August 17, 2009

I. Introduction


Hamid, 35, developed a speech impediment from strain and grief after the murder, in April 2009 in Baghdad, of his partner of ten years. We spoke to him three weeks later; he still could only haltingly force out words. Two friends who had helped him flee Baghdad accompanied him. All had been in hiding through the intervening time. He said:

It was late one night in early April, and they came to take my partner at his parents' home. Four armed men barged into the house, masked and wearing black. They asked for him by name; they insulted him and took him in front of his parents. All that, I heard about later from his family.
He was found in the neighborhood the day after. They had thrown his corpse in the garbage. His genitals were cut off and a piece of his throat was ripped out.
Since then, I've been unable to speak properly. I feel as if my life is pointless now. I don't have friends other than those you see; for years it has just been my boyfriend and myself in that little bubble, by ourselves. I have no family now-I cannot go back to them. I have a death warrant on me. I feel the best thing to do is just to kill myself. In Iraq, murderers and thieves are respected more than gay people.
Their measuring rod to judge people is who they have sex with. It is not by their conscience, it is not by their conduct or their values, it is who they have sex with. The cheapest thing in Iraq is a human being, a human life. It is cheaper than an animal, than a pair of used-up batteries you buy on the street. Especially people like us. 

Hamid began to weep:

I can't believe I'm here talking to you because it's all just been repressed, repressed, repressed. For years it's been like that-if I walk down the street, I would feel everyone pointing at me. I feel as if I'm dying all the time. And now this, in the last month-I don't understand what we did to deserve this. They want us exterminated. All the violence and all this hatred: the people who are suffering from it don't deserve it.
It is enough, enough that I was able to talk to you. [1]

A killing campaign moved across Iraq in the early months of 2009. While the country remains a dangerous place for many if not most of its citizens, death squads started specifically singling out men whom they considered not "manly" enough, or whom they suspected of homosexual conduct. The most trivial details of appearance-the length of a man's hair, the fit of his clothes-could determine whether he lived or died.

At this writing, in July 2009, the campaign remains at its most intense in Baghdad, but it has left bloody tracks in other cities as well; men have been targeted, threatened or tortured in Kirkuk, Najaf, Basra. Murders are committed with impunity, admonitory in intent, with corpses dumped in garbage or hung as warnings on the street. The killers invade the privacy of homes, abducting sons or brothers, leaving their mutilated bodies in the neighborhood the next day. They interrogate and brutalize men to extract names of other people suspected of homosexual conduct. They specialize in grotesque and appalling tortures: several doctors told Human Rights Watch about men executed by injecting glue up their anuses. Their bodies have appeared by the dozens in hospitals and morgues. How many have been killed will likely never be known: the failure of authorities to investigate compounds the fear and shame of families to ensure that reliable figures are unattainable.  A well-informed official at the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) told Human Rights Watch in April that the dead probably already numbered "in the hundreds."

The killings leave families terrorized and bereaved. One Iraqi magazine, in an article sensationally promoting the need for supposed social cleansing, could not disguise or sideline the spreading grief:

A 45-year-old mother said that an armed group of individuals entered her house in Zayouna a week ago. They kidnapped her son from his room, pointed a gun in her mouth and imprisoned her sick husband who is a retired military officer in the bathroom of the house. She never saw her son again until, a few days ago, she found his corpse in the morgue.Crying, the mother described her son as a fashionable man who had done nothing unusual: a sensitive man pursuing his studies at the college of arts. ... Her son's friends had disappeared and she does not know anything about them, besides the list of phone numbers her son left on a spare phone card among his personal belongings.[2]

Different descriptions of the campaign's targets circulate. Most of the men whom Human Rights Watch interviewed for this report identified themselves as "gay." However, probably neither the murderers nor most ordinary Iraqis would recognize the term. Instead, many describe the victims and excuse the killings with a potpourri of words and justifications,  identifying those they abominate in shifting ways-suggesting how concerns about an Iraq where men are no longer masculine drive the death squads, as much as fears of sexual "sin."  "Puppies," a vilifying slang term of apparently recent vintage, implies that the men are immature as well as inhuman. Both the media and sermons in mosques warn of a wave of effeminacy among Iraqi men, and execrate the "third sex." Panic that some people have turned decadent or "soft" amid social change and foreign occupation seems to motivate much of the violence.

