebels turned in their arms to U.S. forces in 2003 after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
His comments came after Iraqi President Jalal Talabani met with Mr. Jeffrey on Friday to report on his talks with Iranian leader Ali Khamenei in Tehran. Mr. Talabani said Mr. Khamenei demanded the closure of Camp Ashraf, according to the Iraqi daily Assaman.
Iran has long insisted that foreign governments take action against the Iranian resistance as a first step in establishing diplomatic relations at some level. The Clinton administration declared the resistance a terrorist group when it was trying to open talks with Iran in 1997.
In its moves to establish better relations with Iran, Iraq has been applying pressure against Camp Ashraf since the United States turned over control of the site in 2009. Iraq promised to continue treating the resistance as “protected persons” under the Geneva Convention, which prohibits their forcible relocation.
However, Iraqi forces repeatedly have attacked the disarmed camp several times, most recently April 8, when they killed 35 people and wounded 345.
The resistance has received strong support among members of Congress. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, plans to hold a hearing on Camp Ashraf when his House Foreign Affairs subcommittee meets at 2 p.m. Thursday in Room 2172 of the House Rayburn Office Building.
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