Gay Killing – “If I did not get out, I’d be dead by now,”
AS he tried to concentrate on his final college exams, he couldn’t erase the terrifying images in his head, an endless replay of a video he’d seen. It showed two men being killed — their necks noosed, their bodies dragged through the streets and set on fire.
They had burned, he told me, because they were gay.
Just like him.
Islamic extremism was sweeping through Iraq, and terror coursed through his veins. It became unbearable when, in mid-2014, the Islamic State seized control of the city where he lived. He fled, traveling furtively across Iraq for nearly a month, looking for a point of exit, finally finding one and boarding a flight to a city in the Middle East where he wouldn’t be in danger.
“The greatest moment of my life was stepping on that plane,” said the man, in his mid-20s, who asked that I not use his name or any identifying details, lest harm come to family members back in Iraq. “I was able to breathe again. I hadn’t been breathing.”
On Monday, he will tell his story at a special United Nations Security Council meeting on L.G.B.T. rights. American officials involved in it arranged for me to talk with him in advance by phone.
Although Monday’s discussion isn’t a formal one that Security Council members are required to attend, it’s nonetheless the first time that the council has held a meeting of any kind that’s dedicated to the persecution of L.G.B.T. people, according to Samantha Power, the United States ambassador to the United Nations.
And it’s an example, she told me, of a determined push by the United States and other countries to integrate L.G.B.T. rights into all discussions of human rights by international bodies like the U.N.
“We’re trying to get it into the DNA so that when you’re talking about minorities or vulnerable groups, you would always have L.G.B.T. people included,” Power said.
There has been a commendable acceleration of that effort since September 2011, when Barack Obama, in an address to the U.N. General Assembly, unsettled many in the audience by declaring: “We must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.” Power, who was present for those remarks, said that she was near enough to Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe, to hear him mutter: “My God.”
There have also been enormous victories for L.G.B.T. people in nations as different as Nepal and Malta over the last few years. This year alone, a popular referendum legalized same-sex marriage in Ireland and a Supreme Court decision did so in the United States.
But, Power noted, “Unfortunately, internationally, those trends are not being paralleled in very large swaths of the world.” This divide is becoming ever starker, creating new diplomatic tensions, challenges and responsibilities for countries like the United States.
I can’t recall any foreign trip by a president that prompted as much discussion of gay rights as Obama’s to Kenya, where homosexuality is punishable by up to 14 years in prison. Obama confronted that harsh reality head-on.
“The state should not discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation,” he said at a news conference with the Kenyan president, going on to add: “The idea that they are going to be treated differently or abused because of who they love is wrong. Full stop.”
Our own country can’t wholly congratulate itself. Federal legislation to outlaw employment discrimination based on sexual orientation has languished for many years.