Shadowy militias with names like Ahl al Haq (the "People of Truth") have recently emerged into the media to claim responsibility for some of these murders. However, most people Human Rights Watch interviewed believed that the Mahdi Army, the militia led by Moqtada al-Sadr, bears primary responsibility, and launched the killing in early 2009. Tellingly, Sadr City-a center of the Mahdi Army's support, the giant Shi'ite slum in Baghdad named after al-Sadr's martyred father-has been a fulcrum of the murder campaign. Sadrist mosques and Mahdi Army officials have warned vividly about the spreading dangers of the "third sex." 

Springing up amid the breakdown of security after the US-led 2003 invasion (and sometimes tacitly supported, sometimes combated by the occupation authorities), militias in Iraq feed on poverty and despair, recruiting young men who see violence as their only future. They are loose networks rather than disciplined entities; identifying either their members or clear accountability for crimes committed in their names is often difficult.[3] This is particularly true of the Mahdi Army, which strategically withdrew from visibility at the beginning of the 2007 US "surge," avoiding confrontation with American forces by melting into the population.

Several people speculated to us that the Mahdi Army, striving to rebuild its reputation after this prolonged absence, sought to rehabilitate itself by appearing as an agent of social cleansing. It exploited morality for opportunistic purposes; it aimed at popularity by targeting people few in Iraq would venture to defend. One "executioner" told a reporter in May that he and his fellow killers were tackling "a serious illness in the community that has been spreading rapidly among the youth after it was brought in from the outside by American soldiers. These are not the habits of Iraq or our community and we must eliminate them." He added-implicitly trying to counter one common complaint about the militias, that for years they had delivered only violence and chaos into Iraqi lives: "Our aim is not to destabilize the security situation. Our aim is to help stabilize society."[4]

If the killings were a bid for popularity, they may have backfired. The grieving families found even among the Mahdi Army's core communities in Sadr City lent no burnish to its image. In late May 2009, a Sadrist spokesman gave an interview pointing to ongoing public meetings the militia was holding to "fight the depravity and urge the community to reject" homosexual conduct; but he added  that "al-Sadr rejects" violence, and that "anyone who commits violence against gays will not be considered as being one of us."[5] At the same time, however, another Sadrist leader proclaimed homosexuality "a disaster that has come to the community," saying "We must correct the morals of the nation."[6] Human Rights Watch has received testimonies suggesting that in some areas Sunni militias were also joining, possibly competitively, in the campaign of threats and violence.

Iraqi police and security forces have done little to investigate or halt the killings. Authorities have announced no arrests or prosecutions; it is unlikely that any have occurred.  While the government has made well-publicized attempts since 2006 to purge key ministries of officials with militia ties, including the Ministry of Interior, many Iraqis doubt both its sincerity and its success. Most disturbingly, Human Rights Watch heard accounts of police complicity in abuse-ranging from harassing "effeminate" men at checkpoints, to possible abduction and extrajudicial killing.  

Police certainly spread stories to the media that belittled the murder campaign's scope, and tried to shift responsibility away from militia death squads to family and tribal violence.[7]   "Honor"-and patriarchal and tribal values around masculinity, sexuality, and shame-indeed exacerbate prejudice and incite harm, as Human Rights Watch documents in this report. They do not, however, detract from the death squads' culpability as chief actors.  Nor do they diminish the state's unfulfilled responsibility to investigate and prosecute murders, to punish those found responsible, and to protect the rights and lives of all Iraqis, without discrimination. 

Human Rights Watch has previously reported on insurgent violence against civilians in Iraq- as well as on the refugee crises that violence produced, with hundreds of thousands of displaced Iraqis forced to flee their homes and country. This report does not contend that men suspected of being "gay," or of being insufficiently "manly," face worse violence now than many other Iraqis have in the past. However, the sharp spike in killings this year points to lethal failures that persist, despite the Iraqi government's and coalition authorities' self-congratulation on their supposed pacification of society. In Iraq, armed groups still are free to persecute and kill based on prejudice and hatred; the state still greets their depredations with impunity. The attacks on the "third sex" and "gay" men may be only the first round in a renewal of cycles of militia bloodshed. All Iraqis should be concerned about such a revival of killings. It is incumbent on the Iraqi government to speak out against it, and to stop it. 

