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‘We shoot back’: In Syria, fighters form special LGBT unit to take on IS

Foreign volunteers taking on the Islamic State in its stronghold of Raqqa have formed a special unit of LGBT people, who have been repeatedly targeted by Daesh in the past few years.

world Updated: Jul 26, 2017 23:28 IST
Rezaul H Laskar
Rezaul H Laskar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Islamic State,Raqqa,The Queer Insurrection and Liberation Army (TQILA)
The International Revolutionary People’s Guerrilla Forces (IRPGF) on Monday announced the formation of the Queer Insurrection and Liberation Army (TQILA), pronounced as tequila.(Reuters File Photo)

International volunteers battling the Islamic State in Syria have formed a new unit of LGBT people to take on Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s terror group, which has targeted the community for execution by stoning and being thrown off rooftops.

The formation of The Queer Insurrection and Liberation Army (TQILA), pronounced as tequila, was announced on Twitter by the International Revolutionary People’s Guerrilla Forces (IRPGF) on Monday, complete with a photo of a rainbow flag flying in Raqqa, at the centre of the IS’ so-called caliphate.

TQILA’s flag features a black AK-47 against a pink background.

“These Faggots Kill Fascists! We shoot back!” said a tweet from IRPGF, which itself is part of the International Freedom Battalion, a motley group of foreign fighters battling the IS alongside the YPG, the Kurdish militia also known as the People’s Protection Units.

These foreign fighters include students, former soldiers and even white collar workers who gave up lucrative jobs in the West to take on the IS.

The IS has been particularly vicious in targeting the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people. Since it established its so-called caliphate, it has issued a stream of videos and images depicting the execution of men accused of homosexuality by stoning and being thrown off the roofs of multi-storey buildings.

The IS also claimed the deadly shooting by Omar Mateen at the gay Pulse nightclub in Florida in June last year that left 49 people dead after he pledged allegiance to Baghdadi.

The courts of the IS have also declared that homosexuality is punishable by death and dozens of LGBT people have fled Iraq and Syria to escape persecution by the group.

In a statement on the formation of TQILA, the IRPGF said the subgroup comprises “LGBT*QI+ comrades as well as others who seek to smash the gender binary and advance the women’s revolution as well as the broader gender and sexual revolution”.

“TQILA’s members have watched in horror as fascist and extremist forces around the world have attacked the Queer community and murdered countless of our community members citing that they are ‘ill’, ‘sick’ and ‘unnatural’,” the statement said.

“The images of gay men being thrown off roofs and stoned to death by Daesh was something we could not idly watch,” the IRPGF said, using the Arabic acronym for the IS.

The IRPGF did not give any details about the strength of the unit or where its members were operating. TQILA spokesperson Heval Rojhilat told Newsweek that “many of our comrades are within the LGBT*QI+ community” and were already in action in Raqqa.

The IRPGF’s statement also criticised “Christian conservatives in the global northwest” for targeting LGBT people, saying it is “not only Daesh whose hatred for Queer, Trans and other non-binary peoples leads to religiously motivated hatred and attacks”.

“We want to emphasise that queerphobia, homophobia and trans-phobia are not inherent to Islam or any other religion. In fact, we know many Muslims, Jews,

Christians, Hindus, Buddhists etc. who are accepting and welcoming of uniqueness and non-conforming people and some who are even queer themselves,” the statement said.

First Published: Jul 26, 2017 16:58 IST