The Campaign for Black Gay Men's Lives
to join others who are concerned about
the lives of Black Gay/SGL Men
We will be working together to:
to join others who are concerned about
the lives of Black Gay/SGL Men
We will be working together to:
- Respond to the city-wide silence concerning the lives of Black Gay Men
- Challenge homophobia in Black Communities
- Build community awareness on issues impacting Black Gay Men
Tuesday, April 18th, 2006
6 pm - 9 pm
RSVP at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 212.828.9393 x137
Refreshments and light foods will be available
119 West 24th Street (btw 7th & 6th aves)
New York, NY 10011
Rooms 610/615 on 6th floor
Doug Ireland of Direland was one of the first US journalists to focus on the dire (no pun intended) situation for LGBTs in Iran under that country's fanatical, defiant president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, against whom the US may or may not have already initiated a war. Ireland has continued his fine and important reportage on this part of the world, concentrating most recently on the terrible situation gays in Iraq face. Most American reporting on the US has covered the daily bombings, the US military casualties, the nascent (or ongoing, depending upon whose perspective is taken) civil war between the Sunnis and Shiites, or among the Shiite faction, and the overall success or failure of George W. Bush's aims and plans. The situation for LGBT people in Iraq, as for Christians and other minorities, has gotten lost in the media's muddle.
Ireland, however, has for the last month been discussing the close links between the grave situation for gays in Iran and Iraq, which derive from the longstanding ties between Iraq's governing Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) coalition and the Iranian mullahs. (This has long been an issue the US media dance around. In effect, US and coalition soldiers have been fighting and dying to install an Islamicist Shiite government in power in Iraq that's closely linked to Iran, thus strategically empowering Iran even more than it was before the fall of Saddam Hussein, an eventuality that as far as I can tell was never on the carousel of rationales given by Bush, PNAC or any of the neocons.) Ireland's March 23, 2006 article in GayCityNews, "Shia Death Squads Target Iraqi Gays," was the first story in the US press to lay out the crises Iraqi gays now face.
Ireland's post yesterday praises the BBC as the "first major news" outlet to cover this topic, and he opens with quotes from Martin McDonough's article:
"I don't want to be gay anymore. When I go out to buy bread, I'm afraid. When the doorbell rings, I think that they have come for me." That is the fear that haunts Hussein, and other gay men in Iraq. They say that since the US-led invasion, gays are being killed because of their sexual orientation.
They blame the increase in violence on the growing influence of religious figures and militia groups in Iraq since Saddam Hussein was ousted. Islam considers homosexuality sinful. A website published in the name of Ayatollah Sistani, Iraq's most revered Shia cleric, says gays should be put to death. "Those who commit sodomy must be killed in the harshest way," says a section of the website dealing with questions of morality. The statement appears on the Arabic section of the website, which is published in the Iranian city of Qom, but not in the English section.
The BBC asked Mr Sistani's representative, Seyed Kashmiri, to explain the ruling. "Homosexuals and lesbians are not killed for practising their inclinations for the first time," Mr Kashmiri said in a response sent via email. "There are certain conditions drawn out by jurists before this punishment can be implemented, which is perhaps similar to the punishment meted out by other heavenly religions." Mr Kashmiri added: "Some rulings that are drawn out by jurists are done so on a theoretical basis. Not everything that is said is implemented."
Yet he also points out that
The BBC failed to note the relationship between the killings of Iraqi gays and the lethal anti-gay pogrom in Iran -- it does not mention that Ayatollah al-Sistani is himself an Iranian, that SCIRI (Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) is backed by Iran -- its headquarters were in Tehran for more than 20 years during the Saddam Hussein dictatorship -- and that the Badr Corps is financed by Iran. This is common knowlege in Iraq -- indeed, in an important February 17 interview with Le Monde that was ignored by the English-language press, the fact that the salaries of the soldiers of the Badr Corps -- whose death squads are carrying out the "sexual cleansing" campaign of murder of gay Iraqis -- are paid by Iran, was confirmed by Ali Debbagh, a counselor to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a member of the Iraqi parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, and a university professor specializing in religious political parties. And while the BBC report did mention that "there are widespread concerns that large parts of Iraq's police force are under the control of such groups," it omitted the fact that Badr Corps members in Baghdad and elsewhere wear the uniforms of the official police under the control of the Interior Ministry.The current Iraqi Interior Ministry has come under increasingly withering criticism, both within Iraq and without, for its role in torture and assassinations of Sunnis and some Shiites.
Some of Ireland's previous articles, going back to last summer, on the problems in Iran, include: July 21, 2005 -- Iran Executes Two Gay Teenagers (Updated); August 12 -- Two New Gay Executions Scheduled in Iran, Says Iranian Exile Group; August 17 -- Iran's Deadly Anti-Gay Crackdown: With Two More Executions Scheduled, the Pace of Repression Steps Up. August 25 -- Iran's Anti-Gay Purge Grows: Reports of New Executions. September 8 -- Iran and the Death of Gay Activism. September 20 -- "They'll Kill Me" -- A Gay Iranian Torture Victim Speaks of His Ordeal ; September 29 -- Iranian Gays Urgently Appeal for Help; October 6 -- Canada Introduces UN Resolution Condemning Iran's Human Rights Record; January 27, 2006 -- "A Call to Solidarity: U.S. Gay Groups Must End Their Isolationism. (There are more articles, so definitely check out his site.)
Ireland also has written about the uproar surrounding the announced deportation of gay Iranian refugees by a member of the Netherlands' rightist government, and links to Rob Anderson's November 10, 2005 New Republic article, "How America's Gay Rights Establishment is Failing Gay Iranians."
