August 31st will mark the end of all combat operations in Iraq. Presumably, this would mean that "Operation Iraqi Freedom" was a success, even though July was the deadliest month in the country for more than two years.
It seems these days, no one is immune from the dangers that face Iraqi citizens. However, one specific group is under particular risk -- members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community.
Last October, New York Magazine published a horrifying article about the persecution of gays in Iraq. The article describes men presumed to be homosexuals being hunted down, tortured, and shot dead at close range. The militias that commit these horrific acts often leave the bodies on the side of the road, with the word "PERVERT" taped to their chests.
But an even more brutal method of torture and murder has been adopted. Militias use super glue to close the men's anuses, and then force them to drink a fluid that induces diarrhea, causing them to explode from the inside.
As a filmmaker, I spent eight months living in Syria documenting the lives of gay Iraqi men.
One of them, a 24 year-old, left his Baghdad home after a note arrived on his front door reading "If your gay son doesn't leave the country, we'll kill the whole family." He told me he considered himself lucky -- "at least they warned me."
Another man whom I met stepped outside one morning to find the severed head of a male victim (presumably that of another gay man), also with a note attached -- "Get out of town poppy."
These two men were fortunate to have made it out of the country to a safer place, on refugee asylum visas, but what will happen to those who are left behind as US troops leave this month? Who will stand up for them?
Jennifer Utz is a documentary filmmaker who is currently finishing her film, From Baghdad to Brooklyn.
A trailer for her forthcoming film can be seen at: