From the attacks in Paris earlier this month, and the kidnapping and ransom demand by ISIS before the threat of beheading Japanese citizens, to the ongoing involvement of Canadian troops in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, news headlines have been dominated by this issue and we have become accustomed to awaiting the latest outrage.
Often accompanying these stories are gruesome videos and photographs of the victims of these attacks, and these are given additional weight if the victims are Westerners.
What has not received quite as much attention is the atrocities that groups such as ISIS are inflicting upon their fellow citizens in areas under their control, and this is especially brutal when it comes to the treatment of suspected homosexual men.
Because of extensive media coverage, most of us are aware of the plight of the two Japanese men whose fate may be decided by the time this is published. The images of them in orange suits kneeling before a robed militant threatening to behead them is sadly familiar to us, as it mirrors the fate of other Westerners over the past year who have been killed.
What has not received much coverage in our media is the fate of gay men under ISIS rule, although the Internet and social media have been a venue through which this has started to become known to the world.
In December, an announcement on Twitter shared images of the purported execution of a gay man in a small Iraqi village by pushing him off a three-storey building.
This was followed earlier this month by graphic images of two men meeting a similar fate in Mosul, which also appeared on ISIS-affiliated social media.
While it is not always possible to confirm the validity or accuracy of such images that appear on social media, the intent of the images and the accompanying text is difficult to ignore.
Under the various images of the Mosul execution — which traces the event from the rooftop, one body shown flying through the air to both bloodied dead bodies in the street below — are claims in Arabic stating the men were found guilty “of doing the acts of the people of Lott,” a reference to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.
One Twitter user stated this would be the fate “of every Loutti on the land of the caliphate.” Loutti is a local derogatory term for homosexual men, so it is clear why the men had been targeted for death.
Adding to the horror of these images is the fact that there is a large crowd of people gathered below the roof of the building to witness this twisted form of so-called justice.
I found it very difficult to view the photos of these events online and can only imagine the terror those men must have felt while knowing what was about to occur.
While homosexuality is considered a sin under Islam, neither the Qur’an nor the Prophet Mohammed provides a definitive punishment for homosexuality, and the extreme punishment practised by ISIS was invented in the early years of Islam.
As with most other ISIS activities, the extreme form of the religion they practice is not generally shared by most moderate Muslims, although homosexuality is strongly condemned in the vast majority of Muslim countries, including those that are considered allies of Western nations.
I do wonder why mainstream media have not chosen to publicize this story in the same manner as the story of the two Japanese men.
When I first saw the story of the Japanese men on television, the reporter stated they could not confirm the validity of the photos. But it was still newsworthy, even if it could not be verified.
Why are the photographs of the gay executions not being shown on our television screens? Is it because the victims are Muslims who live “over there” and are not as important as Westerners?
Is it because they are gay and somehow are deserving of their punishment because it falls under the legal traditions of Islam?
Regardless of the reasons, people do need to be aware of what is happening. More importantly, even when ISIS has one day been eliminated, the prejudice faced by gay men in most Muslim countries will not disappear with them.
This is a story that should not be allowed to die.
Brian Hodder is a past-chairman
of Newfoundland Gays and Lesbians