Many people have speculated, to Human Rights Watch or in the press, that a fatwa or ruling on religious law by Moqtada al-Sadr or another cleric had launched the campaign. A young man in Sadr City told an Iraqi columnist that "the killing operations are not crimes since they fall under the jurisdiction of a religious fatwa."[8] 

Human Rights Watch was unable to find evidence that any explicit, recent fatwa exists. In fact, however, the killings violate the norms and procedural standards of shari'a law.  It is true that the Ja'fari school of Shi'ite jurisprudence, along with all four schools of Sunni law, considers homosexual conduct between men (liwat) a crime. The penalty applied to  a person convicted of liwat can be a fixed punishment (hadd), which may under certain circumstances extend to execution; or it can be a discretionary measure (ta'zir), which may  range from death down to a warning. It is crucial to stress, however, that in either case Ja'fari law lays out conditions which must be met before a sentence can be imposed.   These limitations are protections for privacy and reputation, and against arbitrary trials.   

Four conditions are relevant here.

  • High evidentiary standards are required. Homosexual acts can only be established by a confession repeated four times[9]; by the unimpeachable testimony of four male witnesses (bayyina); or by the judge's personal observation of the acts ('ilm al-hakim). If an accusation of liwat turns out to be false, the accusers themselves are punished as slanderers (qadhafa).[10]
  • The judge must determine that the defendant is an adult, is capable of rational thought, and acted voluntarily.[11]
  • The judge must investigate whether suspicious acts (such as sharing a bed) were the result of necessity, such as lack of space.[12]
  • The punishment must be imposed by a qualified jurist.[13]

For execution to be imposed as a fixed punishment (hadd), three additional tests must be passed.

  • Penetration must be proven: the hadd cannot be imposed for non-penetrative acts. (This is called the standard of iqab.)
  • The slightest doubt of guilt must be eliminated, according to the legal principle of dar' al-hadd bi-l-shubha ("fixed punishments are thwarted by doubt"). Ja'fari jurists writing on the fixed punishment for liwat stress that the hadd cannot be applied based on "possibilities" (la hadd ma'a al-ihtimal).[14] Uncertainty about the good character of alleged witnesses to the act, or discrepancies in their testimonies, should preclude a sentence.
  • The accused must be given a chance to repent, and repentance can prevent a sentence of execution.[15]

The killings arbitrarily flout these limitations.  Summary executions, without trial, based on rumor and accompanied by torture, at the hands of armed gangs-all these strike at shari'a standards of evidence, legality, and justice.

They also strike at the principles of human rights. International human rights law safeguards the right to privacy, including the right to an intimate life undisturbed by surveillance or violence. It protects the right to free expression, including the right to express one's personhood through dress and behavior. It absolutely prohibits, in all circumstances, all forms of torture and inhuman treatment. It guarantees the right to life, including the right to effective state protection.

Iraq's leaders must be defenders of all its people. The Iraqi state must desist from silence, and fully and immediately investigate the murder and torture of people targeted because they do not correspond to norms of "masculinity," or are suspected of homosexual conduct. It must appropriately punish those found responsible. It must take effective steps to restrain militia violence consistent with its own human rights obligations. It should dismiss any police or criminal justice officials who are found responsible for human rights abuses or who have been linked in the past to death squads or militia forces. It should properly vet and train members of the police, security forces, and criminal justice system, ensuring that trainings in human rights include issues of sexual orientation and gender. Over the longer term, the Iraqi government should establish and safeguard the rule of law, to ensure that no Iraqi need fear extralegal punishment by armed men enforcing their own prejudice and hatred. 

The US and the US-led multinational forces in Iraq should assist the Iraqi government wherever possible in investigating these crimes. They should also end arbitrary detention without trial, including the arbitrary detention of suspected militia members, and provide appropriate services to released detainees to assist them to rejoin society, and ensure that they do not resume violence.[16]

Finally, as many Iraqis targeted in the killing campaign are forced to flee the country, the international community must recognize that they are under threat not only at home, but in the surrounding countries where they seek first refuge. As this report documents, nearly all those countries criminalize consensual homosexual conduct; all have social environments of severe prejudice. The United Nations High Commission on Refugees and the international community should prioritize prompt, and where necessary accelerated, resettlement in safe third countries for those endangered people.

