Gay Death and Gay Life

Published: September 15, 2010

There were bullet holes across his chest when I found him in the room.

They were merely a decoration on his black T-shirt, tight against his broad shoulders and puffy biceps. He reminded me of a “Sopranos” character, with the fake bullet holes surrounding the word Mafia. He was only 25, but his gelled hair was thinning, a soul patch adorning a scruffy face.

He seemed afraid to look directly at me, tight-gripped hands wringing, his nervousness compounded by the time he was left alone to think as he awaited my tardy arrival. An improvised explosive device, or IED, was found near my hotel, and I was nearly an hour late.

We met in the Baghdad office of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, a coalition run by Yanar Mohammed, who has been active in helping persecuted gays. She was overseas during my visit, but her staff helped me interview men, some of whom lived in Sadr City, a poor, largely Shia Muslim area of Baghdad at the heart of the insurgency, and named for militia leader Muqtada Al-Sadr’s father. Many on her staff lived there and had gay friends.

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