What terrific reporting from Aasmah Mir in Gay Life After Saddam (BBC Radio 5 Live). It looked at the grim reality for gay, lesbian and transgender people living in Iraq, and the reasons for this savage new persecution. In a “liberated” country, this group finds itself yearning for the former regime. “We used to go every Thursday by the Tigris,” said one man, his voice suffused with longing, “and we’d drink and swim. It was very relaxing.”
Nobody in the programme sounded relaxed: Mir spoke to those in exile, in hiding, people who had been tortured or issued with death threats for helping others escape. Their stories ranged from sad to gruesome. We heard one Iraqi man tell how his boyfriend was abducted and murdered. “They had thrown his corpse in the garbage,” he explained. “His genitals were cut off and a piece of his throat had been cut out.” We heard, too, about the torture: rape, and also “glue in the anus and then force-feeding laxatives”.
Some of those fleeing Iraq seek asylum in Britain and there were tales of seemingly harsh treatment by the authorities. Mir couldn’t explore these, as both David Miliband and Phil Woolas refused interviews for this programme. Shame on them, you were left thinking.