Methodology, Terminology

This report is based primarily on research conducted in Iraq from April 14-28, 2009 by Rasha Moumneh, researcher in the Middle East/North Africa division of Human Rights Watch, and Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights program at Human Rights Watch. During that visit, we interviewed 22 Iraqi men face-to-face; they told us stories of death threats, abductions, attempted assassinations and other forms of persecution. We communicated with and interviewed 24 other men in Iraq by telephone, e-mail, or internet chat. In July 2009, Scott Long interviewed an additional eight Iraqi men in Lebanon. All the men we spoke to requested that we not use their real names. We have concealed the locations in Iraq (and, in some cases, outside Iraq) where interviews took place, to protect the safety of these and others. Human Rights Watch also spoke to Iraqi human rights activists, journalists, and medical doctors in the course of its research.  

All the survivors of militia violence Human Rights Watch interviewed for this report identified themselves as "gay." Some reflection on terminology and identity is necessary here. The use of "gay" in English to describe men who have emotional or sexual relationships with other men is relatively recent, emerging out of a North American subculture in the twentieth century. ("Homosexual" does not much predate it in European languages; the term was coined by an Austro-Hungarian doctor in 1869.)

All the survivors we interviewed told us they first heard "gay" with that purport after the US invasion in 2003. Most said it had come to Iraq through the Internet or Western media, particularly TV and films. Its use cuts across classes: a doctor and a high-school dropout each employed it in talking to us about themselves. The men integrated the English word seamlessly into Arabic speech. The recent deployment in Arabic of mithli (plural mithliyeen) as a neutral, non-condemnatory equivalent of "homosexual" in English has not taken strong root in Iraq. Most of the men, if they were familiar with it at all, said it was rare.[17] "All of us use 'gay' among ourselves, never mithli," a gay hospital employee told us. "Even doctors in speaking to each other won't use the Arabic word for it-they'll sometimes say 'homosexual' in English."[18]

It is vital to stress two points. First, the fact that the word comes from beyond Iraq's borders does not point to anything imported or foreign about the phenomenon people use it to describe. To the contrary: the conduct called "homosexual"-desires, erotic acts, or emotional relationships between people of the same sex- has always existed in Iraqi society, as in all societies. A new name for it is, by itself, only a shift in vocabulary, not in values or behavior.

Yet at the same time, no one should assume that the word bears exactly the same connotations in Iraq as it does elsewhere. That homosexual conduct has happened everywhere does not mean people interpret it in the same way, or give it the same individual or collective meanings. In fact, as Human Rights Watch has written:

No one receives an identity-social or familial, as "son" or "chief," for instance-in pristine and undiluted form from society or tradition; it always takes on personal and internal meanings, as well as shadings from the social surroundings and the historical moment. Similarly, people who identify as "homosexual" or "gay" or "lesbian" in a cultural situation where the term is new do not merely adopt an unbroken set of imported associations. They creatively adapt the term and its meaning to their own conditions and their cultural inheritance.[19]

Many gay Iraqis we interviewed implied that, for them, having a "gay" identity is at least as much about how "masculine" or "feminine" they see themselves as about the object of their desire. Gender-the accumulated distinctions that societies and cultures impose, to demarcate what is "proper" to men and to women-is an important axis along which they situate their self-understanding.

Gender is also crucial to comprehending what propels the current campaign of violence. It is telling, as suggested above, to look at the words with which the Iraqi media and many ordinary Iraqis decry the people who call themselves "gay." Some of these terms voice moral disapproval predicated on certain specific kinds of conduct-such as luti or the "people of Lot," taken from the Quranic story and applied to people who practice liwat or "sodomy."[20] Other, more demotic slurs, however, involve whether a man looks "masculine." "The police at checkpoints always give us grief about our clothes, our jewelry," one man said. "They call us kiki-it means someone who's effeminate or soft."[21] The notion that "gays" embody not just a propensity for certain sexual acts, but a "third sex" threatening the other two, is rife. One newspaper article implicitly applauded the killers by warning that "The legacy of inherited beliefs regarding manhood and morality that characterize the Iraqi people must be transmitted. These ideals go against the feminization of boys and the practice of [men] applying makeup, which have spread among many Iraqi youth, eliciting disgust."[22] Enforcing manhood at gunpoint, the murderers arrogate to themselves the power to control people's dress and appearance as well as their intimate lives. Men wearing cologne or walking the wrong way become victims of the crackdown.  

