UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Islamic State extremist group has claimed responsibility for killing at least 30 people for sodomy, the head of an international gay rights organization said Monday at the first-ever U.N. Security Council meeting spotlighting violence and discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people.
"It's about time, 70 years after the creation of the U.N., that the fate of LGBT persons who fear for their lives around the world is taking center stage," said U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power, who organized the meeting with Chile's U.N. envoy. "This represents a small but historic step."
Diplomats said two of the 15 council members, Chad and Angola, did not attend the informal, closed meeting.
Jessica Stern, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, told the council that courts established by the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria claim to have punished sodomy with stoning, firing squads and beheadings and by pushing men from tall buildings.
Fear of the extremist group, which controls about a third of Syria and Iraq, has fueled violence by others against LGBT individuals, she said.
Subhi Nahas, a gay refugee from the Syrian city of Idlib, told the council that President Bashar Assad's government "launched a campaign accusing all dissidents of being homosexuals" when that country's uprising started in 2011. Soon afterward, gay hangouts were raided and many people were arrested and tortured. "Some were never heard from again," he said.
When the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front took Idlib in 2012, he said, its militants announced "they would cleanse the town of those involved in sodomy," and arrests and executions of accused homosexuals followed. Last year, when the Islamic State took the city, the violence worsened, he said.
"At the executions, hundreds of townspeople, including children, cheered jubilantly as at a wedding," Nahas said. "If a victim did not die after being hurled off a building, the townspeople stoned him to death. This was to be my fate too."
He was able to escape to Lebanon, then to Turkey, where he was threatened by a former school friend from Idlib who had joined the Islamic State group, and finally to the United States.
Stern stressed that persecution of LGBT people in Iraq and Syria began long before the emergence of the Islamic State group, also known as Daesh and called for U.N. action to relocate LGBT persons most in need and for bringing the gay community into broader human rights and humanitarian initiatives among other things.