Although there is so much to criticize concerning Iraqmire, we should not overlook this aspect of the mess, which Bush and Co. helped to create.
"¿Quién sabe donde?" This was the title of a talk I once heard Juan Goytisolo (at right, El Navigante.com) give at New York University several years ago. I listened attentively, though I understood only a sliver of it, as I have trouble comprehending the Castilian accent and my grasp of the Spanish idiom was even more rudimentary then than it is today, but what was most important to me was the opportunity to hear a lecture by a writer whose work had played a key role in my intellectual development. (He actually taught during the 1973-74 academic year at NYU, but became regular annual visitor again in the late 1990s to the university's King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center.)
Goytisolo, who like another of my favorite writers, Toni Morrison, turns 75 this year, is one of the most important novelists in the Spanish language and one of the most highly acclaimed formally experimental writers in the world. A native of Barcelona, he lived for much of his adult life in exile in Paris because of the Franco regime, against which he was a harsh critic, but he also been an unwavering critic of the Eurocentric and racist strains in Spanish and European life in general, with some of his most blistering and sublime critiques crystalized in the superb novel Count Julian (La reinvindicación del Conde Julián, 1970), the second in his excellent trilogy that began with Marks of Identity (Señas de identidad, 1969) and concluded with Juan the Landless (Juan sin tierra, 1975). For these three novels alone, I have always thought he deserved the Nobel Prize in Literature.
After completing the trilogy, Goytisolo has gone on to write many other important novels, publish literary criticism and memoirs and, resuming an aspect of his early career, has also penned journalistic several outstanding journalistic pieces. His later fiction includes the highlights Makbara (1980), Landscapes after the Battle (Paisajes después de la batalla, 1982), Quarantine (Quarantina, 1991), and The Garden of Secrets (Las semanas del jardín, 2002), which is comparable to Raymond Queneau's Exercises in Style (Exercises de style, 1947) as a lively, well-written, idiosyncratic manual on the art of storytelling.
What led me to mention Goytisolo today was noted author Fernanda Eberstadt's profile of him in this past Sunday's New York Times Magazine. Entitled "The Anti-Orientalist," Eberstadt's article explores Goytisolo's life and career, with a particular emphasis on his long residence in Morocco, which she relates to his presiding interest in Islamic North Africa and its central role in Spain's history and culture. She also touches upon his enduring political engagement and ideological unorthodoxy, his complex views of (his own) sexuality and his relationship with his late wife, French author Monique Lange, and his ongoing personal and public self-fashioning, which includes his fascinatingly constructed "family" in Marrakesh.
One quote from the opening page of the article:
Yet [Goytisolo] has remained all but unknown in the United States. This oversight may be explained in part by the difficulty of his fiction. He has continued to write in a densely allusive, high-Modernist style, which makes few concessions to the reader. In happier times, Goytisolo's preoccupation with medieval Islam's impact on Western civilization or the plight of Muslim immigrants in contemporary Europe might have made his work seem arcane to American readers. But in the post-9/11 world, this alternative vision often looks prescient. In "Landscapes of War," a collection of essays on the Muslim world that were first published in El País in the 90's, Goytisolo warns repeatedly that radical Islam is mobilizing a generation that has been impoverished and disenfranchised by the disastrous experiments of Arab governments with nationalism and secular socialism, which merely masked the military dictatorships that underpinned them. As for more theocratic regimes like Saudi Arabia's, Goytisolo compares it with Spain's in the centuries following Ferdinand and Isabella's Reconquista: a society characterized by "intransigent homogeneity," "autistic self-absorption and inquisitorial vigilance," whose New World gold (read oil wealth) is spent not on development or reform but on hounding dissidents and quarantining the nobility and clergy in ever more grandiose palaces.
The West is criticized no less starkly. Goytisolo regards Bush's invasion of Iraq, which he described in a recent essay as "the illegitimate war of an illegitimate president," as the crowning catastrophe in a series of American blunders in the Muslim world, extending from U.S. backing in the 80's of both Saddam Hussein and the Taliban to U.S. support of deeply unpopular and repressive regimes in Egypt, North Africa and the gulf states.
There is so more in the piece, which I recommend whether you're familiar with Goytisolo and modern Spanish(-language) literature or not.
Yesterday, the Pulitzer Prize Foundation announced the 2006 recipients of its prizes in journalism, and letters and drama. I want to offer congratulations to a winner and two nominees:
Jarvis DeBerry, a member of the Cave Canem poetry community, was one of the very talented corps of writers at the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper whose heroic coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina received the Pulitzer Prize in Journalism in the category of Public Service.
The citation read: "For its heroic, multi-faceted coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, making exceptional use of the newspaper's resources to serve an inundated city even after evacuation of the newspaper plant."
In poetry, poet Claudia Emerson received the Pulitzer Prize for her collection, Late Wife (Louisiana State University Press, 2005), though Elizabeth Alexander, one of the outstanding contemporary American poets and a member of the Cave Canem poetry community, was nominated for her fourth book, American Sublime (Graywolf, 2005). Even though she didn't win this time, I think this is a terrific honor for Elizabeth, and can imagine that she will be duly lauded at some point in the (near) future.
In fiction, author Geraldine Brooks received the Pulitzer Prize for her novel, March (Viking, 2005), which treats the fictional experiences of the eponymous character [Mr.] March from Louisa May Alcott's classic 1868 novel Little Women. Also nominated in this category, ironically enough, was E. L. Doctorow's The March, which received the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Awards. I was hoping that Doctorow, one of my former professors and a writer whose work I've admired for years, would finally be honored by the Pulitzer committee, but not, it appears, this time through.
Happy Birthday, Victor!