Fear of "feminized" men reveals only hatred of women. No one should be killed for their looks or clothing. No one should be assaulted or mutilated for the way they walk or style their hair. The freedom to express oneself-in dress, appearance, and manner-is at stake in the crackdown, as much as the security of the person and the protection of private life.  All these rights are essential to people's dignity.[23]

A glossary of some key terms can be found at the end of this report.

[1] Human Rights Watch interview with Hamid (not his real name), Iraq, April 24, 2009.

[2] "The War Between the 'Puppies' and the Kidnappers," Al-Esbuyia, May 10-16, 2009.

[3] See Patrick Cockburn, Muqtada: Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2008), for a detailed account not only of al-Sadr's career but of the Mahdi Army's ambitions and modus operandi. 

[4] Quoted in Nizar Latif, "Iraqi 'Executioner' Defends Killing of Gay Men," The National, May 2, 2009,, accessed May 29, 2009. The man also claimed that he had been a Mahdi Army member "but was now working independently after the militia was disbanded by the leader of the Sadr movement, Muqtada al-Sadr." However, al-Sadr never dissolved the militia, simply ordered it to stand down when the US surge began. It remains a recognizable and powerful force in Sadr City and elsewhere.

[5] Sheikh Wadea al-Atabi, quoted in "Iraq's Sadr Wants 'Depraved' Homosexuality Eradicated," AFP, May 29, 2009,, accessed May 30, 2009.

[6]Sheikh Dawud al-Enezi, quoted in ibid.

[7]See, for example, Timothy Williams and Tareq Maher, "Iraq's Newly Open Gays Face Scorn and Murder," New York Times, April 7, 2009,, accessed May 2, 2009: "The chief of a Sadr City police station … said family members had probably committed most of the Sadr City killings. He played down the role of death squads that had once been associated with the Mahdi Army, the militia that controlled Sadr City until American and Iraqi forces dislodged them last spring. 'Our investigation has found that these incidents are being committed by relatives of the gays - not just because of the militias,' he said. 'They are killing them because it is a shame on the family.'"

[8]Saeedoun Mohsen Damd, "By Saad," Al-Rafidayn, May 11, 2009,, accessed May 15, 2009.

[9]Al-Hurr al-'Amili (d. 1693 CE), Wasa'il al-Shi'a ila Tahsil Ahkam al-Shari'a (Beirut: Mu'assat Al al-Bayt l-Ihya al-Turath, 1993), vol. 28, Abwab Hadd al-Liwat.

[10]Ibid, traditions 33451, 34453, and 34454.

[11]Some Ja'fari jurists also restrict the death sentence in cases of liwat to individuals who are married.   The dominant Ja'fari view, however, rejects this restriction.   Shaykh al-Ta'ifah al-Tusi (d. 1068 CE), Tahdhib al-Ahkam fi Sharh al-Muqni'ah li-l-Shaykh al-Mufid (al-Najaf: Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyya, 1958), vol. 10, Bab al-Hudud fi-l-Liwat, traditions 194/3, 200/9, and 201/10; Al-Hurr al-'Amili , Wasa'il al-Shi'a ila Tahsil Masa'il al-Shari'a, vol. 28, Abwab Hadd al-Liwat.

[12]Shaykh al-Ta'ifah al-Tusi, Tahdhib al-Ahkam vol. 10, Bab al-Hudud fi-l-Liwat, tradition 207/16; Al-Hurr al-'Amili (d. 1693), Wasa'il al-Shi'a ila Tahsil Masa'il al-Shari'a, vol. 28, Abwab Hadd al-Liwat, chapter title and tradition # 34465.

[13]Thus Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeni, writing on the principle of "Wilayat al-Faqih" or the "government of the jurist," emphasizes that fixed punishments (hudud) can only be applied by an established authority (either an imam or a credentialed jurist).  Sunni jurists impose basically the same requirements for a conviction as Ja'fari law. However, while most Shi'ite theories of political authority-theories of who is empowered to apply the laws-take the figure of the imam  as their ultimate model of just rule, Sunni theories treat legitimate government as derived from other models, such as "contract" or "necessity." See, for instance, Hamid Enayat, Modern Islamic Political Thought (London: Macmillan, 1982). In addition, Sunni jurists require only two witnesses to establish proof of liwat as opposed to four in Ja'fari law, though Sunni jurists require four witnesses to prove illicit heterosexual intercourse (zina). 

[14] Al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilli (d. 1277 CE), Shara'i al-Islam fi Masa'il al-Halal wa-l-Haram (Beirut: Dar al-Adwa, 1403/1982), vol. 4, pp. 933 and 944.

[15]Shaykh al-Ta'ifah al-Tusi, Tahdhib al-Ahkam, vol. 10, Bab al-Hudud fi-l-Liwat, tradition 198/7, tells how Amir al-Mu'minin Imam Ali received a man who confessed to liwat three times.  Amir al-Mu'minin finally told him after his fourth confession that his punishment would be death.  The man repented, however, leading Imam Ali to weep and set him free-telling him that his repentance caused the angels to weep as well.

Meanwhile, the Hanafi school of Sunni jurisprudence adds another limitation: applying death as a hadd for anal intercourse between men is restricted to cases when liwat has become an 'ada or habit, as opposed to acts that occur only once. Ibn 'Abidin (d. 1836 CE), Radd al-Muhtar 'ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar (Beirut: Dar Ihya' al-Turath al-'Arabi, 1987), vol. 3, pp. 155-6.

[16]The United States and the US-led coalition in Iraq have, in recent months, rapidly cycled out of detention people arbitrarily arrested during the surge, while apparently providing only nugatory support or services to prevent a return to violence.  At the height of the surge, the US held over 26,000 prisoners in Camp Bucca, a detention camp near the Kuwaiti border; by March 2009, this number had reportedly fallen to under 10,000.  See Anthony Shadid, "In Iraq, Chaos Feared as U.S. Closes Prison," Washington Post, March 22, 2009. The practice of arbitrary detention undermines efforts to build the rule of law in Iraq. If neither coalition authorities nor the Iraqi government accept any substantive responsibilities to assist detainees' reintegration upon their release, it also risks feeding the resurgence of militia violence.

[17] Curiously, though, two people told us that the word  was taken up in 2009 by the killers themselves. Once it appeared a poster seen in Sadr City calling for divine punishment on mithliyeen : Human Rights Watch interview with Fadi (not his real name), Iraq, April 18, 2009. In another case, according to a rumor, a corpse found near Sadr City "had mithliyeen carved on his back. Strange, this is the politically correct word. In Iraq the word mithliyeen doesn't exist. I had never heard the word before." Human Rights Watch interview with Hussein (not his real name), Iraq, April 23, 2009. Everything suggests the killers did their research, down to visiting gay websites, answering personal advertisements, and entrapping men there; in the process of such investigations, their dictionaries may have undergone diversification.

[18] Human Rights Watch interview with Haytham (not his real name), Iraq, April 18, 2009.

[19]More than a Name: State-Sponsored Homophobia and Its Consequences in Southern Africa, a report by Human Rights Watch and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, 2003, p. 8.

[20] Even these terms, however, have gendered distinctions engraved in their histories-between those who take "masculine" and those who take "feminine" roles as expressed in sexual positions and practices.  One historian notes that "The term luti was typically used of [the "active" partner in sex between men], while mukhannath  or ma'bun or (more colloquially) 'ilq was reserved for [the "passive" partner].  It is worth dwelling on this point, since there is a persistent tendency among some modern scholars to overlook this distinction and render the indigenous term luti as 'homosexual.' In Islamic law, the luti is a man who commits liwat … regardless of whether he commits it as an active or passive partner.  However, in ordinary, non-technical language … the term luti almost always meant … [someone] thought to be interested in active-insertive anal intercourse…"  Khaled al-Rouayheb, Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World, 1500-1800 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), p. 16.

[21] Human Rights Watch interview with Haytham, Iraq, April 18, 2009.

[22]Sabah Mohsen Kazem, "The Feminization of Young Men: Diagnosis and Treatment," Al-Sabah, May 7, 2009.

[23] Moreover, international human rights law recognizes that restrictive social prescriptions dictating what men and women may do are a source of rights abuses. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, in its article 5, calls on states "To modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women." Iraq ratified the Convention in 1986.